20 Hiking Trails for Kids to Explore Nature on Little Legs

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 to hike. Hiking trails are a great source of exercise and tranquility for both you and your kids. Get a little fresh air, spend your time together in the great outdoors, and enjoy the hike.

My kids love our “adventure” walks. If gives us all the opportunity to unwind and step away from our electronic devices and busy lives. There is just something about the great outdoors that leaves you feeling recharged!

Teaching children about their natural environment that surrounds them are some really great lessons to hold onto. Pack your picnic basket, hiking shoes and hit the trails! Below are descriptions of the trails for you to pick the right length and pat for your family. Refer back to this list often for the best family-friendly hiking trails to explore locally. Don’t forget to pack lots of snacks, sunscreen and bug spray for your adventure.

Chicagoland Forest Preserve Hiking Trails

Waterfall Glen in Darien

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.

Kidlist Tip: Check out our full guide more info on Waterfall Glen, including how to get to the waterfall!

Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn

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. The animal admittance area remains open. Check for updates as the project continues.

Hidden Lake Forest Preserve in Downers Grove

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!

Lyman Woods in Downers Grove

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!ย 

Maple Grove in Downers Grove

Lee Avenue and Gilbert Avenue
Downers Grove, IL 60515

Connected to the peaceful Gilbert Park, which is 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.

Fabyan Forest Preserve in Geneva

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!

Churchill Woods in Glen Ellyn

271 St Charles Road
Glen Ellyn, IL 60137

Find over 23 acres of woodland, wetland, prairie, trails, and boardwalks at Churchill Woods โ€” and fishing and picnicking spots, too!

La Grange Park Woods in La Grange Park

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.

Salt Creek Trail in La Grange Park

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.

Sensory Garden Playground Trails in Lisle

A metal dragonfly sculpture by a gravel path in a natural area with tall grass and some tree cover. Two children look up at the sculpture.

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. Check out the new additions we found at the Sensory Garden Playground!

McDowell Grove in Naperville

4s500 Raymond Drive
Naperville, IL 60563

Enjoy seven miles of trails that loop around McDowell Grove amidst grass and limestone paths. Boating, fishing and picnic areas, too.

Fullersburg Woods in Oak Brook

3609 Spring Road
Oak Brook, IL 60523

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 and see the giant waterwheel on the Graue Mill Museum before starting your adventure on the paved trails.

The Graue Mill Museum opens for the season on April 17, 2024. The hours are Wednesday – Sunday, 10:00am – 4:00pm. Admission is free.

Spring Valley in Schaumburg

1111 E. Schaumburg Road
Schaumburg, IL

Over three miles of paths wind through prairie and wooded scenery, with regular “Play Pockets” set up with natural materials like stumps and logs set up in ways that encourage kids to stop and play. Spring Valley is a great choice if your kids like to have a destination for their walks, like trying to spot the log cabin or walking from the parking lot near the farm to the nature center. The trail map is very helpful.

Bison’s Bluff Nature Playground is also at this location, but plan ahead if you want to stop by, as you have to reserve a time during certain seasons. You can also stop by the Spring Valley Nature Center (one of our Kidlist top ten nature centers!) and Volkening Heritage Farm.

Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville

Butterfield Road
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.

Herrick Lake in Wheaton

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.

Little Red Schoolhouse in Willow Springs

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.

Heritage Quarries Recreation Area in Lemont

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!

Kidlist Tip: 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 in Lemont

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.

Sagawau offers free special events from time to time. These include wildflowers hikes, guided bird walks, and canyon tours.

Pilcher Park Nature Center in Joliet

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!

Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens in Palos Heights

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!

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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