Nature Express Bus

an illustration of animals riding a bus through the woods

Is your community group or nonprofit organization interested in visiting the Forest Preserves of Cook County? Have you been limited by the cost of transportation? Our Nature Express Bus program can help your group access Forest Preserves events or visit our partner organizations, the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Brookfield Zoo. Best of all, it’s free.

On this page:

Program Overview

Groups can visit one of our big annual events, including Teen Exploration Day, Beaubien Woods Celebration, Fall Paddle Fest or Kids Fest. A trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden or Brookfield Zoo includes the price of admission (restricted dates include the Garden’s Orchid Show, Light Scape, and Night of 1,000 Jack-o-lanterns, and the Zoo’s Holiday Magic light festival).

Application Process

  • Ensure that your group has a minimum of 25 and a maximum of 44 passengers for the bus.
  • Designate one or more group leaders—they will be the main contact for all Nature Express Bus communications.
  • Complete the application and email it to
  • Groups can expect to hear back with a decision within five business days of the form submission.
  • The Forest Preserves will provide your group leader with a copy of the bus confirmation.
  • Report back! After your trip, you will be sent a survey to complete. Let us know about your group’s experience and share two fun photos that sum up your trip.


To qualify, your group must have a minimum of 25 and a maximum of 44 passengers and demonstrate a need for transportation funding. In order to provide equal access, groups are limited to one free bus per calendar year.

  • School field trips through the Nature Express Bus program are only permitted on weekends.  
  • In order to be eligible for a Nature Express Bus next year, applicants must complete their post-trip survey.
  • Please list your 2 preferred trip dates and times.
  • Groups must submit their application a minimum of 3 weeks prior to their proposed trip date.
  • Be based in Cook County and serve primarily Cook County residents.

Questions? Contact