I know we all have our favorite places to hike, and we probably have seasonal favorites. There are hundreds of places to hike in the winter throughout our area. I hope you will share some of your favorite places with us so we can share them with others. With more and more people spending time outside this past couple of years, I think people are looking for new ideas and places to explore. Please share!
There is just something special about being outdoors in the woods in the winter. A fresh snow allows for contrasts you don’t see at other times of the year. Traces of wildlife activity are more prominent with tracks and other signs, and the air is always cool, clean, and crisp.
My favorite winter hiking spots are in the woods. Here are two my wife and I enjoyed recently and are “go-to” winter hiking spots.
Jay Woods Forest Preserve, Plano (Kendall County)
The location for our February 5th member-only hike, Jay Woods has two use areas: a 45-acre woods on the east side of Creek Road with Little Rock Creek, and a restored prairie on the west side of the road. Each side has its own parking lot. The Conservation Foundation played a key role in preserving this 120-acre property, dating back to 1998. The wooded side has a nice short half-mile trail through the oak woods and along the creek. This area is known for its Ohio buckeye trees and a marvelous display of Virginia bluebells in late April. The small, shallow creek is good for smallmouth and rock bass (and an occasional large creek chub). This area also has a nice picnic shelter, bonfire pit, and a restored corn crib with interpretive and historical signage. The 75-acre prairie on the west side of the road has a half-mile loop and a mile loop meandering through a restored prairie.
Snow covered trail through Jay Woods.
A storm brewing over the restored prairie.
Elburn Forest Preserve, Maple Park (Kane County)
Located right off of Rt. 38 just a couple miles west of Elburn, we visited there for the first time in early December. There is a 1.5-mile loop trail that includes the entrance road (so park in any parking spot), then hit the Eastwood Trail at either end of the road which goes way up into the oak and hickory woods on top of the ridge deposited by the glaciers thousands of years ago. The ridge acts as the county watershed divide, which separates the Fox and Kishwaukee River basins. There is a side trail on top of the ridge that goes east through a prairie and connects with another trail at a local city park closer into town. When we were there, the forest preserve district just completed a late fall burn in the woods, so we could see, even smell, the newly burnt forest floor. They have a picturesque old stone shelter that was built of salvage from an Elburn Church during the Great Depression. A house on the property is used by the Fox Valley Wildlife Center for wildlife rehabilitation. There is also a historical marker near the entrance designating the location of the Oregon Trail. We will go back and hike again this Winter!
Elburn Forest Preserve in winter, Forest Preserve District of Kane County.
Make sure your New Year’s resolution includes exploring new places this year. You’ll be amazed at the diversity of places you have helped preserve in your communities.
Please share with us which areas are your favorite winter hiking locals so we can share with others. Send your ideas to email@example.com.
Written by Brook McDonald, President/CEO