Take a Hike! Elevate Your Hike: Week #1
HYOH: Hike Your Own Hike
Have you heard of the term “Hike Your Own Hike,” or HYOH? It means that every hiker is unique and should find their own hiking style that suits them. Some people's main goal is to push themselves to complete a hike as quickly as possible, while others like to take their time, stop to take photos, and take in the nature around them. From a light stroll on a flat trail to a more challenging terrain, almost anyone can find a hike that suits their preferences.
Kick off the first week of the Take a Hike! Challenge by HYOH! If you’re going in a group, come up with some ground rules to help set expectations with your fellow hikers ahead of time. Before you hit the trail, here are some tips to get you started:
- Consult with your doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough for hiking.
- Check the local weather forecast to determine the best day and time of day to hike. Dress appropriately for the conditions, including lightweight, moisture-wicking clothes and comfortable shoes.
- Pick the right trail for your fitness level (and your hiking companions) and familiarize yourself with the trail on the map beforehand.
- Bring a small backpack or bag so you can carry essentials like a first aid kit, map, a battery pack for your phone, plenty of water (more than you need), sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, and nourishing snacks.
- If you’re hiking solo, let others know where you’ll be hiking and when you expect to return.
- You may want to bring a camera, journal, or sketchbook to chronicle your hike.
- While hiking, make sure to stay to the right of the trail especially when hiking in groups, keep dogs on leashes, pack out whatever you pack in, and use provided garbage and recycling containers.
Want more helpful hiking tips? Check out 8 tips for a successful hike from Edward-Elmhurst Health and How to avoid ticks on your hike from the DuPage County Forest Preserve District.
Take a Hike! Elevate Your Hike: Week #2
Week #2: Delightful Hikes – Closer Than You Think!
For this week of the Take a Hike! Challenge, it’s time to focus on what’s right in front of you! You don’t have to travel to the mountains of Colorado or even the bluffs of Starved Rock to enjoy a beautiful and fulfilling hike. We are lucky to have so many parks, forest preserves, and green spaces to explore.
Celebrate living in the “Prairie State” by going for a stroll through the 35-acre restored prairie at Danada Forest Preserve in Wheaton or the Schulenberg Prairie at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, one of the nation’s oldest and most successful prairie restorations.
Have you heard of an oak savanna? An oak savanna is a lightly forested grassland where oaks are scattered throughout the landscape. It was once one of the most common vegetation types in the Midwest but is today highly endangered. Check out our local oak savannas at the Spring Creek Reservoir in Bloomingdale and the Mayslake Forest Preserve in Oak Brook.
With so many wonderful local wonders to explore, make a plan to head out on one of incredible trails located throughout the Chicagoland area this weekend! Explore our interactive map below to find your next hike.
Take a Hike! Elevate Your Hike: Week #3
Week #3: Connect With Nature: Forest Therapy
Feeling anxious? Finding it hard to focus? Or just need an energy boost? Get outside and take in the benefits of nature!
Elevate Your Hike this week by connecting with nature through forest therapy. Inspired by the Japanese practice of “forest bathing,” forest therapy is an outdoor healing practice that encourages you to experience the pleasures of nature through all your senses.
Nature has a calming effect. Research suggests that spending time in nature can help lower stress, reduce blood pressure, improve concentration and memory, lift your mood, and boost your immune system, among a number of other benefits.
For this week’s hike, try to let go of the thoughts in your head, breathe in the fresh air and focus on the sights, smells and sounds around you.
Learn more about forest therapy and how you can find a forest therapy guide through The Conservation Foundation. Or listen to a Naperville Park District’s podcast about the benefits of Nature Therapy.
Take a Hike! Elevate Your Hike: Week #4
Week #4: Time to Pump it Up! Dynamic Hike
This week is your chance to add a little extra energy to your hike. Hiking already works your entire body so Elevate Your Hike with a good workout!
Take time to stretch your muscles so they are warmed up before you jump in. Always listen to your body, move gradually and gently, and breathe deeply. Once you’re feeling warmed up and loose, turn your hike into an outdoor workout. If hiking with family or friends, you could even create a mini fitness challenge!
Every 10-15 minutes, take a break from hiking and complete one of these exercises (or make up your own to suit your fitness level):
- 25 arm circles
- 20 jumping jacks
- 20 toe touches
- 20 squats
- 30 alternating lunges
- 30 controlled punches
- 20 high knees
Need more motivation? Read this blog: Get outside to meet your movement goal
Take a Hike! Elevate Your Hike: Week #5
Week #5: Celebrate OAKtober!
