Get your water bottles filled, snacks packed and lace up your sneakers. Fingers crossed, the weather is supposed to be fantastic this weekend, so it's a great time to take in the beautiful fall foliage. Of course, all of these hikes can be enjoyed any time of year with each season bringing its own unique charms and none are super strenuous so they are suitable for all ages!
River Trail Nature Center
3120 Milwaukee Avenue, Northbrook, 847-824-8360
Forest Preserve Cook County RTNC Page
River Trail Nature Center tells the story of native plants and animals that remain in the urban environment. You can hike self-guided trails through the sugar maple woods and see the fall foliage. In addition, it is a refuge for wounded wildlife that would otherwise not survive on its own, enabling visitors to get a close up look. Check their schedule for presentations or just explore on you own. Known to be buggy in certain spots, so pack bug spray especially in warmer months.
Captain Daniel Wright Woods
St. Marys Road at W Everett Rd, Mettawa/Libertyville, 847-367-6640
Lake County Forest Preserve Wright Woods Page
This peaceful oasis among the bustling suburbs offers 4 miles of scenic trails; a short loop for hikers, bicyclists and skiers that circles a pond, and a longer 3-mile loop for hikers, bicyclists, skiers and horses. A footbridge spanning the Des Plaines River links Wright Woods to Half Day Forest Preserve; together they offer some of southern Lake County's most scenic outdoor recreation opportunities. The Des Plaines River Trail passes through both preserves for additional hiking and biking opportunities.
Heller Nature Center
2821 Ridge Road, Highland Park, 847-433-6901
Heller Nature Center is a 97-acre preserve with oak-hickory forests, tall grass prairie, oak savanna and natural wetlands. Three miles of marked trails offer close contact with nature and solitude. Visitors can also learn more about these habitats in the Interpretive Center and Nature Exhibit which features bees, fish and birds. Cross country skis available to rent during the winter months.
Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve
Sheridan Road at Old Elm Road and Simmons Way, Fort Sheridan, 847-367-6640
Rolling terrain, bluffs, ravines and mature trees set on the Lake Michigan shoreline make this preserve a scenic destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Trails here include roughly 4.5 miles for hiking; parts of which can also be used for cross county skiers and cyclists. The 1.3-mile asphalt Lake Michigan Trail runs from Sheridan Road through the preserve to Lake Michigan where visitors can enjoy 0.75 miles of sandy shoreline for hiking, fishing, bird watching, picnicking or relaxing. Swimming, wading and boating are not allowed.
Harms Woods Forest Preserve
5600 Old Orchard Road, Skokie, 800-870-3666
The two hundred fifty-acre Harms Woods is a tale of two preserves, with the Chicago River as a dividing line. East of the river is an exercise-lover's dream, as hikers, dog-walkers, cyclists, in-line skaters and cross-country skiers take advantage of the shaded North Branch Trail which runs about a mile through Harms, continuing five miles north to the Skokie Lagoons and seven miles south to the preserves along Devon Avenue. Several unpaved trails also meander through the land east of the river where hikers can spot birds migrating along the river in spring and fall. The west side of the river is a tribute to more than three decades of active habitat restoration. In the spring, visitors are treated to an incredibly varied woodland wildflower display that feed butterflies and birds through fall amidst a chorus of frogs from surrounding ponds. A true escape!
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