28285 St. Mary's Road
Mettawa,IL 60048
543 acres
6:30 am–sunset, daily.

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


Gravel trails, a paved roadway trail and a fitness trail are available here. 

  • Gravel: A 2.7-mile loop trail explores woods and prairies and is open for hiking, biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing. A portion of this loop is part of the Des Plaines River Trail (DPRT). The 1-mile lake loop trail encircles the lake and is open to for hiking, biking and cross-country skiing. The 1.2-mile fitness trail is open only to foot traffic and offers workout stations that build strength and endurance.
  • Paved: 1.5-mile roadway trail winds through the preserve offers a special one-way lane popular for biking and in-line skating. It is also open to hikers.

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

The Des Plaines River Trail 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.



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  • Bright sunny day casting shadows through the trees onto a grassy field of green
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More About This Preserve

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 flowers 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. Learn how you can get involved.


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 our agency among a select group of leaders in this field.


The entrance is on Saint Mary's Road south of Route 176 and north of Route 60 (Townline Road).

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