From heart-pounding adventures like zip-lining and mountain biking to serene nature activities such as bird watching and fossil hunting, there’s outdoor fun to be had around every bend of The First Hundred Miles. Here’s an itinerary that connects you with the best open-air places to celebrate the spring weather along this storied stretch of Route 66.
8400 W. 31st St., Brookfield
Located only 15 miles west of Chicago, the 200-acre zoo is widely regarded as one of the best in the nation, thanks in no small part to its accessibility and amazing array of animals. Opened to the public in 1934, Brookfield’s unique design utilized moats in place of bars and cages, resulting in an up-close experience, unlike anything visitors had seen before. Now, with over 450 species represented by more than 2,500 animals, everyone is sure to find one of their favorite creatures. Brookfield Zoo also features a variety of souvenir shops and on-site food venues, serving up everything from fried chicken and hot dogs to cool drinks and treats.
Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve
Interstate 55 and Lemont Road, Lemont
Whatever your favorite outdoor activities might be, Waterfall Glen in Lemont has it all. With over 11 miles of meandering trails, you can enjoy everything from hiking to horseback riding to cycling, all just a short drive from the Mother Road. If your dog is accompanying you on your cross-country trip, this is the perfect place to stop. The popular picnic and fishing area is also dog-friendly. Discover the park’s beautiful, tiered waterfalls, while enjoying the more than 740 documented species of native plants. If you’re a fan of birding, Waterfall Glen hosts hundreds of species of feathered friends every year.
The Forge: Lemont Quarries
1001 Main St., Lemont
Get ready for some real adventure at The Forge in Lemont. Built in and around the Lemont Quarries, this area is action-packed, offering rope courses, zip-lines, climbing walls, mountain biking and an assortment of running trails, perfect for entertaining visitors of all ages and abilities. And if zipping down a cable does not pique your interest, then you and your family can enjoy the outdoor dining and picnic area, where you may catch some music or other seasonal entertainment.
I&M Canal State Trail
Access Huse Lake near Joliet Street and Illinois Route 351
Running through three counties – Will, Grundy and LaSalle – the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail is one of the most historic natural spaces in the Route 66 corridor. On the popular biking and hiking trail, visitors can enjoy fishing and other outdoor activities along the mid-19th century waterway. Popular winter activities like snowmobiling and cross-country skiing also can be savored. The area is a 79-mile former mule trail. A precursor to Route 66, The I&M Canal was once the most important transportation hub for commerce and passengers in Illinois. After the development of the railroad, this long-forgotten commodity was transformed into a spectacular outdoor recreation area.
Rock Run Preserve
3669 Black Road, Joliet
Explore Illinois as it was centuries ago at Rock Run Preserve, a wetland prairie with direct access to the I&M Canal. Conveniently located just outside Joliet, the park is a major destination for those looking to picnic, fish, hike and bike a rambling 320-acre site. You’ll find a diverse natural habitat featuring wetlands, prairie and forest landscapes open to the public year-round.