16 Gorgeous Forest Preserve Trails for Kids, Plus a New (Free!) Passport Program for Will County Preserves

Outdoor Places to GoNature

Your family doesn’t have to go far to enjoy nature in the Chicago suburbs! We are very fortunate to be surrounded by some truly beautiful forest preserve trails. If you’re in the mood for some peaceful time in a natural setting with the kiddos, the trails are the perfect place to get a little fresh air, a little exercise or maybe just a place to sit and relax. However you choose to spend your time together in the great outdoors, there’s just something about it that leaves you feeling recharged.

Teaching children about the natural environment that surrounds them and the benefits we reap after spending some much needed time outside are some really great lessons to hold onto! Refer back to this list often for the best family-friendly forest preserve trails to explore locally. Don’t forget to pack lots of snacks, sunscreen and bug spray for your adventure.

2023 Passport Activity for 5 Forest Preserves in Will County

A person takes a rubbing of a leaf from a placard, using a forest preserve passport brochure.
Photo courtesy of The Forest Preserve District of Will County.

Pick up a passport and travel to five fun Forest Preserve destinations this spring and summer!

Do you know which Forest Preserve District of Will County visitor center has a 2,000-gallon aquarium filled with river fish, which one has a tank teeming with turtles, or which one has a live beehive?

Do you know which visitor center sells baits and rents boats or which one has a green roof?

The Forest Preserve wants you to discover these special places via a free Passport to the Preserves program, which encourages participants to visit five visitor centers and their surrounding preserves through Thursday, Aug. 31. 

To get started, pick up your passport at one of the visitor centers and prepare to travel to hot spots for nature fun. Once you have your passport in hand, visit passport rubbing stations at each visitor center to create a “stamp” impression on the passport with a crayon. Open the passport to the corresponding blank page for each visitor center and create your mini work of art.

Each site has a different nature-themed stamp. Rubbing stations are located both inside and outside each visitor center, so if you visit the preserve while the visitor center is closed, you can still get your stamp. 

Placard with a leaf-rubbing activity.
Photo courtesy of The Forest Preserve District of Will County.

Once you have all five stamp impressions, take your completed passport to the visitor center of your choice to receive a “Take It Outside” pin to adorn a hat, backpack or jacket. The passport program is part of the yearlong “Take It Outside Campaign,” which was launched in January to inspire people to get in touch with nature to reap the physical and mental rewards of being outside.

“So many times, people walk into our visitor centers and they’re amazed by what they see, and they say, ‘I never knew this was here,’” said Cindy Cain, the Forest Preserve’s public information officer. “We designed the passport program to encourage people to learn more about all the exciting exhibits, programs and recreational activities each site has to offer. We hope you pick up a passport this spring and travel throughout Will County to discover what you may have been missing or rediscover a favorite destination.”

Here are the visitor centers included in the passport program:

The passport lists all the fun things to see and do at each site.

Don’t forget to check online at ReconnectWithNature.org for visitor center and preserve hours before you head out the door. And if you are up for more adventure, check out the yearlong Take It Outside Challenge, which requires participants to complete nature-themed missions to earn points and win prizes and bragging rights as they move up the leaderboard via the free Goosechase smart phone app.

Best Forest Preserve Trails

West Suburban Forest Preserve Hiking Trails

Fullersburg Woods
3609 Spring Road
Oak Brook, IL 60523

Photo of the waterfall at Fullersburg Woods, which is short and wide.

There are two parking lots for these trails – one is right on York Road a little north of Ogden Avenue. Find ducks and geese in the grassy area and water right off that parking lot. Walk under the bridge, past the giant waterwheel on the Graue Mill Museum, and see the waterfall before starting your adventure on the paved trails!

Herrick Lake
Herrick and Butterfield Road
Wheaton, IL
This trail has a short loop around the lake or you can easily make it longer with many different trail options. Boating, fishing and picnic spots can also be found at Herrick Lake.

Willowbrook Wildlife Center*
525 S Park Boulevard
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137

Wander down the half-mile outer loop and shorter inner loop with a butterfly garden and outdoor exhibit trail. *The visitor center and access to the trails from Park Blvd are currently closed while a new center is under construction.

La Grange Park Woods 
10 E 31st Street
La Grange Park, IL 60526
A lovely place for a walk is on the paved trails of the La Grange Park Woods. Families with older kids might want to venture out to Brookfield Zoo on bike via these trails.

