The Run Down

Being in the middle of the city doesn't mean we have to give up on enjoying green space. We're spending the day at Northerly Island, a former airplane landing strip that's been transformed into a 119 acre nature preserve with views of Downtown Chicago you won't get anywhere else. This is our second time here, after featuring it a few years ago, and we've got lots to update you on. Here's the agenda for this guide.

1. Getting There

2. Hike @ Lookout #1

3. More Hiking @ Lookout #2

1. Getting There

If you’re not driving, then getting here can be a bit of a hike. Northerly Island is located just south of Adler Planetarium and encompasses a 119-acre landmass that juts out into Lake Michigan. There are walking paths from Adler Planetarium that will take you directly to this park.

For those that have a car, there’s a parking lot that gets you right into the entrance. That building you see in the background is actually the former terminal building for a tiny airport that once operated here until it was famously demolished in Mayor Daley’s “Midnight Raid.”

There’s still development going on in the area, but keep following the paved path and you’ll eventually make your way to a row of rolling hills that make you feel like you’ve been transported from the city.

2. Lookout #1

The walking path you’re on takes you in one big circle. About halfway through the path, you’ll find a separate walk way that branches off. Follow it.

The path you’re now on takes you to the southern end of Northerly Island. Here you’ll find a concrete platform that sits on top of the water and gives you a clear south-facing view all the way down to Hyde Park.

You’ll also notice a discrete dirt path next to it. Take the dirt path up and get ready for the big pay off.   


This is from the top of this first lookout. From this vantage point, it doesn’t even seem like we’re in the middle of downtown Chicago. From here you can see Adler Planetarium in the background and the winding trail we were on just below it.

3. Lookout #2

We’re not done yet because there are more lookouts to explore. Get back on the main path to make your way to the next stop.The main walking path will take you across a bridge and towards a dock that extends into the lagoon that’s at the center of the park. This makes for a nice photo op with the skyline and lagoon in the background.

Keep going on the path and a few yards away you’ll find a fence with a small opening to another trail. It’s not clearly marked, but you’ll see a dirt trail that takes you up a second lookout. Follow that trail up and get ready for the second big payoff. Here’s the view from the top of the the second lookout in all it’s glory. You’d be hard pressed to find a better view of the skyline. The city of the future, today.

After you get back on the main path, you can do two things. You can either turn around and go back from where you came, or you can keep going to the second half of this looping trail. This second part of the trail, however, is unpaved and has you walking on giant boulders.  Good choice. Onto the second leg of the loop and back to the beginning.