Lake County Forest Preserves offer a good mix of trails for you to explore

Lake County Forest Preserves offer a good mix of trails for you to explore

  • The 31.4-mile Des Plaines River Trail is one of the crown jewels of the forest preserve system.

    The 31.4-mile Des Plaines River Trail is one of the crown jewels of the forest preserve system. Courtesy of Jonathan Hartsaw

  • Northwest quadrant map

    Northwest quadrant map Courtesy of the Lake County Forest Preserves

  • Northeast quadrant map

    Northeast quadrant map Courtesy of the Lake County Forest Preserves

  • Each of the suggested trails provides a unique outdoor experience. To view the trails on an interactive map online, open the camera app on your phone.

    Each of the suggested trails provides a unique outdoor experience. To view the trails on an interactive map online, open the camera app on your phone.

 
 
Posted11/13/2020 6:00 AM

Editor's note: This is part one of a two-part series looking at options to explore your forest preserves. Watch for the next part that will feature additional possibilities.

No matter where you live in Lake County, you're fortunate to have a forest preserve within about a 10-minute drive of your home. It makes sense your nearby preserve is the one you know best and frequent most often. Have you thought about expanding your experience to other preserves and trails in the area?

 

Your forest preserves provide an amazing network of trails -- 207.3 miles to be exact -- that connect to countless other routes in Lake County. Two vital regional trail and greenway corridors are the 31.4-mile Des Plaines River Trail and the 32.4-mile Millennium Trail, 24.9 miles of which we own.

They are the crown jewels of the forest preserve system. Both connect to neighboring trails, forest preserves, residential areas, parks, schools and business districts. Both are ideal destinations for expanded outdoor adventures.

There are so many other recreational treasures in the Lake County Forest Preserves for you to explore. To help narrow the field of possibilities and make it easy to navigate, I asked our resident trail experts Randy Seebach, director of planning and development, and Nick Spittlemeister, GIS analyst, to highlight a few expanded experiences you can try during any season of the year.

Before heading out, check the interactive trail map for current status (open/closed) of preserve trails, community trail connections, and trail underpasses along the DPRT and the Millennium Trail: LCFPD.org/maps.

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Each of these suggested trails provides a unique outdoor experience, along with nature and history snippets. We've mapped out different routes within each quadrant of the county to provide a good mix of locations and landscapes. Two regions appear today, and we will feature the others later this month.

Depending on how far you wish to travel, you can choose a shorter route or a longer excursion. There are options for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing. Tell us about your expanded experiences on social media @LCFPD.

Northwest Region

Sun Lake

22925 W. Grass Lake Road, Lake Villa

• Length: 2.65 miles

• Surface: Gravel

• From the parking lot, go east and follow the main 2.5-mile loop trail. Additional loops can be added for a longer experience.

• History: The preserve's namesake, 25-acre Sun Lake, is an example of a glacial lake. To protect its delicate shoreline, no access to the lake is allowed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Natural scene: Much of the site's wetlands were previously drained and farmed. Through staff and volunteer efforts, more than 100 acres of prairie have been planted in the former agricultural fields.

Hastings Lake

21155 W. Gelden Road, Lake Villa

Hastings Lake Forest Preserve features paved and gravel trails and is a popular stop for migratory birds.
Hastings Lake Forest Preserve features paved and gravel trails and is a popular stop for migratory birds. - Courtesy of Tim Elliott

• Length: 3.1 miles

• Surface: Blue trail is paved, yellow trail is gravel

• Start by the playground and follow the yellow trail to the blue trail connector. Follow the blue trail around the lake, then complete the northwest portion of the yellow trail back to the parking lot.

• History: In 1843, brothers Gardner and Charles Hastings arrived in Antioch Township from Massachusetts with their families. They owned such a great portion of the land around the lake that it became known as Hastings Lake.

• Natural scene: The lake is a popular rest stop for migratory birds in early spring. Pelicans and mergansers can be seen and heard here.

Grant Woods

24801 W. Grand Ave., Lake Villa

• Length: 6.5 miles round trip to Rollins Road lot, 8.1 miles with grass loop trail added

• Surface: Gravel and grass

• From the Grand Avenue parking lot, head south on the west trail. Follow Chain O' Lakes Bike Path and west part of Monaville Road, loop to Rollins Road lot. Return to Grand Avenue lot via the Chain O' Lakes Bike Path. For another nearby experience, park at North Cedar Lake Road lot for the 1.6-mile grass loop trail.

• History: Following the Treaty of Chicago (1833), most of the land here was used for pasture and farming. There's also evidence of a former orchard and pine plantation.

• Natural Scene: This biologically diverse preserve supports a rare tamarack bog, a landscape type dating back 12,000 years to the time when mastodons roamed in this region.

Northeast region

Sedge Meadow

15615 W. Wadsworth Road, Wadsworth

Highlights at Sedge Meadow Forest Preserve in Wadsworth include a 4-mile gravel trail and mature oak trees.
Highlights at Sedge Meadow Forest Preserve in Wadsworth include a 4-mile gravel trail and mature oak trees. - Courtesy of Phil Hauck

• Length: 4 miles round trip

• Surface: Gravel

• From the horse trailer parking lot, go south to meet up with the DPRT. Take DPRT south and over the river. Head north toward the launch and turn around at the observation deck near the canoe launch parking lot. Return using DPRT and north loop around the pond near the main parking lot.

• History: The land was used to create experimental wetlands where abandoned farm fields and gravel pits once stood, and to develop protocols for successful wetland restoration methods. The project took three decades to complete.

• Natural scene: The small rise south of the lot supports mature oak trees. During spring migration, a high concentration of warblers rest and feed in these oaks.

Lyons Woods

10200 Blanchard Road, Waukegan

• Length: 6.9 miles round trip

• Surface: Gravel and paved sections

• Start in the parking lot and travel north and then east to Green Bay Road. On the way back, include the loops to the south.

• History: Isaac Reed Lyons came here from Massachusetts in 1843. Around 1940, George Pavlik acquired land at the preserve's southeast corner and established the nursery that gave rise to the evergreen grove now seen near the parking lot.

• Natural scene: The border between the prairie and woods is in the same location today as when surveyors mapped it in 1836.

Pine Dunes & Van Patten Woods

42909 Hunt Club Road, Antioch

• Length: 10.2 miles round trip

• Surface: Gravel and paved sections

• Start in the Pine Dunes parking lot. Follow yellow loop to the Millennium Trail east to Van Patten Woods. Take DPRT south to blue loop and head southwest around Sterling Lake. Connect via the wood bridge to yellow trail and complete it. Then return north along the DPRT, Millennium Trail and the north part of the Pine Dunes yellow loop.

• History: A large settlement of Irish immigrants established farms in what is now part of Pine Dunes.

• Natural scene: Called mini-moraines, Pine Dunes got its name from dunelike features left behind by glacier activity.

• Kim Mikus is a communications specialist for the Lake County Forest Preserves. She writes a bimonthly column about various aspects of the preserves. Contact her with ideas or questions at kmikuscroke@LCFPD.org. Connect with the Lake County Forest Preserves on social media @LCFPD.

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