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Winter Recreation

December 10, 2019 08:00 AM
Sledding (ChipWilliams)
Sled Hill at Old School
© Chip Williams

Before heading out to a Lake County Forest Preserve for a winter hike or a twirl on the ice, check the status map on the winter sport's page.

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 after sunset until 9 pm, daily through Sunday, March 8. Bicycle and equestrian traffic is not permitted on the lighted trails after sunset. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed.

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. Lake County Forest Preserve Rangers 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, daily. 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 189 miles of trails at forest preserves throughout Lake County. Groomed trails are available at Lakewood’s Winter Sports Area and at Old School, when conditions allow. Grooming is typically done two days after a large snowfall. A 4-inch snow base is required for cross-country skiing at the Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods.


Snowmobilers can use 21 miles of designated trails within the preserves, many of which connect to other area snowmobile trails. A 4-inch snow base is required for snowmobiling. These trails are groomed and patrolled by Lake County Forest Preserve staff and volunteers. 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 is 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.

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 in Wadsworth, the Sedge Meadow parking area on Wadsworth Road east of Route 41 in Wadsworth, and the Lakewood parking area on Brown Road near Route 12 in Wauconda. All other parking lots close at dusk.

Ice Skating

Lace up your skates and head to the lake at Independence Grove in Libertyville or the man-made rinks at Lakewood’s Winter Sports Area and Old School. The shallow rinks typically freeze earlier in the season than the lake at Independence Grove where a 4.5-inch ice layer is required for ice skating.

Ice Fishing

When conditions allow, ice fishing is available at Banana Lake at Lakewood, Sterling Lake at Van Patten Woods, and the South Bay at Independence Grove. A 4.5-inch layer of ice is required for ice fishing. Shanties and shelters are permitted for day use, only two poles are allowed, and holes must be drilled six inches or smaller. All other fishing regulations apply. Independence Grove is open daily from 6:30 am to sunset for ice fishing. 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. All state of Illinois fishing regulations and licenses apply.


Media Contact: John Nelson, Director of Operations and Infrastructure, email, 847-968-3407





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