Did you know that this month has officially been deemed OAKtober in Illinois? Oak trees are historically significant in the Chicagoland area and play an important role in our state’s ecosystems. These trees clean our air and water, reduce ambient air temperature, and support over 2,300 species including over 800 different caterpillar species! (Watch this video to learn more about OAKtober.) If you see a majestic oak while on one of your hikes this month, make sure to give it a hug, a high five, or even just a nod to show how much we appreciate all oaks do for us.
This week, Elevate Your Hike by playing some fun games with your fellow hikers:
- Celebrate OAKtober by going on a quest to find the different types of oaks that can be found in our region! Use the Know Your Oaks! Guide from the Conservation Foundation to help identify which oak is which.
You could also play ID that tree! Bring binoculars and use this Common Trees of the Chicago Region Guide to help you identify the trees you see on your hike. Keep a checklist of the species you find. Apps like iNaturalist use image recognition technology to identify the plants/animals you spot.
Check out this Field Museum Prairies and Savannas Guide from the Chicago Park District to help you identify species of flowers, grasses, bird and butterflies.
Grab the kids and go on a Wildflower Walk or try this Hiking Scavenger Hunt. Mark down what you see and hear along your hike, such as birds, butterflies, leaves, acorns, etc. You can search for items as a team or make it a contest to see who can find the most.
Take a Hike! Elevate Your Hike: Week #6
Week #6: Go Back in Time: Trail History
Ever wonder how our beautiful trails and parks came to be? This week, Elevate Your Hike by going back in time to learn the history of your favorite trails.
Check out this DuPage County Trail History document from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County for more information about the history of your local trails. Here are some examples:
The Winfield Mounds Forest Preserve in Winfield is named after burial mounds of prehistoric Native Americans who lived along the West Branch DuPage River. The three dome-shaped mounds are set in a triangular pattern and are the only documented prehistoric burial site in DuPage. The mounds lie west of the river along the edge of a mature oak-hickory forest. Vandals in the 1920s and subsequent scientific digs by the University of Chicago and Wheaton College likely removed all artifacts from the site.
In the 1930s, McDowell Grove was a camp for the Civilian Conservation Corps — a work-relief program that was part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation designed to combat Depression-era unemployment while conserving the nation’s natural resources. Workers constructed picnic areas, a plank bridge across the river, a boathouse, bridle path and a limestone dam on the West Branch DuPage River. During World War II, the site served as a secret installation for developing radar technology. The camp eventually served as a training site for Office of Strategic Services (the precursor of the CIA) until 1944, and in 1946 the buildings were sold.
Take a Hike! Elevate Your Hike: Week #7
Week #7: Fuel For Adventure
This week is all about fueling your body with healthy foods for your hike. Pack snacks to keep you nourished and energized. Check out some of our favorite hiking snacks for quick, nutritious, easy and non-perishable snack ideas:
- Nutbutter and jelly or honey sandwiches
Fresh fruit – apples, bananas, tangerines (make sure to pack out the peels!)
Dried fruit – mangos, apples, apricots
Granola or granola bars
Energy or protein bars
Even better, create your own trail mix with this Healthy, Happy Trail Mix Builder.
And, of course, hydrate! Hydration is crucial before, during and after your hike. As you exercise, your body works harder and uses the fluids you take in at a higher rate. Aim for about a half liter of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures. Take frequent water breaks throughout your hike.
Now you’re all set to fuel your body for adventure! Grab a light blanket and pack a picnic for your hike. Don’t forget to bring a spare trash bag to clean up when you’re done.
For more tips, read this blog: Food as fuel before, during and after a workout
Take a Hike! Elevate Your Hike: Week #8
Week #8: Take In The Beautiful Fall Colors!
It’s the final week of the Take a Hike! Challenge and your last chance to get in your final hikes!
As we all know, our falls can be fleeting here in the Midwest. Make the most of the seasonal splendor by taking a fall color hike and take time to appreciate the variety of colors around you. Collect a few leaves to make a collage to display in your home. Pause and take a photo to help remember the beauty of the season.
Curious about colors? Learn more about the timing and variations of our fall foliage on Naperville Park District’s Fall Colors podcast.
Make sure to look up occasionally on your hikes to catch a glimpse of the wide range of migrating birds flying through our area. Check out The Conservation Foundation’s fall migrating birds webinar to learn more.