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Discover Seasonal Outdoor Activities

November 28, 2023 01:02 PM

The Lake County Forest Preserves offer a winter wonderland of activities, featuring everything from the graceful glide of ice skating to the exhilarating rush of sledding and the serene journey of cross-country skiing. Before embarking on your winter adventure, remember to visit our winter sports webpage for all the latest information. Let the magic of winter inspire you to step outside and create unforgettable memories.

Solar-lit Evening Hikes

With small solar lights to guide their way, hikers, skiers and snowshoers can get some brisk evening exercise along the 1.3-mile fitness trail at Old School Forest Preserve in Libertyville, and along a 1.65-mile hilly section of the Millennium Trail adjacent to the Winter Sports Area at Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda.

Though regular preserve hours are 6:30 am to sunset, the illuminated trails and adjacent parking lots will remain open until 9 pm, daily through Sunday, March 10. Bicycle and equestrian traffic is not permitted on the lighted trails after sunset. The solar lights serve as a guide along the trails. It is recommended to bring a flashlight or headlamp along for additional illumination.

To access the lighted trails, park at Lakewood's Winter Sports Area, located on the east side of Fairfield Road just south of Route 176, or at Old School's main entrance lot, located on the east side of St. Mary's Road just south of Route 176. Rangers from the Lake County Forest Preserves regularly patrol the areas.


Sled hills are located at Lakewood in Wauconda and Old School in Libertyville. The Lakewood hill is part of a dedicated Winter Sports Area at that site and is lighted, allowing for winter fun until 9 pm, when conditions allow. The Old School hill is open until sunset when conditions allow sledding. Snowboards, metal runners or toboggans are not permitted.

Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiers can enjoy nearly more than 200 miles of trails at forest preserves throughout Lake County. At the Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods, a 4-inch snow base is required before opening trails for cross-country skiing. Groomed trails are available at Lakewood’s Winter Sports Area to Ray Lake Forest Preserve in Wauconda and the Yellow Trail Loop at Old School. The Des Plaines River Trail is groomed from Rockland Road south to the Route 60 underpass in Vernon Hills. Grooming is typically done one day after a heavy snow using new equipment, partially funded by a Preservation Foundation grant, that grooms the trail for both traditional and skate-style skiing. 


Snowmobilers can use 21 miles of designated trails within the preserves, all of which connect to other area snowmobile trails. Forest preserve snowmobile trails are open from December 10 through March 31 and when conditions allow, which include frozen ground and a 4-inch snow base. Snowmobilers should use caution and watch for trail route signs along all forest preserve snowmobile trails.

The Des Plaines River Trail from Russell Road to just south of Wadsworth Road provides the longest stretch of trail for snowmobilers. Parking and trail access are provided at the Van Patten Woods Canoe Launch on Russell Road east of Route 41 and at Sedge Meadow Forest Preserve located on Wadsworth Road just east of Route 41 in Wadsworth.

When conditions allow, snowmobile trails are open 6:30 am–11 pm, Sunday–Thursday, and 6:30 am to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. The following snowmobile trailer parking lots are open extended hours for snowmobilers: the Van Patten Woods Canoe Launch parking area on Russell Road east of Route 41, the Sedge Meadow parking area on Wadsworth Road east of Route 41, and the Lakewood parking area on Brown Road near Route 12. All other parking lots close at sunset.

Ice Skating

Lace up your skates and head to the lake at Independence Grove in Libertyville or the rink at Lakewood’s Winter Sports Area. The shallow rink at Lakewood, open 6:30 am–9 pm, typically freezes earlier in the season than the lake at Independence Grove, open 6:30 am–sunset, where a 4.5-inch ice layer is required.

Ice Fishing

Five locations have been designated as ice fishing areas: Banana Lake at Lakewood, Sterling Lake at Van Patten Woods, Hastings Lake Forest Preserve in Lake Villa, Lake Carina Forest Preserve in Gurnee, and the south bay at Independence Grove. Ice fishing is free and at your own risk. Ice conditions are not monitored, so anglers should check ice thickness before going out on any frozen body of water. A minimum of 4 inches of solid ice over the entire waterbody is recommended before individuals attempt ice fishing. Bring your own gear.

Temporary shanties and shelters are permitted but must be removed by the end of the day. Only two poles are allowed, or tip-ups with no more than two hooks on each line. Holes must be six inches or smaller in diameter. Van Patten Woods is open weekdays from 6:30 am until one hour past sunset for ice fishing, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 6:30 am to sunset. Other sites are open daily from 6:30 am to sunset for ice fishing. All Illinois fishing regulations and licenses apply.

"Your forest preserves offer a multitude of opportunities for both individual explorers and families to immerse themselves in nature, even during the winter months," said Angelo Kyle, president of the Lake County Forest Preserves. "These natural sanctuaries are unparalleled in providing a quintessential winter experience that rejuvenates the body and elevates the spirit, making them ideal destinations for enhancing physical and mental well-being."

For a full list of winter activities, visit