While like most of Chicago, Harlem is a busy area, the proximity of Harlem Avenue to the Des Plaines River means that there is more area for natural walking here than there is in much of Chicago. From Harlem Avenue itself, it is only seven or eight blocks to the river. There is a nice sidewalk along most streets in this area that is well set away from the road with plenty of greenway between the road and the sidewalk.
There are parks throughout this area of Harlem including small community parks mostly clustered right off of Harlem Avenue and the spacious Summit Park District that is located between South Archer Road and the river.
There is the River Road to walk along if you would like to observe the natural beauty of Des Plaines River. While many areas along the river are industrial, there are some pleasant areas to walk along the shoreline on the River Road.
The terrain of Harlem is mostly flat, with some gentle slopes in some areas. Almost all streets have sidewalks on both sides that are well set off of the road. This makes neighborhood walking through Harlem pleasant and makes skateboarding, biking, rollerblading, or other wheeled activities a lot of fun. Long blocks with straight stretches of empty sidewalk make a great place to let your dog run for a bit, but always make sure that you have control and can stop in case of an unexpected obstacle.
If you are looking for a more adventurous walk, you can go to the Des Plaines River and walk along the River Road or venture onto the shoreline. Many areas along the river are industrial and not open to the public, but there are areas where you can safely access the river and experience a more natural hike in the heart of Harlem.
While there are several pretty little community parks mostly clustered around Harlem Avenue, if you are looking for some green stretches it is best to go towards the river and Summit Park District. The Summit Park District includes several fields for sports games as well as a natural path that runs in a circle through a forested area in Summit Park.
Pleasant little clearings throughout this natural forest area provide a perfect place to take a break with your dog and there are several charming shelters where you can go if you experience inclement Chicago weather.
There are also pleasant open areas around the playground and the small picnic area. This space provides clusters of mature trees to take a shady break under and long expanses of open grass for a welcome change from the typical Chicago streets.
For an even more natural experience, you can walk along the shoreline of the Des Plaines River and get an opportunity to see Chicago wildlife like raccoons and birds.