We love exploring new places in the summertime and are thrilled that we discovered beautiful Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens in Palos Heights. We found the layout simple to tackle in a morning, complete with hiking trails, colorful gardens, a nature center, and plenty of opportunities to see wildlife. Parking was easy at the lot near the entrance. Directions to Lake Katherine can be found here.
Waterfall and Botanic Gardens
Our first stop on the premises was a lovely waterfall that set the stage for the rest of the pretty sights to follow. We walked down the aligning trail across a little bridge that led to a lake, gardens, and several benches to have a snack or just take in the scenery. The kids enjoyed watching the families of ducks, geese, and fish in the lake.
Children’s Nature Center
As we made our way around the opening of the lake, we found the nature center featuring snakes, turtles, bunnies, and other animals, as well as interesting books and exhibits for kids. There were lots of fossils, a variety of shells, coloring books, and a cute scavenger hunt that the kids can take along with them once they venture out on the hiking trails. There were also assorted children’s programs and educational camps that looked intriguing, ranging from forest exploring to cooking with herbs to fishing. The nature center is open weekdays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and Saturdays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm (closed Sundays).
Butterfly and Herb Garden
Just outside the nature center was a picturesque butterfly and fresh herb garden. The kids enjoyed strolling through this area and looking for butterflies before continuing on our adventure! There was also a little free library where gently used nature books could be borrowed or donated—a nice added bonus to the garden area.
Hiking Trails Along the Lake
Our quiet hike down the trails was the perfect way to end our time at Lake Katherine. The trails were nice and wide, with plenty of shady portions and lookout spots by the lake. There were also many people cruising along the lake in canoes and kayaks, which can be rented for $8/hour per person. We decided that would be part of our experience there on our next visit!
Kid and Mom Approved!
Our group consisted of girls aged 7–11. They all gave Lake Katherine two thumbs up, and the moms agreed it was a place we will definitely return to! It is the perfect place to visit for just a few hours or even longer to get your daily dose of fresh air, wildlife, and beautiful scenery.
7402 W. Lake Katherine Drive
Palos Heights, IL 60463
Park hours: Daily from dawn to dusk
Nature center hours: Weekdays 9 am – 5 pm, Saturdays 10 am – 4 pm, closed Sundays
For more ideas on outdoor fun, check out our Outdoor Activities for Kids page!