What have you done this winter? It’s been Chicago’s worst in decades, but have you experienced it outside of Netflix marathons? If you’re not into winter sports and mass snowball fight opportunities are all too rare, the Chicago Parks District has you covered with snow trekking at Northerly Island.
Snow trekking is available at Northerly Island most winter weekends. For only $5 for two hours, visitors can rent a pair of snowshoes or cross country skies between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you own snowshoes or cross country skies you’re welcome to trek the island for free!
Snow trekking requires the right conditions, including at least three inches of snow. Before heading to the park on a Saturday or Sunday, give them a call at (312) 745-2910 to verify weather conditions allow outings. A parking lot adjacent to the fieldhouse ($1/hour rates) makes hauling your gear is even easier.
Arriving at opening time one sunny February morning I found a line already forming of families, friends, and even a first date ready to play on the snow. A pal and I opted for snowshoes and were surprised to see the contemporary equipment no longer resembles the tennis rackets we had imagined. Maybe it was our numb fingers, but the simplistic straps were comically difficult to fasten over your shoes.
After about five minutes we set off to explore the island, first envisioned as part of Daniel Burnham’s plan for the city. The island has been home to a World’s Fair and Meigs Field airport, but these days it’s being reclaimed by prairie vegetation. While the southern end of the peninsula’s 91 acres is currently under construction installing visitor-friendly activity areas, snow has settled deeply on the rest of its winding paths and art installations.
Cross country skies may be a quicker means of circling the island but snowshoes enabled us to stay on top of the impressive drifts, moving more easily than our own feet could manage. Northerly Island’s avian and animal residents didn’t emerge to greet us as we plodded toward the water, likely thinking us strange birds for braving the crisp morning. To the west, we admired unobstructed views of the stunning skyline. Facing Lake Michigan, the landscape known as Chiberia extended its glittering grip over the water’s surface with no visible end. The menacing moon-like surface stabbed the air while dazzling ice orbs formed just out of reach. Sounds of snapping shutterbugs and gleeful snow angel makers filled the eerie lack of lapping waves .
With the regular snow trekking season at an end, this Saturday is your last chance for a snowshoe outing. Northerly Island will be offering free snowshoe rental on February 22 as part of their Polar Adventure Day. It’s a lovely way to embrace the elements and enjoy Chicago’s bravest season.
1521 S. Linn White Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605