Hiking is a great activity for people of any age. Hiking provides quality time in quality places. Hiking offers the chance to see flowers in bloom as you wander through trees and prairies or along wetland ponds and creek — just the ticket for an enjoyable day. In addition to the recreation aspect, hiking can relieve stress, burn calories, and lighten your mood; all ideal elements for a healthy lifestyle.
The Conservation District has over 115 miles of trails scattered throughout 33 sites that are waiting to be explored. For longer outings, the regional bike trails can also be hiked: the 26 mile Prairie Trail from Algonquin to the State Line; the 3.5 mile H.U.M. Trail from Marengo to Union; the 7 mile Hebron Trail from Richmond to Hebron; and the 4 mile Ridgefield Trace that extends from MCC to Crystal Lake.
Heading out to Glacial Park?
Four Glacial Park interpretive trail brochures (Geology, Cultural History, Plant Life and Wildlife) are available at the Lost Valley Visitor Center. The two-mile interpretive trail begins at the Visitor Center parking lot and follows the Deerpath Trail loop. Experience this 3,300-acre gem while you discover the natural heritage of your surroundings.
Hike or Ski on Solar lighted trails
Nov. 3, 2013–March 9, 2014* Trails open until 9 p.m.
With the sun going down so early, there's no time to play! Fear not, now you can get out on the trails everyday after dark. The District has two sites open late for hiking or cross country skiing when the conditions are right. (Trail etiquette: When there is snow, hikers are asked to walk on the outside of the ski tracks.)
Pleasant Valley (*closed Nov.21-23 & Dec. 4-7) 13315 Pleasant Valley Rd., Woodstock. This half-mile looped trail located on the east side of the entrance drive is fairly flat terrain, perfect for beginners or shorter outings. Park in the first parking area and sign in.
Hickory Grove Highlands (*closed Oct. 31-Nov. 2 & Nov. 14-16) 500 Hickory Nut Grove Lane, Cary. The 1 mile looped trail travels through a newly restored savanna, offering a longer scenic route suitable for intermediate skiers. Visitors should sign in at the trail head.
Handicap Accessible & Stroller Friendly Sites
Did you know that all picnic shelters, restrooms and hand water pumps in conservation sites are paved surfaces, making them wheelchair and stroller friendly? If you want to get out for a short trek and require a hard surface for wheels or more sturdy walking, check out these sites:
Fel-Pro RRR, 1520 Crystal Lake Ave. in Cary offers a paved 1.2 mile looped hard surface path that includes a picnic pavilion and restrooms.
The Hollows, 3804 Route 14 in Cary has a handicap accessible fishing pier a short distance off the parking lot that extends out for an overlook of the 22-acre Lake Atwood.
Brookdale, Paulsen Road Access off U.S. Highway 14 in Woodstock offers a picnic shelter, restrooms, and water pump that overlooks an 11-acre pond. A short tree-lined trail (150 yards) winds around the lake to a fishing bridge. This site is perfect for a picnic and a short stroll outdoors. Ducks, geese, turtles and herons can often be seen along the shorelines.
Fox Bluff, Cary-Algonquin and Cold Springs Road in Cary offers a short .25 mile, tree lined trail where a picnic table awaits you at the end to enjoy a quiet lunch along the banks of the Fox River.
The Prairie Trail is paved for 17 miles from Ringwood south through Algonquin. Park at the Hillside Road Access lot in Crystal Lake just west of Terra Cotta Road and travel north to enjoy views of the prairie on either side; or park in Peterson Park, south of McCullom Lake Road in McHenry and travel north or south.
Ridgefield Trace— 1.5 mile trail from McHenry County College to close to Oak St. in Crystal Lake
Lake in the Hills Fen, 1500 Jefferson St. in Lake In the Hills offers a picnic shelter, restrooms and scenic vistas. Paved surfaces extend from the parking lot approximately 300 yards in three directions allowing for different vantage points overlooking prairie, sedge meadows and wetlands.
Favorite Fall Frolics—
Visitors can walk amidst fall’s fiery colors and along various hiking trails through woodlands, over kames and along moraine ridges. We've scouted out just a sampling of local places to enjoy autumn, some obvious and some less-obvious-but-just-as-glorious places.
Coral Woods in Marengo is a favorite fall colors hike by visitors who enjoy the blaze of red, gold, yellow and orange painted hues that fill the trees and then carpet the forest floor throughout the 297-acre maple forest. Visitors can choose from a 1.2 mile foot trail that is more rustic in nature, the 1.2 mowed grass trail that leads through open meadow and forest, or the .4 mile maple sugar loop.
Marengo Ridge in Marengo offers quiet, peaceful spots along a variety of looped nature trails ranging from .5 interpretive trail describing the natural history of the area to the 2.6 mile Kelly Hertel Nature Trail. The conservation area features ancient hardwood forest filled with oak, hickory and ash trees that are ideal for birding. Visitors also enjoy the aromatherapy of the pine forest planted years ago.
The diversity of habitats at Hickory Grove Highlands and Lyons Prairie and Marsh in Cary create a great refuge for wildlife and a favorite hiking spot for visitors. On the northern end, a .5 mile one way trail travels to the Fox River and guides a hiker along the river’s edge connecting with the Silver Creek Conservation Area for those looking for longer treks. To the south, a 1.2 mile looped trail runs through upland hickory forest and skirts the central wetland. Venture down the .8 mile eastbound extension which links to another 1.6 mile trail within Lyons Prairie where the backwaters of the Fox River offers a view of a variety of wetland, marsh and sedge meadow plants and wildlife.
Pleasant Valley in Woodstock offers 5 miles of trails within 1,777 acres of beautiful woodlands,savanna and prairie. Visitors will find varying trail lengths along different loops and marvel at the view from from the stone amphitheater.
Glacial Park in Ringwood offers the most spectacular scenery and the most extensive trail network. Wander on the 1.1 mile Marsh Looped Trail that travels over a bog by boardwalk. Park at Keystone Road Landing and meander the .8 mile (one way) mowed trail that runs along Nippersink Creek to the river bridge. Follow the 1.2 mile Coyote Loop Trail or the more challenging 2 mile Deerpath Trail that offers an option to climb the steep hill of the Camelback Glacial Kames to view the panoramic view of the 3,200-acre site and the Nippersink Valley. Sit and watch the hawks soar or listen to the sound of various waterfowl announcing their migratory departure.
Experience autumn color as you hike through stands of hickory, white and red oak, and black cherry trees along the a 1.5 mile interpretive hike or a longer 2.75 mile trail at Rush Creek in Harvard. Encounter a flurry of activity in the woods as squirrels and other rodents hoard nuts and seeds preparing for the onset of winter months. Sightings of Great Horned owls, red-tailed hawks and woodpeckers will liven up your senses and lift your spirits.
Brookdale Administrative Center in Woodstock is a great spot to spy the reflections of color off the 11-acre pond. This 1,200-acre site offers a short, tree-lined paved trail (150 yards) that winds around the lake to a fishing bridge and picnic shelter. Ducks, geese, turtles and herons are often seen along the shorelines. A longer 1 mile looped nature trail leads hikers to another pond overlook and interpretive signs, and then continues through hardwoods and an old pine plantation.