The Bike Park at Big Marsh is the first of its kind in the Midwest, designed for all ages and skill levels. The park hosts a variety of cycle-based features including BMX jump lines, single track trails and a world class pump track. Mulch and multi-use trails across our Southeast Side parks are also available for the whole family to get out and explore! While you’re there, take a break from your bike and check out a bird guide from the Ford Calumet Environmental Center.
Loaner bikes are available at Big Marsh Park, or you can bring your own. For up-to-date trail conditions, bike programs, and events, please visit the Friends of Big Marsh website.
Built on the historic ore walls of a former steel-mill, the 30-foot outdoor climbing wall offers a unique opportunity for climbing and bouldering with spectacular 360-degree views of the city and shoreline. On your way up, keep an eye out for our resident population of gray tree frogs that sometimes hide in the hand holds!
The wall is suitable for all experience levels, with climbing grades ranging from 5.2 to 5.7, and is free to use with your own equipment. The Chicago Park District also offers a variety of climbing programs for those interested in learning the ropes. For more information on community open climbs and other classes and events, please visit the Steelworkers Park page. The climbing wall is open dawn to dusk, where climbers with their own equipment may climb at their own risk.
The Calumet Region is arguably one of the most exciting places to bird watch in the Unites States. Its various habitats—marshland, prairie, and savanna—provide an excellent source of food, nesting sites, and resting points for a wide variety of migratory and resident shorebirds, waterfowl, songbirds, and raptors.
New to birding? Stop by the FCEC at Big Marsh Park to learn more about local birds or sign up for a bird walk with one our naturalists. More advanced birders can join Calumet bird walks offered through our friends at the Chicago Ornithological Society or Great Lakes Audubon.
The trails that wind through our Southeast Side parks are ideal for all types of hiking. With both mulched trails and paved multi-use trails, everyone can enjoy the outdoors—from a quick lunchtime stroll to a vigorous day of activity.
When heading out for your hike, it’s always a good idea to dress for the weather and bring along your favorite refillable water bottle. Don’t forget sun protection! Start your adventure at the FCEC to check out a Junior Explorer kit or field guide, or to review trail maps before you set off.
Although fishing isn’t available (yet) at our Southeast Side natural sites, the Chicago Park District has a robust offering of programs across the city like our Family Fishing program, or you can grab your rod and bait and head to nearby Wolf Lake or Calumet Park.
Chicago Park District Family Camping programs are a great way for families to spend a night away from the distractions of everyday life and enjoy nature in the city under the stars. With the guidance of on-site staff, enjoy an evening of guided nature hikes, storytelling, and—of course—a bonfire! Forthcoming improvements to Big Marsh Park include a primitive camping area, where additional overnight and family programs will also have a home.
Chicago Park District’s Chicago Explorers Gear Library is also available for groups working with youth looking to add outdoor adventures to their programming. The library provides access to free gear and Front Country Leadership training.
Paddling is a great way to reconnect with our rivers and lagoons, or to explore Lake Michigan from a unique perspective. Surrounded by natural beauty, these waterways offer a seldom-seen view of the city. Paddling can be a powerful experience that builds self-confidence and creates a feeling of peacefulness.
Access to paddling is not yet available from our Southeast Side natural sites, but check out one of our RiverLab programs at River Park.
Great for school groups and families, the Junior Explorer program includes an activity booklet and adventure pack that prompts kids to observe and engage with the parks on a deeper level. Complete each section of activities, earn skill badges, and become a Southeast Side Junior Explorer!
Coming soon! Activity booklets will be available for download or at the Ford Calumet Environmental Center this summer.