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‘Woods Walk’ Exploration Program is in Full Swing

Photo for: ‘Woods Walk’ Exploration Program is in Full Swing

Photo courtesy of Steve White

The Forest Preserve District has brought back a popular preserve exploration feature called “Woods Walk.”

The program kicked off September 1 and ends November 30. Participants who hike seven of 10 designated trails during that time period will receive a collector’s medal. Those who hike all 10 trails will receive a second special gift. Trail trips vary in length from 1 to 6 miles.

Trail locations range from Naperville to the north, Manhattan to the south, Crete Township to the east and Channahon to the west.

After a 15-year run, the previous “Woods Walk” program ended in 2015 as the District reorganized its offerings. But now is the perfect time to revamp and resurrect this self-paced pedestrian offering, said Lynn Kurczewski, director of visitor services.

“There have been numerous studies on the benefits of walking in nature,” she said. “Walking in nature has been shown to reduce stress and depression, improve mental clarity and focus, and improve your overall mood more than when exercising in a gym or busy city environment. ‘Woods Walk’ provides the opportunity to experience those health benefits, both physical and mental.”

The program is taking place at a perfect time to get outside and explore nature, she added.

“It begins at a time of year when temperatures are cooler, mosquitoes are fewer and fall colors are at their best,” Kurczewski said.

The selected trails will help participants learn about preserves they might not have known existed, said Ben Hecke, community partnerships and outreach coordinator.

“Woods Walk is designed to get people out to each corner of the county and experience some of our most popular and most exotic preserves,” he said. “The program’s basic goal is to get you out of your comfort zone and out in the best nature Will County has to offer.”


To participate in the program, pick up a “Woods Walk” hiking guide at one of four visitor centers: Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville, Monee Reservoir in Monee Township, Plum Creek Nature Center in Crete Township and Sugar Creek Administration Center in Joliet. You also can download the guide.

Check each visitor center page on our website for hours and holiday closures before you venture out to pick up your hiking guide. For instance, Sugar Creek isn't open on the weekends.

The guide features maps of each trail section included in the program and detailed location descriptions. A "Woods Walk" trail list is located in the back of the guide for participants to check off each trail walked. Once they complete their walks, participants can fill in the rest of the form and drop it off at one of the visitor centers listed above or mail it in to receive their collector's medal. An online form will also be available when the program begins September 1. Those who walk all 10 trails must pick up their gifts (collector's medal and picnic blanket) at one of the visitor centers.


This year’s “Woods Walk” trail locations and trip lengths are:

  1. Plum Creek Greenway Trail, Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve, Crete Township; 3 miles (please note, a section of Goodenow Road is completely closed west of Route 1/Route 394 and a detour is in place).
  2. Tall Grass Greenway Trail, Vermont Cemetery Preserve, Naperville; 1 mile
  3. Trail at Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve, Park Forest; 3.2 miles
  4. Trail at Messenger Woods Nature Preserve, Homer Glen; 1 mile
  5. I&M Canal Trail, Isle a la Cache Preserve, Romeoville; 3 miles
  6. Hickory Creek Bikeway, Hickory Creek Preserve – Hickory Creek Junction, Mokena; 6 miles
  7. I&M Canal State Trail, McKinley Woods – Frederick’s Grove, Channahon; 3.5 miles
  8. Rock Run Greenway Trail/Sedge Meadow Trail, Rock Run Preserve – Black Road Access, Joliet; 2 miles
  9. Wauponsee Glacial Trail – Manhattan Road Access, Manhattan; 3.5 miles
  10. Lake Renwick Bikeway/Heron Rookery Trail, Lake Renwick Preserve – Turtle Lake Access, Plainfield; 2.5 miles

Bring your binoculars, field guides and a camera as you venture forth on the paths. “Woods Walk” signs will be placed along the designated trails. Be sure to also bring your camera to catch unique nature shots, which can be entered into the District’s Preserve the Moment photo contest.


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