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Trail Recommendations

There’s no need to travel great distances to get close to nature. Whether you’re planning an outing with family and friends or venturing out on your own, there are plenty of local trails that provide a great escape. Here are our top 10 picks.

1. Churchill Park

Churchill Park is the Park District’s largest natural area, with over 20 acres of woodland, prairie, and wetland habitats. It features paved, limestone, and woodchipped trails with several boardwalks to enjoy. There are three small ponds and adjacent marshes and wetlands.

Hundreds of species of native plants live at Churchill Park including a variety of milkweeds, asters, sunflowers, coneflowers, and many unique grasses and sedges.

Churchill Park has provided bird watchers with 120 species of birds. A few unique birds seen include Green and Black-crowned Night Herons, Wood Ducks, several Woodpecker species, Bluebirds, Swallows, and a variety of Warblers. Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets can often be seen around the ponds.

The park is open daily from one hour after sunrise until one hour after sunset and is located at 271 St. Charles Rd.

2. Churchill Woods Forest Preserve

At 255 acres, Churchill Woods Forest Preserve is one of the county’s smaller forest preserves.

Babcock Grove is an open woodland savanna within the preserve and is home to a variety of native plants, including Dutchman’s Breeches and Wild Strawberry, as well as massive Oak and Maple Trees.

Also within Churchill Woods is the Prairie Nature Preserve, the second largest native prairie in the county and where several state-endangered and threatened species live.

There are a reported 167 species of birds from Churchill Woods, with the Monk Parakeet perhaps being the most unusual bird seen. A variety of birds like the Eastern Phoebe and Baltimore Oriole breed along the DuPage River.

Take a footpath to the banks of the East Branch of the river or enjoy the 0.6-mile Regional Trail, which connects to the Great Western Trail. There is a gravel trail on the west and south side of the preserve area connecting Swift Rd. to St. Charles Rd.

The two main entrances are on the south side of St. Charles Rd., 0.1 mile and 0.25 mile west of I-355. Operated by DuPage County Forest Preserve.

3. Hidden Lake Forest Preserve

The 390-acre Hidden Lake Forest Preserve in Downers Grove is an ideal place to walk, picnic, fish, or just relax. It features two man-made lakes, a river, two miles of trails, and a variety of habitats ranging from woodlands to wetlands to prairie.

Hidden Lake is one of the few places in the county where visitors can hear spring peepers in the wooded ponds. It’s also home to King’s Grove, a remnant woodland of Red, White, and Bur Oaks.

In pre-settlement times, this preserve was predominantly prairie with the southern portion in timber. The true “hidden lake” is a glacier-dug pond tucked away among mature oaks and hickories at the preserve.

The land was once part of a 500-plus acre estate that included Sunny Acres Farm that was built in 1912 as the country retreat of millionaire stock and commodity trader Arthur Cutten. The original expansive stone gateway still stands on the south side of Butterfield Rd.

The main entrance is on the east side of Route 53, 0.25 mile south of Butterfield Rd. Hidden Lake is operated by the DuPage County Forest Preserve.

4. Illinois Prairie Path

A well-known path but worth a mention! The Illinois Prairie Path can be accessed throughout Glen Ellyn, including at Prairie Path Park which features an outdoor ping pong table, outdoor chess table, and a StoryWalk®.

The Prairie Path is a multi-use nature trail for non-motorized public use. A former right-of-way for the old Chicago Aurora & Elgin electric railroad, it was the first U.S. rail-to-trail conversion in the nation in the 1960’s.

The pathway’s hub begins in Wheaton and branches out in three directions in a rough “Y,” including two other off shoots. In all, the pathway’s five legs cover 61 miles across three counties, Kane, Cook, and DuPage. The trail needles out to the communities of Elgin, Geneva, Batavia, and Aurora—all along the Fox River—and then east from Wheaton through Glen Ellyn and Lombard to I-294.

