The Best National Parks Near Chicago for SeniorsAugust 22, 2023
One of the best parts about living in the Chicago area is its proximity to incredible natural sites. Even within the city limits, there are fantastic spots for seniors to go on an easy nature walk and enjoy some fresh air. With the peak of summer behind us, now is the perfect time to take a little adventure to our nearby national parks.
Between Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and even right here in Illinois, there are plenty of natural wonders you can go explore. If you’re looking for some of the best national parks near Chicago for seniors, consider these options.
Planning a trip as a senior
You may have been an avid hiker when you were younger, but hitting the trails isn’t quite as simple as it used to be. Before you choose your destination, do your research. Are there a number of trails you can explore tailored to different skill levels, or is there only one option? Are there accessible rest facilities?
You can find this information by checking the park’s visitor center or website for updated information. This is also a great place to find information on any senior-friendly activities and programs.
Parks for an easy day trip
You don’t have to sit in a car for long stretches of time to find gorgeous scenery. These hikes boast beautiful scenery and are all under two hours away from the city.
Indiana Dunes National Park
For over 100 years, the Indiana Dunes National Park has been a treasure of the Midwest. Located about 45 minutes from Chicago, the Dunes are fantastic for those who want to get away without going too far. Here, seniors can enjoy scenic hikes along the dunes, walk through the park’s trails, or relax on the beaches.
Seniors can visit the park on a number of occasions and have a different experience every time—what with the 15,000 acres of forests, wetlands, dunes, and beaches to explore. There are plenty of accessible facilities and wheelchair-friendly paths, making it a great option for those of all mobility levels.
I & M Canal National Heritage Area
If you’re looking for something a little more than a nature walk, the Illinois and Michigan (or I & M) Canal National Heritage Area could be a great option for you. Created in 1848 to serve as a connection from New York to New Orleans, the canal was instrumental in trading and transporting crops. Today, the area preserves and promotes history.
There is much for visitors to see at the I & M Canal, making the hour and 45-minute drive worth it. The seven easy trails can be walked or biked at your leisure. If you’d rather explore the trail in a more relaxed fashion, you can take a boat tour. This is a fantastic way to learn about the history of the area.
Ice Age National Scenic Trail
Hop over the border into Wisconsin to walk the path of the last glaciers that covered the United States thousands of years ago. The trail was highlighted in the 1950s and 60s when conservationists began advocating for the recognition of the trail to showcase the glacial features of the region. The trail boasts beautiful landscapes, wildflowers, and river valleys for viewing.
The Ice Age National Scenic Trail stretches across much of Wisconsin. However, seniors can start at a location shy of two hours away from Chicago. The trail is open year-round and is perfect for hikers of all skill levels. The website gives visitors options to plan their hikes—whether they would like a simpler day trip more suited for seniors, or something more challenging.
Parks that are further from the city, but definitely worth the drive
If you’re looking for a little more adventure, consider taking a slightly longer trip to visit one of these gorgeous parks. These drives can easily be made in one day. However, you may want to stay in the area for a night or two to make the most of it.
Effigy Mounds National Monument
The Effigy Mounds National Monument immortalizes a cultural phenomenon much older than the state, and even the country. It is believed that the Effigy Mounds were created by Native Americans more than a thousand years ago. While their purpose can’t be confirmed, it is believed they were ceremonial and sacred sites. Some of the mounds were constructed to represent animals, such as birds, bears, deer, bison, and more.
Effigy Mounds are found across Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois. This specific park, however, is a little over four hours away from the city on the Iowa border. Visitors are welcome to explore the lands, enjoy the hiking trails, and learn more about the history of the Effigy Moundbuilders.
Mammoth Cave National Park
For an especially unique adventure, head six hours south into Kentucky to explore Mammoth Cave National Park. Recognized as the longest cave system in the world, visitors enjoy a guided cave tour and learn more about the fascinating natural marvel. Once you’re done with the cave, there is plenty of gorgeous nature to see outside.
This unusual park is great for seniors, as there are two tours specifically designed for those with limited mobility with an option that includes a short bus ride. In addition, there is an audio tour option for vision-impaired visitors.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Michigan is home to a myriad of breathtaking natural sites, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is no exception. Located in the Upper Peninsula about six and a half hours away from Chicago, visitors have much to see. The park is surrounded by colorful sandstone cliffs and inspiring views of the lakes and forests. If you spend a few days in the area, you can not only spend time hiking, but enjoying water activities.
There are plenty of accessible trails with beautiful views for seniors to traverse. If you were considering camping, each campground has at least one wheelchair-accessible site.
Receive care at home
Even if you enjoy a good hike, it doesn’t mean that you couldn’t use some help at home. For many seniors, cooking and housekeeping is a laborious, undesirable task. An at-home caregiver can take over these activities of daily living and more, so you can spend more time focused on what’s most important to you.
Home Care Powered by AUAF would be happy to help improve your quality of life. For more information on our services, give us a call at 773-274-9262.
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