Whether you’re an outdoorsy family or not, it’s fun to explore all kinds of cold-weather activities with the kids: think cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or a winter hike! If you haven’t tried some of these pastimes before, add it to your list of family fun. A little exercise and dose of fresh air are paramount when that cooped up feeling starts to settle in over the winter months — truly an instant mood boost! We’ve researched the best options in the area (that are quite beautiful and serene, too) for making new memories in the great outdoors together. You might be surprised at how reinvigorating and peaceful a wintertime hike can be. Don’t have the equipment? No worries. We’ve listed options for cross country ski rental and snowshoe rental, too.
Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe Rentals
Bartlett Nature Center
2054 W. Stearns Road
Bartlett, IL 60103
Cross-country skis and snowshoes can be rented from the Bartlett Nature Center. Be sure to call ahead to confirm availability.
Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve
27064 Dutton Road
Beecher, IL 60401
Features over two miles of natural surface trail, ideal for cross-country skiing/snowshoeing/hiking. Snowshoes rentals at Plum Creek Nature Center are $5/day for adults; kids under 12 are free.
Hidden Oaks Nature Center
419 Trout Farm Road
Bolingbrook, IL 60440
The preserve surrounding Hidden Oaks Nature Center offers a 0.6-mile natural surface trail for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking. Call the Nature Center for updated rental info and follow their Facebook page for other updates.
Lyman Woods Nature Center
901 31st Street
Downers Grove, IL 60515
Adult and children’s snowshoes will be available for use when there are at least four inches of snow on the trails on a first-come, first-served basis. The rental fee for three hours is $10/pair.
Joliet Nordic Ski Club
Pilcher Park Nature Center
2501 Highland Park Drive
Joliet, IL 60432
The club offers waxless classic skis for rental at the Pilcher Park Nature Center in a limited amount of adult and children sizes. Hours are 10am – 2pm. Skis must be returned by closing time.
Sagawau Environmental Learning Center
12545 West 111th Street
Lemont, IL 60439
Rentals are available from 9am to 2pm and equipment must be returned by 3:45 pm. Included in the rental are skis, bindings, boots and poles in all youth and adult sizes. Visit their Facebook page for ski trail conditions.
Lisle, IL 60532
Cross-country ski and snowshoe rentals are available on a first come, first served basis when there are four or more inches of snow on the ground. Cross-country skis (includes boots and poles) for 2-hour rental are $20 member/$22 guest for adults and children. Snowshoe rentals for adults are $13 for members and $15 for guests; for ages 10 and younger they are $11 for members and $13 for guests.
Red Oak Nature Center
930 N. River Road
North Aurora, Illinois
Snowshoes are available for rent weekdays (10am – 3pm) at the Red Oak Nature Center whenever the snow cover is three inches or more. You can rent a pair of snowshoes with poles included for $5 a pair.
3609 Spring Road
Oak Brook, IL 60523
Through February 26, 2023, snowshoes can be rented for $10/day at the Fullersburg Woods Nature Education Center as long as there’s plenty of snow on the trails. Hours are 10am – 4pm with rentals ending at 2pm.
Matthiessen State Park
Oglesby, IL 61348
There are 6 miles of cross-country ski trails with ski rental available on weekends from December through March. Call the Ski Shop to check on rentals and snow conditions prior to visiting the park at (815) 343-7125 or (815) 343-9014. In addition to this location, there are several other Illinois State Parks that allow cross-country skiing with your own equipment.
Blackwell Forest Preserve
Entrance is on Butterfield Road between Batavia Road and Winfield Road
Warrenville, IL 60555
Rent snowshoes at the base of the hill through February 26, 2023 for $10/day when there’s plenty of snow on the trails. Check the @dupageforest Facebook page for updates.
Arrowhead Golf Club
26W151 Butterfield Road
Wheaton, IL 60189
A public golf club offering 2-hour ski rental packages for poles, skis and boots. $25 per adult and $15 for children under 12. They also rent individual items: skis are $15, boots are $10, and poles $7.
1001 W Lincoln Avenue
Wheaton, IL 60187
Advance registration is required 24 hours in advance for snowshoe rental; no drop-ins. Cost is $8 per hour (maximum of 3 hours) for a pair of snowshoes during the week and $20 per hour on the weekends. Limited sizes available for adults and children.
Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
9800 Willow Springs Road
Willow Springs, IL 60480
Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center offers free snowshoe rentals upon arrival on a first come, first served basis from 8:30am – 2:30pm.
REI Snowgear Rentals
901 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Vernon Hills, IL 60061
Find almost anything you’d need for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing at the REI Vernon Hills location. Call to check availability before visiting the store.
Embrace Winter with Five Incredible Hiking Spots
Winter hikers can enjoy some of Waterfall Glen’s most picturesque areas over almost 11 miles of trails. There are different levels of difficulty depending on how keen of a hiker you are.
Lisle, IL 60532
Wander through 16 miles of pedestrian-only trails amidst scenic winter beauty. They also offer great winter hike programming with activities for young explorers…a class for 3-5 year olds and also 18-35 months!
Moraine Hills State Park
1510 S River Rd.
McHenry, IL 60051
Check out Moraine Hills for more than 10 miles of trails offering great scenic and wildlife viewing opportunities. Their Facebook page is a good place to find out what’s ahead at the park.
Starved Rock State Park
2678 E 875th Rd.
Oglesby, IL 61348
Visitors come from all over to explore the bluffs, canyons and frozen waterfalls situated on over 13 miles of well-marked trails that are open all year at Starved Rock. Coffee/cocoa is a nice treat in the cafe upon finishing your winter hike!
100 Preserve Rd.
Shabbona, IL 60550
Enjoy over eight miles of scenic hiking and cross-country skiing trails that are woven through the wooded areas of the park. Trail brochures are available at the office, if interested, before venturing out.
Did you know there’s some etiquette involved in navigating the trails while enjoying these wintertime adventures? Take a look at this helpful article to get the low down before you go!
For more outdoorsy winter fun, be sure to check out our complete list for the Best Forest Preserve Trails for Kids! And, our comprehensive guide to Winter Activities for Kids and Families in the Western Suburbs is full of more inspiration to keep the fun going all winter long.