Sand Ridge Nature Center

exterior of the Sand Ridge Nature Center building

Sand Ridge Nature Center features interactive exhibits, programs and knowledgeable staff to guide you through the natural and cultural history of the Calumet Region. Visitors will find native wildlife ambassadors—including birds of prey, snakes, turtles and fish—as well as hands-on activities and self-guided nature fun. Watch birds at the feeders from the flight room, explore the nature play area, stroll through demonstration gardens, learn from the past at the replica log cabins, or walk four miles of nature trails through woodlands, prairies and wetlands.

On this page:


COVID-19 Visitor Information

All visitors over 2 years of age must wear a mask indoors at all times. Unvaccinated visitors should also wear a mask outdoors when physical distancing (six feet from other people) is not possible.


inside the Sand Ridge Nature Center exhibit room showing educational exhibits and turtles
Photo by Sebasthian Picasso.

Location, Hours & Things to Do

Sand Ridge 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


directions sign for Sand Ridge Campus next to a paved trail
Photo by Sebasthian Picasso.

Sand Ridge Campus

Sand Ridge Nature Center is the centerpiece of the Sand Ridge Campus.

Explore everything that makes the Calumet Region special at Sand Ridge Campus—a 585-acre nature-based education and recreation area that invites visitors to learn about and enjoy the natural and cultural history of the area while hiking, biking, fishing, camping and more.

Through interactive exhibits and programs, Sand Ridge Nature Center tells the story of the area’s rare dune-and-swale landscape and its relationship to native plants and animals—and thousands of years of human history. You can look for birds and colorful wildflowers on the Nature Center’s walking trails, meet a hawk or turtle wildlife ambassador, or simply immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the woodlands, prairies and wetlands.

Ready to get active? Bike, walk or run the three miles of paved trails around the Sand Ridge Campus or stretch your exercise session on an expanding network of local and regional trails.

Go fishing at Green Lake, where you can catch largemouth bass, bluegill or the rainbow trout we stock each spring and fall. Or enjoy a different kind of water-based fun on the water playground, slides or lazy river at Green Lake Family Aquatic Center.

From April to October, Camp Shabbona Woods lets you extend your day trip to an evening under the stars in a tent or cabin, complete with group campfires and programs on weekends.

Whichever adventure you choose at Sand Ridge Campus, you’ll leave inspired by this wild and wonderful place in the Forest Preserves of Cook County.


Sand Ridge Campus Maps


the boardwalk on the Lost Beach Trail at Sand Ridge Nature Center
The Lost Beach and Dogwood Trails feature boardwalks over wetlands.

Walking Trails

Sand Ridge Nature Center offers four walking trails that pass through a number of habitats including prairies, oak savannas and woodlands on ancient beaches and sand dunes, marshes and ponds.

Surface

Unpaved

Estimated Total Length

3.9 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.

Events & Programs


Field Trips & Hybrid Learning

Teachers, parents and youth leaders: You can use Sand Ridge Campus 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 us at 708-868-0606 or sandridge.naturecenter@cookcountyil.gov to discuss programs tailored to your learning objectives.

Sand Ridge Nature Center
15891 Paxton Ave
708-868-0606

Volunteer Opportunities

Help take care of Sand Ridge Nature Center with removal of invasive plants. Come out to this spectacular place and do some good work for nature and friends.


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.