In addition to forested neighborhoods, the Prairie Path now passes through several forest preserves, including Lincoln Marsh—a restored 146-acre wildlife area with 300 species of prairie, savanna, and wetland plants and animals—and the 470-acre Big Woods Forest Preserve in Aurora.

5. Panfish Park

Panfish Park features a 1-mile crushed limestone trail that meanders and loops around a large, scenic pond. The Park itself belongs to the Village of Glen Ellyn, but the Glen Ellyn Park District owns and manages the playground area. In addition to the playground, the area features swings and picnic tables. Located at 620 Wilson Ave.

6. Great Western Trail

The eastern segment of the Great Western Trail follows 12 miles of an abandoned railway corridor through DuPage County, between Villa Park and West Chicago. This crushed limestone trail is a great spot for cyclists, walkers, and joggers.

The Great Western Trail crosses through some farmland and suburban areas and its beltways of parks are hosts to recreational attractions and historical buildings in Villa Park, Lombard, Glen Ellyn, and Wheaton.

An ADA-accessible connection to the trail is available from within Ackerman Park (800 St. Charles Rd.)

7. Lake Ellyn Park

Lake Ellyn Park offers 25 acres of land with picnic areas, walking trails, tennis courts, a playground, fishing deck, Veterans Memorial, and a ten-acre lake. Lake Ellyn was created for the Hotel Glen Ellyn, which burned down in 1906.

Take a stroll around the lake or explore the pathways within the wooded restoration zone where the Park District is actively working to bring back native plants and protect the oak woodland.

The shore of the picturesque lake is resplendent with natural flora that accentuates the current season. Stop by the large deck off the eastside of the Boathouse for spectacular views of the lake and resident wildlife.

The demonstration garden, located in front of the Lake Ellyn Boathouse, includes trees and perennials that are hardy, provide color, and attract beneficial insects and birds.

Some of the beautiful woodland flowers you’ll see blooming in the coming years include Jacob’s Ladder, Wild Geranium, Wild Columbine, and a mix of interesting grass-like Sedges. Located at 645 Lenox Rd.

8. Lambert Lake Nature Preserve

Take a stroll around Lambert Lake (about 0.5 miles) or wind your way through the wooded area, which is approximately 0.33 miles. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, running, and bird watching.

The three-acre Lambert Lake is surrounded by shrubby woodland. Cattails emerge in shallow areas, and water lilies cover a large area of the lake in warmer months. A grassy area and a sumac thicket occupy an area south of the lake. There is a smaller pond just north of the sports fields.

A wood chip trail encircles the lake and there are several dirt trails in the south section.

Over 130 species of birds have been reported from Lambert Lake, including a variety of ducks and diving birds. Great Egrets, Green Herons, and Great Blue Herons are seen regularly.

Limited parking is available off Taft Ave. or Lambert Rd. Lambert Lake is operated by the Village of Glen Ellyn.

9. Willowbrook Wildlife Center

Explore the trails hidden behind Willowbrook Wildlife Center, an education and wildlife rehabilitation center, just over the bridge. The half-mile outer loop and a shorter inner loop wind through 40 acres of restored prairie, savanna, woodland, and wetland habitats.

The trail hosts native animals that live in DuPage forest preserves. An enclosed wetland bird habitat along the trail also houses a sandhill crane and serves as a unique educational experience.

Native wildlife with permanent disabilities are provided homes along Willowbrook’s outdoor exhibit trail. Residents include Red-shouldered and Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, owls, groundhogs, and raccoons.

Willowbrook Wildlife Center indoor visitor center is currently closed, but the outdoor exhibit trail and surrounding forest preserve are open to the public. Located at 525 S. Park Blvd.

10. Glen Ellyn Manor Park and Manor Woods

Short trails wind through both wooded parcels. On the south side of Illinois Street is Glen Ellyn Manor Park. It has a playground located at 375 Illinois St. On the north side of the street is ten-acre Manor Woods.