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Explore for an Hour, a Day, or Even a Night: North Cook County

two children playing on a log at River Trail Nature Center

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

  • Visit River Trail Nature Center. People of all ages can enjoy a peaceful walk through the sugar maple woods as well as learn about nature’s past and present in the exhibit building. There are also numerous opportunities for youngsters, including a nature discovery area indoors and nature play outdoors.
  • Cool off at Whealan Pool Aquatic Center. Forest Preserves Aquatics Centers are open through mid-September. To cool off through the end of summer, check out Whealan Pool, which features two water slides, a zero-depth pool, a baby pool and a water play structure.

A Day

  • View a variety of gardens at Chicago Botanic Garden. Chicago Botanic Garden, one of the gems of the Forest Preserves of Cook County, features 27 gardens and four natural areas. Throughout the year, guests of all ages can enjoy classes, programs and more.
  • Traverse the Des Plaines River Trail. This 28-mile unpaved trail runs parallel to the Des Plaines River, and passes through numerous forest preserves and ecosystems. Once at the Lake County border, trail users can continue another 31 miles north.

A Night

  • Enjoy a night of camping Camp Dan Beard. The most rustic of the Forest Preserves campgrounds, Camp Dan Beard offers campers excellent opportunities for cabin or tent camping. Now through Labor Day, campers can enjoy free Friday and Saturday night campfires, special Friday and Saturday evening programs, as well as Saturday afternoon activities and hikes.