Fort Sheridan Reopens with 70-Foot Overlook of Lake Michigan

Image of Fort Sheridan Welcome sign

Significant Public Access Improvements Celebrate Natural and Military History

The Lake County Forest Preserves announces the reopening of Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve in Lake Forest with new and improved features that provide greater access to the site’s natural beauty and rich military history. Following more than a year of construction, visitors will once again be able to enjoy portions of the preserve’s scenic trails and access to the Lake Michigan shoreline. As outlined in the 2015 Master Plan for Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve, improvements include:

  • Three scenic observation areas, including a 70-foot overlook of Lake Michigan, with new and relocated educational exhibits that tell the story of the area’s unique history and include new information about the Lake Michigan Bird Flyway. 
  • Nearly a mile of new accessible paved trails and conversion of the woodchip section of the Hutchinson Trail with new bridges and boardwalks.
  • Redesigned main entrance on Gilgare Lane, widened to a full two lanes, which leads to a new 45-car parking lot with five accessible spaces and an evaporator toilet building (an innovative waste disposal method that is odor free and saves water). 
  • Improved north parking lot with new paved trailhead and an evaporator toilet building.
  • Restored shoreline with native plantings.
  • Remaining portion of George Bell Road and gates removed and area restored with native plantings. 

Public access to the restored 1.8-mile mowed grass trail will remain closed until summer 2019 to allow time for the grass surface to become better established for foot traffic. Management and monitoring of the 73-acre woodland, prairie and savanna portions of the site will continue in perpetuity.
“We are thrilled to unveil the improvements made to Fort Sheridan and invite the public to enjoy stunning views of Lake Michigan, walk along the lakeshore itself, and experience both meadow and ravine habitats,” said Lake County Forest Preserve President Ann B. Maine. “Beloved for its history and natural beauty, Fort Sheridan is one of Lake County’s most treasured open spaces.”
Restoration Program
The restoration of Janes and Hutchinson ravines was funded through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Estuaray Habitat Restoration Program and focused on removing stormwater inputs from Janes and Hutchinson ravines, restoration of an overland flow bioswale and restoration of savanna and prairie communities. Also working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (ACOE), Great Lakes Fish and Ecosystem Restoration program (GLFER), in collaboration with the City of Lake Forest, Lake County Forest Preserves, Lake Forest Open Lands, and Openlands for a large-scale coastal ecosystem restoration project along 2 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline. Phase I of the project included extensive restoration and habitat improvement of the lake bluff uplands, several ravines and approximately 2 miles of Lake Michigan lakeshore. Phase II is being planned for 2019-20 and will provide in-water habitat structures to enhance the nearshore animal communities. The project extends from Lake Forest Open Lands property to the north of Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve and south through the Openlands property.
Project Background
Public access improvements for Fort Sheridan were approved by the Lake County Forest Preserve Board in November 2015 as part of the Master Plan for the preserve. Construction began in early June of 2017, following approval of a resolution to award a contract in the amount of $1,872,000.00 to V3 Construction Group, Woodridge, Illinois. During construction, all portions of the preserve north of Fort Sheridan’s historic district and south of Vattman Road entrance drive to the cemetery were closed to the public.
About Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve
A unique Lake Michigan natural resource, the 250-acre preserve allows visitors to 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 lakeshore birdwatching, Fort Sheridan is home to many regional rare plants and animals not found elsewhere in the region.
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, the Lake County Forest Preserves worked with surrounding communities to win congressional and presidential approval of legislation to have the U.S. Army transfer land 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.
Additional Information:

For a program calendar or additional information about the Lake County Forest Preserves, visit or call 847-367-6640 and request a free copy of the Horizons quarterly newsletter