With spring just around the corner, it’s time to shed the winter jackets, stow away the snow boots, and head outside to revel in fresh air and sunshine. Chicago’s western suburbs offer close-to-home opportunities to explore the great outdoors. From a 1,700-acre tree museum to walks lined with fountains and flowers, here are some of our favorite outdoor springtime destinations for families, residents, and visitors.
Aurora and Warrenville: Illinois Prairie Path
The Illinois Prairie Path offers an ideal setting for getting some exercise while also enjoying beautiful views. Visitors can start off on Fox River path in Aurora, make their way over to the Diehl and Shore Road path and continue on to Warrenville. The crushed limestone trails are comfortable for walking, but visitors can also bike along them or even ride on horseback.
Darien: Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve
Visitors have nearly 2,500 acres of land to wander over at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve in Darien, including savannas, woodlands, and prairies. The preserve is home to more than 300 species of animals and more than 740 species of native plants. Visitors can use the preserve’s hiking, biking, and horseback trails, go fishing, or do some cross-country skiing. Waterfall Glen is open daily from an hour after sunrise to an hour after sunset.
Lisle: Morton Arboretum
Morton Arboretum in Lisle boasts 1,700 acres of land that contain more than 200,000 trees and plants collected from 40 countries. This jewel of a green space provides a uniquely beautiful destination for homeowners in the western suburbs. Visitors can choose to drive or bike on a nine-mile network of paved roads or get off the beaten path onto hiking trails. Morton Arboretum is also a popular destination for runners. Families love the Children’s Garden with its grotto, secret stream, and 14-foot-high lookout. The grounds open at 7 AM each day and close around sunset.
Naperville: Naperville Riverwalk
The Naperville Riverwalk provides a place to take a stroll along the DuPage River over bridges and a 1.75-mile quaint brick path in Naperville. Visitors can take time to admire outdoor sculptures on display along the Riverwalk, unique fountains, and the 160-foot-tall Millennium Carillon bell tower. In the warmer months, those who want to do more than walk can make a stop at the Quarry for a quick paddleboat or kayak ride, or visit Centennial Beach, a 6-acre aquatic and recreational area with a sand beach. In the winter, visitors can stop to go sledding on Rotary Hill or go ice skating at Centennial Park.
Wheaton: Herrick Lake Forest Preserve
Part of the vast Forest Preserve of DuPage County, Herrick Lake in Wheaton is a sanctuary for a wide variety of animals from white-tailed deer to black-crowned night herons. Herrick Lake’s 896 acres is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts as well. Over five miles of trails provide a green destination for hikers, cyclists, and horseback riders. Herrick Lake attracts anglers who come for the catfish and bass. Visitors can also rent kayaks, canoes, and rowboats.