Great Reads for Great Outdoors Month

Pack your hat, water bottle and these indispensable books as you head out to celebrate Great Outdoors Month in June.

Don’t let living in the city keep you from exploring the natural world. Chicago Transit Hikes features more than 30 hikes that are easily accessible from the CTA, Metra and South Shore Line. This lightweight volume details hikes you can take within the city of Chicago and farther afield like the Des Plaines River Trail and Indiana Dunes National Park. Entries include descriptions of the parks, how to reach them by train, trail locations, park facilities, accessibility and rules such as whether dogs are allowed.

Can you read the shape of a sand dune or follow the stars in the night sky? The Natural Navigator will help you find your way using natural signs like mosses and lichens growing on tree trunks, the effects of prevailing winds and the angle and movement of the earth.

Small enough to slip in your back pocket, Trees of Illinois will familiarize you with the many trees you encounter on your expedition. A photograph of each leaf and detail shots of its bark, flowers and fruit are paired with a basic profile of the species. This guide is easy to use and once you get to know a tree it will be like meeting an old friend each time you encounter one along the trail.

A must have in your backpack is The National Audubon Society's Birds of North America. This compact guide will help you identify all of the fine feathered friends you meet on your outing, whether they be long-legged waders, gull-like birds, duck-like birds, sandpiper-like birds, upland ground birds, pigeon-like birds or perching birds. (For a more backpack-friendly edition, try The National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds.)

You can’t forget our winged friends of the tiny variety. Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America was created to help ordinary people (nonscientists) identify and marvel at the panoply of fascinating insects fluttering, whirring and crawling throughout the natural world.

Where do you go to connect with nature? Tell us in the comments.