Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center

The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center has educated and delighted generations of families with live animals, exhibits and self-guided trails.

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Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Closures & Cancellations

Nature Center grounds, trails and bathrooms are open seven days per week, from 8 am to 4 pm. Nature Center exhibit buildings remain closed. Drinking fountains are not available, please bring your own water. Parking capacity may be limited to help reduce crowding.

Learn more about COVID-19 cancellations and closures.


inside the exhibit area of Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center's visitors center
The exhibit area of the visitors center at Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center.

Location, Hours & Things to Do

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center

Things to Do & Amenities

  1. Service dogs are allowed at most public locations. View accessibility policies.

Hours

Mar - Oct: 9am - 5pm, closed FridaysNov - Feb: 9am - 4pm, closed FridaysClosed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day

Closures & Alerts


a trail sign with people in the background at Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center

Trails

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center Trails

Explore the Little Red Schoolhouse grounds on three unpaved walking trails or the paved accessible garden trail. Connect to the Palos Trail System to extend your walk.

Location: Willow Springs

Surface

Paved & Unpaved

Estimated Total Length

2.5 miles

Things to Do

  1. Service dogs are allowed at most public locations. View accessibility policies.

Hours

Mar - Oct: 8 am - 5 pmNov - Feb: 8 am - 4 pmClosed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day

Closures & Alerts

*Please be a courteous trail user: Follow posted signs and our trail rules and etiquette.

Palos Trail System

The extensive and varied Palos Trail System winds through rolling hills and deep ravines, providing beautiful views of the surrounding landscapes.

Location: Hickory Hills, Justice, Palos Hills & Willow Springs

Surface

Unpaved

Estimated Total Length

42.1 miles

Hours

Year-round: Sunrise to Sunset

Closures & Alerts

*Please be a courteous trail user: Follow posted signs and our trail rules and etiquette.

Events & Programs

The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Fri, Apr 16 • 7:30 pm

Calling Frog Survey

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Sun, Apr 18 • 10 am

Spring Wildflower Walk

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Mon, Apr 19 - Thu, Apr 22 • 10 am

Nature’s Pop-up

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Thu, Apr 22 • 10 am

Nature’s Choice

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Fri, Apr 23 • 8 pm

Spring Sensory Night Hike

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Sat, Apr 24 • 7 am

Early Morning Bird Walk

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Sat, Apr 24 • 10 am

Wildflower Folklore

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Sun, Apr 25 • 10 am

Invading in Plain Site

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Mon, Apr 26 • 7:30 pm

Moon Walk

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Sun, May 2 • 7 am

Spring Migratory Bird Watch Hike

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Thu, May 6 • 10 am

D Is For Duck

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Fri, May 7 • 8 pm

Dip Netting in the Dark by Spotlight

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Sat, May 8 • 7 am

World Migratory Bird Day Walk

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Sat, May 8 • 10 am

R.I.P. Stewardship

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Thu, May 13 • 10 am

S.E.N.I.O.R.S.

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Fri, May 14 • 8 pm

¡Noche de las Ranas!

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Sat, May 15 • 7 am

Early Morning Bird Walk

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Sun, May 16 • 10 am

Spring Wildflower Walk

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Wed, May 19 • 10 am

Mother Nature and Me: Snakes

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Sat, May 22 • 8:45 pm

Calling Frog Survey

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Sun, May 23 • 10 am

Family Forest Bathing

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Wed, May 26 • 4 am

Lunar Eclipse

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Wed, May 26 • 10 am

Nature is Accessible Drop in Event

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Wed, May 26 • 7 pm

Moon Walk

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
The visitors center at the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
Sat, May 29 • 1 pm

Hummingbird Watch

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center • Willow Springs, IL 60480
All Events »

Field Trips & Hybrid Learning

Our hybrid learning and field trip offerings allow teachers, parents and youth leaders to use forest preserves and nature centers as an outdoor (or virtual) classroom. Our hybrid learning programs serve kindergarten through 12th grade students and meet Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), while our field trips serve everyone from pre-K to adult learners.

Contact one of our nature centers or experience.nature@cookcountyil.gov for more information or to discuss programs tailored to your learning objectives.

Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
9800 Willow Springs Rd
708-839-6897

a garden with accessible raised beds, paved trail and interpretive signs

Accessible Garden

This 6,000-square-foot garden with accessible trail encourages people of all abilities to physically interact with nature. The garden features several flower beds (five of them are raised and accessible), interpretive signage lining an ADA compliant concrete walkway and a sensory water feature.

The interpretive signs throughout the garden describe native plants and animals, with each name featured in tactile English letters alongside Spanish, Polish, Braille and American Sign Language translations.

From the garden, the accessible trail winds through the prairie and down to Long John Slough, inspiring people to immerse themselves in nature, rather than just observe it from the sidelines. The path is just under a half-mile long and is 100% ADA compliant.


the old schoolhouse building at Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center
The old schoolhouse at Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center.

History

Visitors can connect with the historic past of the Palos Hills at the Little Red Schoolhouse. Built in 1886 amidst farms, woods and prairie, the schoolhouse replaced a log cabin school and hosted generations of children. Originally located on the Black Oak Trail at old 99th Street, the schoolhouse was moved in 1932 to Camp Kiwanis by a local resident using horses and log rollers. Classes continued there until 1948.

In 1952 it was moved to its present site, and in 1955 reopened as a unique, new kind of school. In place of reading, writing and arithmetic, children and adults learn about plants, animals and the natural world around us.


a person cutting buckthorn with loppers at Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center

Volunteer Opportunities

Did you know the oak woodland is more endangered than the tropical rain forest? Help remove invasive plants so the oaks can have sunlight and space once again. Gloves, tools, goggles, and light refreshments are provided.


Nature Center Rules

  • Pets are not permitted on Nature Center grounds, including the parking lots.
  • Nature Centers are unable to 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.
  • Bicycles are only allowed in Nature Center parking lots, or at provided bike racks.
  • For the benefit of other visitors and wildlife, please maintain respectful noise levels at all times.
  • Picnicking is not permitted on Nature Center grounds. An adjacent picnic grove can be opened for pre-registered groups on weekdays.
  • Food or drink is not permitted in Nature Center buildings.
  • With the exception of water or sports bottles, food and drink are not permitted on Nature Center trails. Please dispose of litter in proper receptacles.
  • 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, the Nature Center building and parking lot.
  • Please report safety hazards or suspicious activities to the Nature Center staff.
  • Cross-country skiing is not permitted on Nature Center trails.