The Run Down

Imagine Chicago with mountains in the distance. Nobody would ever leave. While we don't have mountains, there are still places to hike to get some elevation. For this guide, you'll head about 1.5 hours outside the city where you'll hike through 3,400 acres of bogs, wetlands, and up large, ancient land formations called kames.

1. Start @ Trail Head

2. Hike up @ Camelback Kame

3. Launch @ Canoe Landing

1. Trailhead @ Lost Valley Visitor Center

There are multiple was to get inside this 3,400 acre conservation area, but a good place to start is at the Lost Valley Visitor Center where you can easily access multiple trailheads.

The visitor center is next to the parking lot so you can’t miss it. To get your bearings, head inside and pick up a trail map. The visitor center also exhibits explaining the geographical phenomenon that created park’s unique topography over thousands of years.

One other tip. This trip isn’t just reserved for good weather. During the winter months, after a fresh coating of snow, the visitor center rents out snow shoes to ambitious hikers.

The trail we have you going on takes you directly Camelback Kame, the highest kame in the park. The trail head starts at the visitor center and a minute or so into the walk, you’ll see the trail split into two directions. The trail goes in one big loop so you can take either route.

If you head to the right, you’ll start the journey through a hilly forested area before reaching the Kames.

Head to the left and you’ll make your way through prairie fields and past these bogs before reaching the kames. More pictures of this route below.

As you hike through the prairie fields, there’s a maze of trails shooting off in different directions. So If you want to reach the Kames, be sure to pick up a trail map and follow it so you don’t accidentally make a wrong turn. Even if you make a wrong turn, you’ll probably run into some other natural wonder that might make that wrong turn worth it.


2. Camelback Kame

About 20 minutes into the hike, you’ll finally reach Camelback Kame. For more background about Kames, here’s a trusty wikipedia page to get you up to speed. In short, Kames are large hills made primarily of gravel deposited by the glaciers over 10,000 years ago.  The Camelback Kames are named so because there are two humps shaped like a camel’s back.

From a distance, it’s hard to make out just how tall these kames are since they blend into the rest of the landscape. But as you get closer, you can spot other hikers ahead of you that put things into perspective.

Keep following the path, and you’ll find yourself on a gravel trail going straight to the top of the kame. Although you’re getting a bit of elevation, it’s an easy and gradual walk to the top.


Once you get to the top, you’ll have unobstructed views of the park. To complete the trip, keep going in the same direction and you’ll eventually circle all the way back to the visitor center.


3. Canoe Landing

From the top of Camelback Kame, you’ll notice a meandering river running through the park. That’s Nippersink Creek. You also might spot a few canoes and kayaks floating by, too. If you’re still up to exploring after this hike, we’re onto the last part of this guide, which gets you on the water.

Unless you’re bringing your own kayak, a nearby rental place called Skull and Oars can get you on the water. Here are a few notes to get you going.

– You can rent a kayak for a 4 hr paddle trip ($55 / person)

– The launch point is at Keystone Road Landing (West side of the park), and the end destination is Pioneer Road Landing (East side of the park) for the 4 hr paddle (7 miles). Check out this map for details.

– If you have your own kayak, they do a pickup and drop-off service for $15.

– You reserve in advance and park your car at the end destination. They pick you up at the end destination (Pioneer Road Landing) and bring you to the launch point.