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Lake County Forest Preserves | Preservation, Restoration, Education and Recreation

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Alert

Treatment of Invasive Plants Underway

Through October, spot herbicide treatment of invasive plants will be occurring. Please stay on trails and keep your dog leashed. Watch for signs and closed areas. Learn more »

Alert

Restoration Work Underway

Through early spring, tree clearing work will be taking place near the ravines and may result in temporary, intermittent trail closures. Please use caution, slow down, and look for closure signs and work crews along the way. Learn more »

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Fort Sheridan



Address

117 Sheridan Road
Lake Forest, IL 60045

Hours

6:30 am–sunset, daily.

Maps

Trail Map
Directions

Acreage

250 acres

Activities

Biking
Fishing
Hike Lake County Challenge
Hiking
Self-Guided Trails & Exhibits
Cross-Country Skiing

Amenities

Public Parking
Trails

Related Documents

Fort Sheridan Cemetery

Countywide Map and Guide

Rolling terrain, mature trees, and ecologically sensitive bluffs and ravines set on the Lake Michigan shoreline make this stately preserve a scenic destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Trails

Relax on the shore of Lake Michigan, enjoy trails for recreation and nature observation, and learn about Fort Sheridan's story through self-guided educational exhibits. Known for its pristine natural areas and excellent lakefront birdwatching, Fort Sheridan is home to several rare species not found elsewhere in the region.

In total, roughly 4.5 miles are available here for hiking, 3.7 miles for cross-country skiing, and 1.3 miles for bicycling. Trail surfaces include paved, gravel, grass, woodchip, and sand.

  • Paved: 1.3-mile Lake Michigan Trail for hiking, biking and cross-country skiing. Trail runs from Sheridan Road through the preserve to Lake Michigan, and connects to educational exhibits along the Fort's historic parade ground and to other walk-through exhibits and viewing stations along the route.
  • Grass: 2.1-mile mowed trail for hiking and cross-country skiing only.
  • Woodchip: 0.3-mile trail for hiking and cross-country skiing only. Trail offers scenic views of the preserve's ravines from the trail bridge.
  • Sandy shoreline: 0.75 miles for hiking only. The shoreline is also great for fishing, birdwatching, picnicking or relaxing. Swimming, wading, and boating are not allowed.

Please keep dogs leashed and on trails at all times, and pick up after them. Learn about our off-leash Dog Parks (permit required).

Regional Trail Connections

The Lake Michigan Trail at Fort Sheridan ties into other regional trail systems including the 20-mile McClory Trail, which runs north and south along Sheridan Road, and the 11-mile North Shore Path, which runs west along Route 176 from Sheridan Road. You can use the North Shore Path to connect to our Des Plaines River Trail near Libertyville and the Millennium Trail near Mundelein.

Exhibits

One-of-a-kind outdoor educational exhibits blend into the landscape and tell the story of Fort Sheridan’s rich natural resources and military history. These self-guided exhibits can be found along the trails, woodlands and ravines, and at the shoreline. Learn more »

Trailhead and Welcome Area

Start your journey at these symbolic gates that include parts of the original fence that once surrounded the main gate at the base.

Bird Migration Viewing Area and Lakefront Overlook

From this platform you can observe one of our nation’s busiest flyways for migratory birds and learn about the fragile ecosystem of the Great Lakes. Bench seating and a handicap-accessible binocular viewer are available here.

Coastal Artillery

This exhibit features a unique walk-in environment that replicates an army training gun emplacement (circa 1920-1943) and includes an anti-aircraft artillery cannon similar to the type once used in training at the Fort.

Red-tailed Hawk's Nest

Step inside a hawk's world at this larger-than-life exhibit. Cradled among the trees overlooking ravines, the nest provides information on this majestic raptor and features a specially designed viewing station that offers a hawk's-eye view of the preserve. This handicap-accessible exhibit is large enough to accommodate as many as 20 school children.

Interpretive Signage

A variety of other informative trailside displays about human history, nature, and ecology are scattered throughout the preserve.

Middle School Curriculum

Fort Sheridan's rich military history and unique natural resources provide an ideal backdrop for studying topics relevant in today's social studies, science and language arts classrooms. You can download lesson plans and supporting photo cards, or request a complete educator's kit, available for free to instructors of middle school-level students. Call 847-968-3321 or email us for details. View teacher resources.

