Rules and Regulations

For the safety and enjoyment of all visitors, and to protect the ecological health of this important natural land, all Forest Preserve District of Cook County users must abide by the following rules. We appreciate your respect for the land and for other guests, and we look forward to seeing you out on the trail. Enjoy your forest preserves today!


To view the full Forest Preserve District of Cook County Municipal Code, please click here. Additional regulations may apply.




  • Forest Preserve District hours are sunrise to sunset.


Pets & Horses

  • Pets must be leashed at all times, except in designated “Dog-Friendly Areas.”
  • Pets, with the exception of service animals, are prohibited from certain locations, including trails near Nature Centers and state-designated Illinois Nature Preserves.
  • Horses may not be hitched to trees.



  • Littering is strictly prohibited—help keep our preserves clean!
  • Smoking materials must be extinguished properly and may not be littered.



  • Motorized vehicles are prohibited on grass or trails.
  • Vehicles must be parked in marked spaces.
  • Vehicles may not be parked in preserves overnight.



  • Alcohol is not permitted within 50 feet of parking lots and roadways, and where otherwise posted.
  • Glass containers are not allowed.


Plant and Wildlife

  • Collection of plants and animals is strictly prohibited. This includes harvesting firewood; collecting mushrooms, wildflowers or other wild plants and their seeds; and otherwise removing or damaging any plants or trees.
  • Hunting is not allowed on any Forest Preserve District property. Visitors may not kill, injure or otherwise disturb any animals or their nests.
  • Feeding of wildlife is strictly prohibited.



  • Firearms and other concealed weapons are not allowed on Forest Preserve District property, except by police officers or active-duty servicemen and women. PLEASE NOTE: Cook County Forest Preserves are specifically exempted from the Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act (Section 65 of the Illinois Firearm Concealed Carry Act (430 ILCS 66 et seq)


Archaeology, Salvage and Physical Property

  • Any and all historic or prehistoric ruins found in the Forest Preserves are the property of the State of Illinois and may not be removed without consent.
  • Metal detecting is prohibited.
  • Patrons may not alter, deface, damage or otherwise change any monuments, either natural or manmade, within Forest Preserve District property.


Recreational Activities

  • Swimming in any natural body of water is prohibited. Swimming is encouraged in our three aquatics centers.
  • Sports are allowed only in designated fields and locations.
  • Model airplane flying is allowed in designated locations only.


Commercial Activity

  • Vendors must obtain a permit to enter Forest Preserve District property.
  • Patrons may not post advertisements on Forest Preserve District property.



  • Permits are required for groups of 25 or more. To obtain a picnic permit, click here.
  • An additional special use permit may be required for some activities conducted on Forest Preserve District property, including erecting tents, using amplified sound, and bringing in rides, inflatables or other special-use items.
  • Picnicking is prohibited in certain areas, such as Nature Centers. Please observe posted signs.
  • Fires are allowed only in grills in permitted picnic areas. Used coals must be disposed of in marked HOT COAL BINS.
  • Glass containers are not allowed.
  • Alcohol is not permitted within 50 feet of parking lots and roadways.



The Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s six Nature Centers provide a gateway for discovery of the natural diversity of Cook County. As interpretive institutions and wildlife refuges/preserves, there are special rules that apply to the Nature Centers and their surrounding trails.

Please respect these rules while visiting our Nature Centers.


  • Pets are not permitted on nature center grounds, including the parking lots.
  • Because we are not a rehabilitation facility, nature center staff cannot accept injured, orphaned or abandoned wildlife.
  • For your safety and for the protection of natural areas, please stay on marked trails. Trails are for hiking only; no running, jogging, horses or other sporting activities.
    Bicycles are not allowed beyond the Nature Center parking lots, or provided bike racks.
  • Cross-country skiing is only permitted at the Sagawau Nature Center.
  • For the benefit of other visitors and wildlife, please maintain respectful noise levels at all times. Amplified music is not allowed.
  • Picnicking is not permitted on nature center grounds. An adjacent picnic grove can be opened for pre-registered groups on weekdays. Except for water or sports bottles, food and drink are not permitted on trails. Please dispose of litter in proper receptacles. No food or drink in buildings.
  • Collecting of any kind is prohibited, as is the use of metal detectors. The fine for picking wildflowers is $500.
  • For the protection of animals and visitors alike, please do not feed the wildlife.
  • Be mindful of closing times for trails, nature center building, and parking lot.
  • Please report safety hazards or suspicious activities to the nature center staff.



  • Trail users are asked to be polite and courteous to fellow patrons.
  • Off-trail riding is prohibited.
  • Trail users must ride or walk on the right side of the trail.
  • Trail users must give an audible warning before passing others. Announce yourself and slow down to pass.
  • Patrons must obey all signs.
  • Speeding is not allowed.
  • Dogs must be leashed and in control on right side of trail. Pets, with the exception of service animals, are prohibited from certain locations, including trails near Nature Centers and state-designated Illinois Nature Preserves.
  • Helmets are recommended for all riders, and required for riders 14 and under.
  • Bicyclists and horses must ride single-file.
  • Stop only on shoulder of the trail.
  • Ride at a responsible, controlled speed. No racing is allowed.


