20 Gorgeous Trails for Cross-Country Skiing, Snow Shoeing, and Winter Hikes

Outdoor Places to GoWinter

Whether you’re an outdoorsy family or not, it’s fun to explore all kinds of winter 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.

mom, dad, and child posing for a picture while cross-country skiing

Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoe Rentals

Bartlett Nature Center
2054 W. Stearns Road
Bartlett, IL 60103
(847) 608-3120

Cross-country skis and snowshoes can be rented from the Bartlett Nature Center; see details on snowshoe rentals for the winter 2023-2024 season. Be sure to call ahead to confirm availability.

Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve
27064 Dutton Road
Beecher, IL 60401
(815) 727-8700

Features over two miles of natural surface trail, ideal for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking. Snowshoe rentals at Plum Creek Nature Center are $5/day for adults; kids under 12 are free. Call (708) 946-2216 to check conditions.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center
419 Trout Farm Road
Bolingbrook, IL 60440
(815) 722-4121

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
(630) 963-9388

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
(815) 545-2884

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
(630) 257-2045

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. You must reserve a rental time online.

The Morton Arboretum
4100 IL-53
Lisle, IL 60532
(630) 968-0074

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 $23/member and $25/guest for adults and children. Snowshoe rentals for adults are $18 for members and $20 for guests; for ages 10 and younger they are $15 for members and $17 for guests.

Red Oak Nature Center
930 N. River Road
North Aurora, Illinois
(630) 897-1808

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.

Fullersburg Woods
3609 Spring Road
Oak Brook, IL 60523
(630) 850-8110

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
2500 IL-178
Oglesby, IL 61348
(815) 667-4868

There are 6 miles of cross-country ski trails; bring your own skis or snowshoes. 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
(630) 933-7200

Rent snowshoes at the base of the hill from 10am through 2pm 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
(630) 653-5800

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.

Lincoln Marsh
1001 W Lincoln Avenue
Wheaton, IL 60187
(630) 871-2810

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
(708) 839-6897

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center offers free snowshoe rentals upon arrival on a first come, first served basis on days with more than 4″ of snow.

REI Snowgear Rentals
Vernon Hills
901 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Unit 100
Vernon Hills, IL 60061
(847) 573-0356

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.

5 Gorgeous Spots for Winter Hikes

Waterfall Glen
Main Entrance on Northgate Rd.
Darien, IL
(630) 933-7200

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.

The Morton Arboretum
4100 IL-53
Lisle, IL 60532
(630) 968-0074

Wander through 16 miles of scenic winter beauty on pedestrian-only trails. The arboretum also offers great children and family programming with winter activities for young explorers.

Moraine Hills State Park
1510 S River Rd.
McHenry, IL 60051
(815) 385-1624

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 conditions at the park.

Starved Rock State Park
2678 E 875th Rd.
Oglesby, IL 61348
(815) 667-4211

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 or cocoa is a nice treat in the cafe when you’ve finished your winter hike!

Shabbona Lake
100 Preserve Rd.
Shabbona, IL 60550
(815) 824-2106

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 you’re interested in taking one 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.

Join the List

Let us help you plan fun days!
Get kid-friendly updates straight to your inbox

"*" indicates required fields

When would you like to receive Kidlist emails?*
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Related Articles

About the Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.

Our Amazing Sponsors
Popular Guides