Preserve History

Fort Sheridan was a U.S. Army base from 1887 until 1993, when it officially closed. Measures to secure the Fort for public benefit began in the late 1980s. For nearly a decade, we worked with surrounding communities to win congressional and presidential approval of legislation to have the U.S. Army transfer land to us for public open space, recreation and preservation. In 1997, the Army began conveyance of the northern section of the former base. The third and final parcel was received in 2001.

Cemetery

The Fort Sheridan cemetery has played an important role in the site’s history. It stands as a silent witness to the past. Gravestones here date back to 1890. Though we provide ongoing care and maintenance, the cemetery is still operated by the Army. For questions regarding burials, contact the Army's Cemetery Supervisor at 847-615-0232.

Military History

From the Spanish-American War in 1898 to Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s, Fort Sheridan served a vital military role. Learn more »

In the late 19th century, Chicago's labor and business interests collided. Violent confrontations and labor strikes repeatedly troubled the city. By the time of the Haymarket Riot of 1886, the Commercial Club, made up of prominent Chicago businessmen, had pressed the U.S. Secretary of War to establish a military post to maintain order. For that purpose, the Club purchased and donated over 600 acres of land near Highwood, which was formerly the site of a brick manufacturing village.

In 1888, General Philip Sheridan, who was Commanding General of the Army in the nation's capital, made history by naming the encampment after himself. Fort Sheridan's role evolved over the next century, from peacekeeper during the Pullman Strikes of June 1894 to training center for wars being fought around the globe. Its troops fought on horseback in the Spanish-American War, received artillery instruction during World Wars I and II, were deployed to Vietnam, and maintained NIKE missile systems throughout the Cold War.

Landmark Construction

Fort Sheridan's buildings represent a significant period of architectural history. Prestigious Chicago architects Holabird & Roche implemented the Richardsonian Romanesque style in the design of the tower and the original 64 buildings at the Fort. Massive brick construction and an abundance of arches and towers reflect this style.

The Fort's central tower remains a notable landmark today. Ninety-four buildings at the Fort are designated National Historic Landmarks. Landscape designer Ossian C. Simonds framed the military areas with native vegetation, working with the unusual combination of ravines, lake bluffs, and open areas to enhance the grounds for military and aesthetic purposes.

End of an Era

On May 28, 1993, Fort Sheridan ceased operations as an active military post. A reserve training area was retained by the Army, and several of the Fort's buildings and officers homes were sold by the Town of Fort Sheridan for private residences.

The Natural Scene

A unique Lake Michigan natural resource, Fort Sheridan is of statewide significance. The land here was shaped by the forces of glaciation and erosion. Efforts to restore the site and preserve its valuable ecosystems and rich human history is ongoing. Learn more »

Ravines and Bluffs

As ice-age glaciers slowly receded toward the poles, they carved out valleys, rivers, small lakes, and the Great Lakes basin. Over time, as water ran toward Lake Michigan it eroded the land and formed the site’s six rare ravines. The ravines and lakeshore provide a protected home for several endangered and threatened species.

Janes Ravine is one of the few remaining examples of a rare high-quality upland forest. The bluffs along the lake comprise the largest and best remaining examples of oak woodlands and prairies once prevalent along much of the lakeshore. The preserve’s open oak savanna is rare for this area. Located between prairie and forest, it is characterized by small groves of oaks that tower above grassy areas and wildflowers.

Microclimates and Ecosystems

Lake Michigan’s waters moderate weather extremes at Fort Sheridan, keeping the ravines slightly warmer during the winter and cooler in the summer. This makes it possible to find plants and trees here that are not found further inland, like arborvitae evergreens, thought to be the only wild, native arborvitae in Lake County, or the rare American dog violet, sea rocket, and buffaloberry.

The Preserve’s ecosystems include ravine, prairie, savanna, lakeshore, and freshwater lake. They provide diverse habitats for a great variety of wildlife and plant species. Over 140 species of birds follow the shoreline of Lake Michigan as they migrate north in the spring and south in the fall. Almost 60 other bird species are year-round residents.

Location

The entrance is on Sheridan Road at Old Elm Road and Simonds Way. Enter on Simonds Way, left on Leonard Wood Drive North, left on Gilgare Lane to parking area.

PHOTOS

 
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Moonrise Timelapse

Overlooking Lake Michigan

Copyright Nat Carmichael via Flickr

 

TRAIL AND UNDERPASS STATUS

Check the current status (open/closed) of trails and underpasses along the Des Plaines River Trail, the Millennium Trail, community trail connections, and preserve trails marked on the map below. Public access is restricted at closed trails and underpasses.

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