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543 acres


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Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway

Picnic Shelters

Shelter A
Shelter B
Shelter C
Shelter D
Shelter E

Old School

One of our most popular spots, offering miles of trails, great bass fishing and secluded picnic spots in the heart of Lake County. 

A 3-mile gravel loop trail explores Old School's woods and prairies and is open to hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders and cross-country skiers. A portion of this loop is part of the Des Plaines River Trail (DPRT).

A 1.5-mile gravel trail encircles the lake and is open to hikers, bicyclists and cross-county skiers.

The 1.5-mile asphalt road winding through the preserve offers a special one-way lane popular with bicyclists and in-line skaters, and is also open to hikers.

An interior 1.5-mile physical fitness loop, open only to foot traffic, offers workout stations that build strength and endurance.

Old School's sled hill is one of the most popular features of this preserve and can be seen from I-94.

The DPRT winds through this preserve and is open to hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders and cross-country skiers. From Old School you can make your way south to Lincolnshire without crossing any major roads.



Old School Forest Preserve is located in central Lake County in Mettawa. [View on Google Maps]

The entrance and parking area are located on Saint Mary's Road just south of Route 176, and north of Route 60 (Townline Road).



This land was acquired in parcels between 1974 and 1976. The preserve and nearby Old School Road each got their name from the now-defunct Bradley School, which stood near the preserve’s southeast corner. The school began as a log cabin in 1873.

This was the first forest preserve in Illinois to blend native prairie restoration with recreation facilities. For instance, native prairie plants replace the usual mowed lawn, and parking lots are small and hidden from view among the trees. Innovations like this led to national awards, placing the Lake County Forest Preserves among a select group of leaders in this field.


The Natural Scene

Large oaks dominate these woodlands that blend with small prairies. This landscape resembles what Lake County looked like when it was first settled. Bluebirds, foxes and screech owls are just a few of the animals living here. Time one of your visits to coincide with the August peak of prairie will flower blooming. You'll be treated to a rainbow of colors, ranging from golden alexanders to purple milkweed.

Restoration has long been a priority at Old School. With the help of its dedicated volunteer Site Steward and team of volunteers, much work has gone into restoring the prairie and monitoring its wildlife. However, the preserve needs further assistance with removal of invasive species and reforestation with native species.

HSBC Supports Habitat Restoration Project

Birds and other wildlife will benefit from a habitat restoration project at Old School thanks to a $15,000 grant from HSBC and the support of its employees volunteers. HSBC, one of the world's largest banking and financial services organizations, has its North American headquarters in Mettawa. 


Preserve News

Take an evening hike along solar-lit trails
2015 Picnic Shelter Reservations Now Open
ALERT: Trail Closures

Upcoming Events

Nov 6 Restoration Workdays
  13 Restoration Workdays
  20 Restoration Workdays