Land and Water Trails

Utilizing trails is the easiest way to enjoy our region’s natural landscape, to find peace and solitude, or share an experience with family and friends while you run, bike, or hike in natural serenity!

Openlands has played a key role in some of our region’s best known trails. We helped coordinate the nation’s first rail-to-trail conversion, the Illinois Prairie Path. In the 1980’s, Openlands acquired the abandoned rail corridor that would become known as the Old Plank Road Trail, and in the 1990’s, Openlands acquired the abandoned rail corridor that turned into the Burnham Greenway. We are currently representing the village of Burnham in its efforts to fill a critical gap in that trail system. We are also working with the Chicago Department of Transportation to extend the Wolf Lake Trail system to link in neighborhoods at the south end of Wolf Lake to the Hammond trails system. In addition, we helped develop the Grand Illinois Trail, which runs statewide. To this day, we are continuing to help expand and fill gaps in the trail.

We have worked to improve the water quality of the Chicago River, where people canoe and kayak, and to where wildlife, like river otters, are slowly returning. With our partners the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Illinois Paddling Council, and the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission (now CMAP), Openlands co-authored the first regional water trails plan. With support of the Grand Victoria Foundation, we worked to implement the plan and to show how people can paddle on our waterways.

Openlands has been a key advocate for extending a trail across brownfields and dikes in Lake Calumet to link the Pullman and Roseland neighborhoods to the Big Marsh mountain bike-park, as well as further east to the Burnham Greenway. Most recently, Openlands opened up a mile-long hiking trail along the bluffs of Lake Michigan at the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve in Highland Park.

Paddle Illinois Water Trails

Explore Your Lakes and Rivers is designed to acquaint local residents with the water trails surrounding them in the Chicago and Calumet areas.

Grand Illinois Trail

One of the Midwest’s premier bike routes, the Grand Illinois Trail offers nearly 500 miles of pedal-powered discovery and relaxation through northern Illinois’ natural wonders.

Wolf Lake Trails

A variety of trails surround Wolf Lake offering public access and recreational opportunities in the Calumet region.

The American Discovery Trail

The American Discovery Trail (ADT) is a 5500 mile trail route across America, linking the Atlantic Ocean in Delaware to Pt. Reyes National Seashore in California.


Openlands introduced the vision of a greenways system to our region in 1990 and has since focused on achieving it through policy and planning initiatives, land acquisition, restoration projects, and advocacy.