Chicagoland Cross-Country Skiing Destination

January 23, 2015 Updated: January 23, 2015

5. Camp Sagawau

Lone skier enjoying Camp Sagawau ski trails (Ted Nelson, Traveling Ted)
Lone skier enjoying Camp Sagawau ski trails (Ted Nelson, Traveling Ted)

Located in the southwestern suburb of Lemont, Camp Sagawau is the best maintained cross-country ski location in the Chicago area and perhaps the state. When snow conditions permit, they groom the trails, they offer rentals and lessons, and use of the trails are free (actually, all the locations on this list do not charge for trail usage).  Most importantly, they are the only park that I am aware of in the state of Illinois that does not allow hikers to ruin their trails by walking on them. In Wisconsin it is a state law that people cannot walk on ski trails; whereas in Illinois it is a state nuisance that zombie walkers aimlessly walk on ski trails.

There are only about 4 kilometers worth of trail in Camp Sagawau, which amounts to about 2.5 miles. This is a pretty short stretch of trail, but if you loop it 5-6 times, you have done 12-15 miles, which is a nice little work out. I have done smaller loops before. There are a couple of decent hills at Camp Sagawau including one that has a tight turn at the bottom, so it is a great spot for beginners and novice skiers to hone their balance and for intermediate skiers to have some fun.

4.  Deer Grove

Enjoying fresh powder on a beautiful day skiing in Deer Grove (Ted Nelson, Traveling Ted)
Enjoying fresh powder on a beautiful day skiing in Deer Grove (Ted Nelson, Traveling Ted)

Deer Grove Forest Preserve is located in suburban Barrington. They have over 12 miles of trails, so there is room to spread out. On the negative side, they do not groom the trails and the forest preserve is shared with walkers. Have I mentioned before how I love the fact that Wisconsin has ski trails and snowshoe trails, and you cannot do the wrong activity on the other trail. Football is not the only place where we can learn from our northern neighbor.

Deer Grove is aptly named as there are scores of deer through the woods. Although Deer Grove is in the center of suburbia, and surrounded by some busy streets, there are times in the middle of he woods, you feel like you are in a wilderness. At least for a short stretch of time until you see someone walking a dog that promptly poops on your ski trail and then you remember where you are.

3. Moraine Hills

Moraine Hills State Park is located in Island Lake and is just about at the extremity of what one can call Chicagoland. It also at about the southern end of the glacial features of the last ice age. This is notable to cross-country skiers because glacial topography equals good hills. Moraine Hills does not boast the kind of terrain found farther north in the Kettle Moraine parks near Milwaukee or the Birkie Trail, but for Chicago skiers, it will fit the bill. They also have a nice trail network with three trails that total close to 10 miles. The Lake Defiance Trail is the most fun and the most scenic.

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Copyright © 2015 by Traveling Ted. This article was written by Ted Nelson and originally published on