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:
- Location, Hours & Things to Do
- Walking Trails
- Events & Programs
- Fishing at Thatcher Pond
- Field Trips & Hybrid Learning
- Volunteer Opportunities
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 will be limited to 50% capacity to help limit crowding.
Learn more about COVID-19 cancellations and closures.
Location, Hours & Things to Do
Trailside Museum of Natural History
Things to Do & Amenities
- Nature Center
- Nature Play
- Accessible Indoor Bathroom
- Trail Access
- Hiking & Walking
- Birding Hotspot
- Volunteer Opportunities
- No Dogs
- Service dogs are allowed at most public locations. View accessibility policies.
HoursMar - Oct: 9am - 5pm, closed FridaysNov - Feb: 9am - 4pm, closed FridaysClosed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Day
Closures & Alerts
Miles of unpaved walking trails at Trailside Museum wind through Thatcher Woods' beautiful oak woodlands and floodplain forest.
Estimated Total Length4.9 miles
Things to Do
HoursYear-round: Sunrise to Sunset
Closures & Alerts
Events & Programs
Story-Trail for Kids: Over and Under the SnowTrailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Winter Tree Identification TrailTrailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Children’s Story Trail and Craft: Groundhog DayTrailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Children’s Animal Valentine Card Craft Pick UpTrailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Children’s Story Trail: Ruby’s BirdsTrailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
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 & 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 firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to discuss programs tailored to your learning objectives.
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.”
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.