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Safely Explore the Forest Preserves Throughout Winter

Three people walk in the woods during winter.

Although notoriously cold temperatures are returning to Chicagoland, you can still explore the Forest Preserves of Cook County and enjoy its snow-covered scenery. Or visit our hiking, walking and running page to find a trail, join an event and more.

As you would guess, there are some different strategies to have fun in the Preserves in the winter months. Here are key tips to follow to stay safe while out in the Forest Preserves throughout the winter.

Keep warm. Wear layers.

Properly layering clothing can keep you warmer than a single piece of larger outwear. It can also be beneficial when weather becomes unpredictable.

First, layer your upper body with a snugly fitting, moisture-wicking shirt followed by looser fitting layers on top. Be sure to wear a sweater and a good winter coat, as well. When it comes to the lower body, use a fleece-lined underwear, spandex or leggings underneath the outer layer—pants or jeans—to stay warm.

Hands and feet should be a top priority, so be sure to wear appropriate temperature-rated gloves or mittens. Hand warmers are also very useful in keeping warm. Winter outdoor socks and insulated waterproof boots will protect your feet from the cold snow.

Bring snacks and water.

Staying well-nourished and hydrated is very important. Pack small snacks to avoid carrying bulky items and be sure to properly dispose of trash. Also, bring along water in a reusable bottle.

General Safety Tips

The safety of our visitors is of the highest importance to the Forest Preserves of Cook County. Below are general tips for ensuring public safety throughout the year when visiting the Forest Preserves.

  • Visit with a friend or let someone know where you will be
  • Carry your phone with you
  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Keep tabs on your location with trail intersections, parking lots or other landmarks

The Forest Preserves Police Department patrols the Preserves’ nearly 70,000 acres of land and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, our Trail Watch program is comprised of volunteers who frequently use our trails. These individuals are visible in the preserves and contact our police if they see anything of concern.