To view all trail maps, click here.


Paved Trails

  • Trail users must stay in their own lane.
  • Bicycles must be walked down overpasses.
  • Equestrian use of paved trails is prohibited.


Unpaved Trails

  • Bicyclists and equestrians must stay on designated trails.
  • Bicyclists must yield to hikers and equestrians.
  • Hikers must yield to equestrians.
  • Trail users must ask permission to pass equestrians.
  • Trail usage is prohibited in muddy conditions.
  • Horses must be licensed.


Nature Center Trails

  • Nature Center trails are intended for walking. Bikes, pets, horses and cross-country skiing are not allowed.
  • Nature Center trails are open only during posted Nature Center hours.



Cross-Country Skiing

  • Visitors may cross-country ski in all areas of the forest preserves (except golf courses and most nature centers), from 8am to sunset. Sagawau Environmental Learning Center in Lemont offers a complete Nordic Ski Program,including lessons for all ability levels, nature ski tours, school group programs, and ski rentals.
  • RESPECT OTHERS: Ski so that you don’t endanger or offend others.
  • SKI RIGHT: Ski the right-hand track. Groups should ski single file on the right side of the trail.
  • MEETING: Keep to the right when meeting. On hills, downhill skiers have the right of way.
  • POLES IN: Keep your poles close to your body when near other skiers.
  • KEEP TRAILS CLEAR: If you stop, get out of the track. If you fall, get up and out of the track quickly.
  • WATCH YOUR SPEED: Suit your skiing speed to your personal ability, the terrain, visibility especially on hills. Keep a safe distance from skiers ahead. As a last resort, fall intention-ally to avoid a collision.
  • DON’T LITTER: Don’t carry in what you cannot carry out. Carrying litter is easy — it’s light.

Hikers and Snowshoers, please remember to stay off the classic cross-country ski tracks!



  • Snowmobiling is only permitted at five designated locations.
  • Snowmobiles must be registered with both the State of Illinois and the Forest Preserve District. Proof of insurance is required.
  • Snowmobile areas are opened when a minimum four-inch snow base exists on frozen turf.
  • Snowmobiling hours are 10 am to 10 pm.


Sledding and Coasting

  • Visitors use Forest Preserve District sledding hills at their own risk.
  • Forest Preserves of Cook County sledding hills are open when there is a minimum of 3″ of snow and the ground is frozen.
  • Proper use of appropriate sledding devices which are in good repair and have no sharp edges is required.
  • Use of skis, non-winter style tubes, carpets, snowboards and metal-railed sleds is strictly prohibited.
  • Unauthorized building of ramps, bumbs, moguls, hills or jumps out of a material or substance is strictly prohibited.
  • Children under the age of 12 should wear a bicycle or multi-sport helmet and must be supervised by an adult.
  • Sledding hills may be closed due to a lack of snow cover or for any other safety or environmental-related reason.
  • Pets and alcoholic beverages are strictly prohibited on sledding hills.
  • Forest Preserves staff reserves the right to refuse admittance to sledding hills anyone who fails to comply with the documented and posted Sledding Hills Rules and Regulations.



  • Fishing is allowed only in designated areas.
  • Bow and arrow fishing for rough fish is not permitted.
  • A valid Illinois sport fishing license is required for everyone over the age of 16, excluding those with disabilities and the blind.
  • All waters within the forest preserves are designated “Fish Preserves.” Each fisherman is limited to two lines with no more than two hooks per line and no trolley lines.
    • Additional Forest Preserve regulations regarding size, creel limit and/or closings may be in effect for certain lakes and will be posted when applicable. These special regulations are used for management of the District’s waters and to improve fish populations.
  • Anyone required to have a valid State fishing license must also have a valid State Inland Trout Stamp when fishing for trout within the District’s trout lakes.
  • Trout fishing is closed from March 15 to the first Saturday in April and from October 1 to the third Saturday in October.
  • Minnow seine use is not allowed, except for bait collecting on the Des Plaines River.
  • Ice Fishing is permitted only on designated District lakes. All ice fisherman fish at their own risk as the District does not monitor ice conditions. Ice fishermen should check ice thickness before going out on any frozen body of water. A minimum of four inches of solid ice over the entire lake is recommended before individuals attempt ice fishing.
  • Patrons may not release any fish, including minnows and goldfish, in any Forest Preserve District of Cook County waters, except in the waters from which they were taken.
  • Fishermen must dispose of their fishing line properly. Discarded fishing line presents a hazard to birds and other wildlife.



  • The following watercraft are permitted on designated water bodies:
    • sailboats
    • rowboats
    • canoes and
    • kayaks. Also, other non-gasoline powered watercraft of either traditional construction, or multi-chambered inflatables with a factory installed floor and hull identification number.
    • Radio controlled boats and floatplanes are permitted on designated lakes only.
    • Boats must be registered and titled with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources or state of residence and must display their registration. Personal floatation devices, as mandated by federal law, are required for all watercraft.
    • Motorboats are not allowed on Forest Preserve District property.

Visit two of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County