If you're thinking of hibernating this winter and forgoing outdoor activity until the groundhog says it's safe to emerge in the spring, think again.
The Forest Preserve District has plenty to keep you busy even if the snow is flying and the mercury is plummeting. A giant sled hill, miles of cross-country ski trails and snowshoe and sled tube rentals are just some of the recreational options offered by the Forest Preserve in winter.
Plum Creek Nature Center, located in Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve, is a hub for many of the winter rec opportunities. But there are plenty of winter activities sprinkled throughout the preserves.
Here is your guide to winter recreation in the Forest Preserves.
Sledding: There are two sled hills in the forest preserves. The sled hill at Goodenow Grove is open beginning December 1, when proper sledding conditions exist. Call 708.946.2216 to find out if the sled hill is open for business. Sled tubes can be rented for $2 at Plum Creek, which is located near the sled hill. Guests can also bring their own sleds, but no steel runners, snowboards or steerables are allowed. No dogs are allowed on the sled hill. The sled hill at Forked Creek Preserve – Butcher Lane Access is not supervised or monitored by staff; sledding can take place when individuals believe conditions are appropriate for this activity.
Snowshoeing: If you don't own snowshoes but you want to try this sport, you can rent a pair for $10 a day at Plum Creek. The adjacent Goodenow Grove features 5 miles of snowshoe trails. Call 708.946.2216 to inquire about snowshoeing conditions. If you have your own snowshoes, visit the Interactive Map to find out where snowshoeing is allowed in the preserves.
Cross-country skiing: After a snowfall, Forest Preserve trails are not plowed so cross-country skiers will have miles of pristine snow to glide through. For a list of trails that allow cross-country skiing, visit the Interactive Map and click on the activity search.
In addition to these snow-centric activities, the Forest Preserve District's dog parks remain open year-round for off-leash canine play. Permits are required for dog park use. And trails remain open for hiking, walking and running, but pedestrians should monitor trails for slippery conditions and use caution.
Camping is allowed year-round, except for the campground at McKinley Woods – Frederick's Grove, which is closed after the first snowfall due to the steep incline on the entrance road leading to it. And horseback riding also is allowed in the winter on the District's 30-plus miles of equestrian trails.
Finally, there are a host of winter-themed programs scheduled for December through March. For instance, a "Winter Bird Hike" will be held from 8-10 a.m. December 9 at McKinley Woods – Kerry Sheridan Grove. "Stories in the Snow" is set for the same date from 10:30 a.m.-noon at Isle a la Cache Museum. And in January, Plum Creek Nature Center will host "Warm up to Snowshoeing" from January 2-7.
Eagles watches and owl hikes also are on tap. And a "Snow Day Festival" will take place from noon-4 p.m. on January 20 at Plum Creek.
Those are just a few examples of fun winter programs that will keep you busy and active until spring arrives. To find program details and to see what else is coming up, visit the Event Calendar.
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