Not long ago, I drove up to the Indiana Dunes to hike the Cowles Bog trail. I needed to get away and feel absorbed in a big natural area.
The five miles I hiked up and over sand dunes and through open woodlands did the trick. About halfway through, the trail opens to the southern shore of lake Michigan. The sounds of the crashing waves across the blue water was therapeutic. I stood, there with my boots in the water, for several minutes, soaking it all in to take back with me to Kankakee County.
The Cowles Bog trail is very popular in the spring and summer but in the winter, I only saw a few people during the few hours I was there and that was ideal. If you haven’t been to the dunes during the winter, don’t waste any more time and make the drive.
However, if you want something a little closer to home, I can recommend a couple quiet winter hikes to fill your soul.
First, I find the loop trail at the Aroma Land and Water Reserve just south of Illinois Route 17 on Heiland Road to be very nice. The wind blowing through the pines tall pines is wonderful. The sandy trails are also easy on the feet.
The trail is 1.2 miles according to the Kankakee River Valley Forest Preserve Website. Make sure you walk all the way on the west side where you pop out along the riverbank.
The one of the best hidden gems for hikers in our area who want something different requires you to drive a few miles east of Momence into Indiana to the Black Oak Bayou. This natural area is part of the LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area, and I feel it is often overlooked except for hunters and fishermen.
There are wide lanes around the whole area that total around 7 miles, according to my 60 hikes within 60 miles of Chicago book. It has great bird watching throughout the year but just the feeling you get of expanse is different there with the open water visual. Not to mention the long stretch of trail along the south bank of the Kankakee River.
The only caveat is you will have to wait until Feb. 14 to access it after waterfowl hunting season is over, but put it on your late winter to do list.
Do you have any winter hiking recommendations?