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Maple Syrup Programs Offered

February 14, 2022 11:17 AM

For more than 40 years, educators and volunteers at the Lake County Forest Preserves have led wildly popular Maple Syrup Hikes through Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods. Each March, families, school groups and scout troops learn about the process of converting sap from the preserve's towering sugar maple trees into sweet syrup.

"Educators are prepping a full slate of programs taking place in March," said Director of Education Nan Buckardt. “We are looking forward to offering both in-person and virtual programs this spring."

In-person, public Maple Syrup Hikes are offered Saturdays and Sundays, March 5–20, at Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods. Led by Lake County Forest Preserves educators, the one-hour hikes run every half-hour from noon to 2 pm and are open to all ages. "This year all public program hikes will be held entirely outdoors," Buckardt said.

The temperature dictates what visitors will see along the trails, said Environmental Educator Jen Berlinghof. "The timing for tapping maple trees comes down to temperature–above freezing during the day but still below freezing at night–plus precipitation and the hours of sunlight in a day," she said. Changing temperature is what causes the sap to surge upward from the roots toward the branches, where it helps the leaves grow and the buds bloom. Then in the summer, the leaves will produce more sap, which will settle back down in the roots come winter, Berlinghof said.

"Visitors are able to witness the wonder of turning sap from sugar maple trees into sweet maple syrup. All registered participants can have a taste," Berlinghof said.

Ryerson Conservation Area has many maple trees and good soil. Syrup production only happens in late winter and early spring.

Tickets for Maple Syrup Hikes are required. Hikes fill up quickly, so register early. Cost is $6 per person. Children ages 3 and under are free. Purchase tickets online or call 847-968-3321. Special sessions designed for scouts or other large groups are also available. Call 847-968-3321 to register a group.

Throughout March, teachers and scout leaders are encouraged to reserve in-person field trips. "We are enthusiastic that we are again able to offer the outdoor educational experience," Berlinghof said. The experience includes learning where we use the maple syruping process to meet science learning standards, Berlinghof said. Virtual school programs are also available. Email to begin the registration process.

“If your family is ready to hit the trails, we are providing free self-guided Maple Syrup Hikes from March 21–31. Through informational signs, you’ll learn the science behind how trees make sap and how we turn that sap into real maple syrup as you walk along the designated trail at your own pace,” Berlinghof said.

Browse all education programs and register online at, or call 847-968-3321. Follow along on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @LCFPD for more educational resources, webinars and videos.

Media contact: Environmental Educator Jen Berlinghof,, 847-276-5381