Trailside Museum of Natural History

Trailside Museum building in River Forest

Visitors to the Hal Tyrrell Trailside Museum of Natural History will discover displays of live native animals, colorful wildflower gardens, information about local wildlife and their habitats, and more.

On this page:


a person looks at an exhibit inside Trailside Museum
An exhibit area inside Trailside Museum.

Location, Hours & Things to Do

Trailside Museum of Natural History

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 family hiking at Trailside Museum

Walking Trails

Miles of unpaved walking trails at Trailside Museum wind through Thatcher Woods' beautiful oak woodlands and floodplain forest.

Surface

Unpaved

Estimated Total Length

4.9 miles

Things to Do

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

Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Wed, Jul 24 • 10 am

Nature Tots

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Fri, Jul 26 • 8:30 pm

They Fly By Night–Moths

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Sat, Jul 27 • 11 am

“Bone” Appetit

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Tue, Jul 30 • 1 pm

Trailside Animal Connections: Fox

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Thu, Aug 1 • 10:30 am

Nature Story Time

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Sat, Aug 3 • 11 am

“Bone” Appetit

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Wed, Aug 7 • 10 am

Nature Tots

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Sat, Aug 10 • 11 am

“Bone” Appetit

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
people playing various instruments at a blugrass jam at Trailside Museum
Sun, Aug 11 • 1 pm

Makin’ Music Bluegrass Jam

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Wed, Aug 14 • 2 pm

Kayak the Pond

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Thu, Aug 15 • 10:30 am

Nature Story Time

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Thu, Aug 15 • 7 pm

Nature Book Club

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Sat, Aug 17 • 11 am

“Bone” Appetit

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Sat, Aug 17 • 1:30 pm

Summer Nature Hike

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Sun, Aug 18 • 9:30 am

Late Summer Bird Walk

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Tue, Aug 20 • 1 pm

Trailside Animal Connections: Hawk

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
people in kayaks cleaning up the Little Calumet River
Fri, Aug 23 • 1 pm

River Kayaking 101

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
people in kayaks cleaning up the Little Calumet River
Fri, Aug 23 • 5:30 pm

River Kayaking 101

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Fri, Aug 23 • 7:30 pm

Bats: Night Stalkers

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Sat, Aug 24 • 11 am

“Bone” Appetit

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Sat, Aug 31 • 11 am

“Bone” Appetit

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
people watching a monarch butterfly
Special Event Sun, Sep 8 • 12 pm

Migrating Monarchs Celebration

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
All Events »

Fishing at Thatcher Pond

This 1.5-acre pond, accessible at the Trailside Museum of Natural History parking lot, is an old oxbow of the Des Plaines River and is prone to flooding. Its fish population is heavily influenced by the river.



Field Trips & Classroom Visits

Field trips and classroom programs may be scheduled throughout the year at no cost. Contact any of our six educational centers for more information about field trips or classroom programs. All programs are subject to limits of available staff and space.

Trailside Museum of Natural History
738 Thatcher Ave
708-366-6530

Four children looking at a a butterfly display at Trailside Museum of Natural History. 1930s photograph.
“Girls looking at a butterfly display at Trailside Museum of Natural History in River Forest.” ca. 1930s. FPDCC_00_01_0012_004, Forest Preserve District of Cook County Records, University of Illinois at Chicago Library.

History

Established in 1931, Trailside Museum served as the first public nature education facility for the Forest Preserves.

Trailside Museum of Natural History is set within a historic 1876 mansion. The building has served many purposes through the years including being a residence and even housing two schools. In 1919, the Forest Preserves purchased the building, having already bought much of the surrounding land. The mansion served as the Forest Preserves’ headquarters until 1931, when the Board of Commissioners voted to make it a “trail side” museum displaying “every plant and animal in Cook County, live or mounted, for the education of the public.”


Volunteer Opportunities

Help out at events, restore natural areas and more.


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.