Little Red Schoolhouse 
Willow Springs Road South of Archer Avenue
Willow Springs, IL

The Little Red Schoolhouse features a great nature center with many displays, hands-on activities and trails to walk around outside. Find live animals and interesting new exhibits as well.

Maple Grove
Lee Avenue and Gilbert Avenue
Downers Grove, IL 60515
Connected to the peaceful Gilbert Park (geared towards younger children). Maple Grove is a nice way to combine a trip to the park and a nature walk. You’ll find parking right off Gilbert Avenue and the trail off the park crosses a creek.

Salt Creek Trail
26th Street Woods
Kemman Avenue and 26th Street
La Grange Park, IL 60526
The Twenty-Sixth Street Woods is a beautiful place to enjoy Salt Creek Trail. It also leads east to Brookfield Zoo, which is a great bike ride for older kids.

Waterfall Glen
Cass And Northgate Roads
Darien, IL 60561

A popular biking destination, as well as for hiking trails. Plenty of smaller loops and tranquil rest spots that make it well worth the visit for families with kids of all ages! Find more info here including how to get to the waterfall!

Blackwell Forest Preserve
Butterfield Rd, Warrenville, IL 60555
A relaxing destination that features gorgeous scenery and rolling hills. Other perks include fishing, camping, archery, picnic shelters and an off-leash dog area!

Hidden Lake Forest Preserve
Route 53, South of Butterfield Road
Downers Grove, IL 60515
Two lakes and a river with fishing and boating make Hidden Lake a nice place to hike. There’s also a new picnic area, too!

Fabyan Forest Preserve
1925 Batavia Avenue
Geneva, IL 60134

A picture-perfect spot offering colorful gardens, biking and hiking trails, and a river to kayak in! You’ll also find plenty of photo opportunity spots throughout. Click here to read more about the fabulous Fabyan Forest Preserve!

McDowell Grove
4s500 Raymond Drive
Naperville, IL 60563
Enjoy 7 miles of trails that loop around McDowell Grove amidst grass and limestone paths. Boating, fishing and picnic areas, too!

South Suburban Forest Preserve Hiking Trails

Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens
7402 W. Lake Katherine Drive
Palos Heights, IL 60463

Take a casual stroll with the little ones through the gardens and find plenty of grasses, flowers and shrubs to explore along the way. The older kids will enjoy the mile-long trail that loops around the lake. Be sure to check out the waterfall, butterfly garden and children’s forest with a pond that is home to various amphibians/invertebrates. Learn more about the lovely Lake Katherine here!

Heritage Quarries Recreation Area
1001 Main Street
Lemont, IL 60439
This spot includes a family-friendly trail that loops around a group of freshwater lakes that were once limestone quarries and are now home to various species of fish, birds and plants. Wide and well-groomed trails are perfect for the littles or if you have a stroller! Also, note that the trail actually begins and ends in downtown Lemont, so you can grab a bite to eat or maybe a sweet treat to start off or end your little adventure!

Sagawau Environmental Learning Center*
12545 West 111th Street
Lemont, IL 60439

A great place for families to learn about and connect with nature with plenty of trails that are perfect for a family bike ride or casual nature walk. They offer free special events from time to time including wildflowers hikes, guided bird walks, and canyon tours. *But, please note that the trails at Sagawau are currently under construction and closed so check back before you visit!

Pilcher Park Nature Center
2501 Highland Park Drive
Joliet, IL 60432

Kids of all ages will enjoy the wide range of trails varying in length and degree of difficulty. Playground areas abound for the littler kids including a storybook trail. Mostly free programming at the nature center includes bird-watching classes and wildlife walks!

More Kid-Friendly Trails

Great trails can be found at our local park districts — here are a few Kidlist reader favorites:

Lyman Woods
901 31st Street
Downers Grove, IL 60515
A 2.5 mile trail as well as a nature center including native landscaping, a butterfly garden, rain gardens and native prairie plants growing on the roof! 

Churchill Woods
271 St Charles Road
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137
Find over 23 acres of woodland, wetland, prairie, trails, and boardwalks at Churchill Woods — and fishing and picnicking spots, too!

Sensory Garden Playground
2751 Navistar Drive
Lisle, IL 60532
A little trail leading from the parking lot up to the fun playground feels like an adventure in itself. Sensory-integrated playground equipment and amenities along with gardening areas make this spot extra neat.

We also have a great write-up featuring local parks with paved paths! If we missed your family’s favorite trail, please let us know in the comments below. Need more inspiration for family fun in the the great outdoors? Check out our outdoor activities for kids list.

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