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:


Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Closures & Cancellations

Nature center buildings, grounds and bathrooms are closed to the public until May 11.

All public Forest Preserves events are also cancelled until May 11.

Learn more about COVID-19 cancellations and closures.


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
Cancelled Wed, Apr 8 • 10 am

Nature Tots

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
people walking along a nature trail in 1904
Cancelled Sat, Apr 11 • 1 pm

Trailside and Vicinity History Walk

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Cancelled Sun, Apr 12 • 1 pm

“Bone” Appétit

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
a Forest Preserves staff member reading a story to a group of children at Trailside Museum
Cancelled Thu, Apr 16 • 10:30 am

Nature Story Times

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Cancelled Sat, Apr 18 • 10 am

Conservation@Home: Natural Lawn

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
a painting of a northern cardinal
Cancelled Sun, Apr 19 • 1 pm

Paint a Wildlife Friend Workshop

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
a group birding at Thatcher Woods
Cancelled Fri, Apr 24 • 9:30 am

Morning Bird Walks

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
spring beauty wildflower
Cancelled Sun, Apr 26 • 11 am

Picture Spring

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Cancelled Sun, May 3 • 7 am

Migration Walk

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
two children playing on logs at Trailside Museum of Natural History
Cancelled Sun, May 3 • 11 am

Spring Festival

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
a Forest Preserves staff member reading a story to a group of children at Trailside Museum
Cancelled Thu, May 7 • 10:30 am

Nature Story Times

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
#BirdThePreserves logo
Cancelled Sat, May 9 • 8 am

“The Big Sit” Birdwatching

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Cancelled Sun, May 10 • 1 pm

Makin’ Music Bluegrass Jam

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Wed, May 13 • 10 am

Nature Tots

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
a Forest Preserves staff member reading a story to a group of children at Trailside Museum
Thu, May 21 • 10:30 am

Nature Story Times

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
a group birding at Thatcher Woods
Fri, May 22 • 9:30 am

Morning Bird Walks

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Sun, May 24 • 1 pm

“Bone” Appétit

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
dead man's fingers fungus growing at Trailside Museum
Sat, May 30 • 1:30 pm

Spring Fungi Hike

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Sun, May 31 • 1 pm

“Bone” Appétit

Trailside Museum of Natural History • River Forest, IL 60305
Trailside Museum building in River Forest
Wed, Jul 8 - Thu, Jul 9 • 9:30 am

Fishing Fun Day Camp

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.