Explore for an Hour, a Day, or Even a Night: Southwest Zone

From boating and biking to birdwatching and fishing, there are numerous ways to experience the great outdoors in the Forest Preserves of Cook County. With nearly 70,000 acres of wild and wonderful, Cook County residents and visitors can find ways to explore the Forest Preserves for an hour, a day, or even a night.


An Hour



  • Explore Sagawau Environmental Learning Center. Here, visitors can view exhibits on geology, human and natural history, and habitat management. Naturalists often host guided hikes of Sagawau Canyon, and the Nature Center transforms into a Nordic ski center in winter.


A Day


  • Exercise at Swallow Cliff Woods. Though known for the 100-foot-bluff complete with nearly 300 limestone stairs, Swallow Cliff Woods also offers visitors a connection to 8 miles of unpaved trails that are part of the Sag Valley Trail system.


  • Paddle or fish at Maple Lake. This 60-acre lake offers a peaceful location to leisurely paddle or spend a morning fishing. No boat? The Maple Lake Boating Center offers boat rentals from early April through late October.


  • Learn the history of Oak Forest Heritage Preserve. This 176.3-acre preserve , adjacent to the Oak Forest Health Center, includes a 1.7-mile loop trail and a series of interpretive signage that tells the stories of how this site has been used throughout history.


A Night


  • Spend the night in a tent, cabin or bunkhouse at Camp Sullivan. In addition to a 28-foot climbing wall, campers can enjoy access to more than 13 miles of trails, as well as free weekend activities and programs from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Visit two of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County