My pups and I are avid hikers and were beyond excited to move to an area so rich in parks and forest preserves. Our first mission as new residents was to scope out the best preserves in the area. With so many to choose from, it has been quite a challenge and a ton of fun! Through our “research” we feel confident that these forest preserves are some of the finest around. As we continue on our mission we’ll be adding more reviews of our new favorites, as well as pictures of them in their spring and summer glory.
Looking for some company on your hikes? Check out The Fox Valley Dog Walking Club! You’ll meet truly wonderful people who share a love of dogs and nature.
Dick Young Forest Preserve – 1288 acres, 9 trail miles
39W115 Main Street, Batavia
Parking, Shelter, Restroom, Water, Equestrian Area
Review: Down the road from Batavia’s Bark Park is this gem of a nature preserve that’s home to at least five State endangered species and other rare and endangered birds and wildlife. Mowed trails loop through cropland and grasslands on the Meadowlark Trail. The Nelson Lake Trail, my personal favorite, takes you for a lengthy trip through wetland and woodland areas overlooking Nelson Lake Marsh. It’s not uncommon to see deer and the occasional coyote in the area so you’ll want to be watchful and mindful of the leash policy. Because of this park’s endangered inhabitants, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you be a responsible owner and pick up after your pet.
Burnidge Forest Preserve/Paul Wolff Campground – 590 acres, 9 trail miles
38W235 Big Timber Rd., Elgin
Parking, Shelter, Picnic Area, Restroom, Water, Fishing, Camping
Review: This park is truly exceptional. Over 9 miles of mowed grass and gravel trails wind through beautiful meadows and forested areas. There are several loops that you can take, each one offering a combination of terrains. A number of the trails are also shared by horseback riders so you may encounter the occasional pile on the path. However, this park is remarkably clean and well maintained. Burnidge is our destination of choice when we’re looking for a few hours of excellent hiking. This park also offers stocked fishing ponds, a playground, and camper & primitive campsites with firewood available for purchase on site.
Oakhurst Forest Preserve – 393 acres, 7 trail miles
1680 Fifth Avenue, Aurora
Parking, Shelter, Picnic Area, Restroom, Water, Fishing, Boat Launch
Review: It seems every time I go to Oakhurst Forest Preserve it is completely flooded out, making it quite a mess to walk in even on the screenings (gravel). This is, of course, more my fault than the park’s but I do recommend avoiding it after any significant rain or snow melt. Other than that this is a beautiful park with a large lake and plenty of shaded wooded trails that are perfect for a long hike with your dog and family. As the temperatures climb we’ll definitely be frequenting this park to take advantage of all of the ways to keep my fluffy dogs cool in the heat.
Campton Forest Preserve – 404 acres, 6.14 trail miles
4N379 Town Hall Road, St. Charles
Parking, Equestrian Parking, Shelter, Restroom, Water
Review: This park is one of the largest forest preserves in the system and offers over 6 miles of mowed trails catering to runners, bicyclists, and dog walkers as well as special trails designated for snowmobilers and horse riders. Many of the natural features of this park were destroyed by farming, and not much has been done to restore them, so most of the preserve is open fields and prairie flowers. If you’re looking for gorgeous landscapes you’re likely to be disappointed. However, this park still manages to please with the impressive expanse of trails that are usually low traffic. Cooper and I love that we can go for long walks (and runs) without having to constantly dodge bikes and joggers.
Hampshire Forest Preserve – 267 acres, 5.83 trail miles
44W880 Allen Road, Hampshire
Parking, Shelter, Restroom, Water
Fabyan Forest Preserve – 199 acres, 4.27 trail miles
1925 Batavia Ave., Geneva
Parking, Shelter, Picnic Area, Restroom, Water, Fishing, Boat Launch, Japanese Garden
Review: If you’re looking for a beautiful stroll down the Fox River, you’re going to love Fabyan Forest Preserve with its historic buildings and peaceful gardens. You will find a short woodland trail as well as the Fox River Trail. This is one of the most heavily used preserves in the area with many joggers, bikers, fishermen, and families, so reactive or unruly dogs may have a difficult time here.
Fitchie Creek Forest Preserve – 467 acres, 3.5 trail miles
39W933 Russell Road, Elgin
Parking, Shelter, Restroom, Water
Review: The stated 3.5 trail miles is actually closer to 2.5 if you just take the loop. Despite that fact, there are a few things I really like about this park. It’s one of the few parks in the area with a paved loop trail, which is especially great after ugly weather or if you’re looking for a stroller-friendly preserve. Also, the woodland is beautiful and the creek draws a wide variety of wildlife to the area.
Burlington Prairie Forest Preserve – 966 acres, 3.1 trail miles
13N240 Engel Road, Sycamore
Parking, Shelter, Restroom, Water Fountain
Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve – 198 acres, 1.25 mile loop (4.25 miles with River Bend Bike Trail)
35W003 IL Route 31
South Egin, IL 60177
Parking, Shelter, Restroom, Water, Picnic Area, Fishing, Boat Launch
Review: Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve is one of my favorite places to take Bailey, my awesome little dachsie client, for our morning hike. We love it because it offers a paved loop trail through the woods, as well as some rarely-traveled dirt paths, scenic views of the river, and because it connects to the River Bend Regional Bike Trail and Tekakwitha Forest Preserve (2.74 trail miles), which is perfect for those days when we have extra time to spend together. Whether you’re looking for a moderate walk or a lengthy excursion, Jon J. Duerr is worth checking out.
Raceway Woods Forest Preserve – 122 acres, 2.6 trail miles
17N702 Western Avenue, Carpentersville
Parking, Shelter, Picnic Area, Restroom
LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve – 439 acres, 1.94 trail miles (North Ring)
37W370 Dean Street, St. Charles
Parking, Shelter, Picnic Area, Restroom, Water, Youth Tent Campground, Fishing
Review: LeRoy Oakes may not offer the longest trails in the area but the dogs and I love this park. Wildflowers and prairie plants blanket the landscape in the spring and summer and the trees are breathtaking in the fall. There is a mixture of mowed field trails and wooded trails that offer much needed shade in the summer as well as a cool stream that my dogs love to lounge in on really hot days. There is also a paved bike trail that passes through the park. If you’re looking for a more lengthy walk you can access the Great Western Trail from the LeRoy Oakes trail head.
Hickory Knolls Natural Area – 131 acres
2nd park entrance on Campton Hills Rd, west of Peck Rd.
Picnic Rentals, Restrooms, Trails, Parking
Review: The entrance to this fantastic hiking trail is practically hidden across from the community gardens in James O. Breen Park. It is absolutely gorgeous in the spring and summer when the wildflowers are in bloom and offers plenty of forested shade throughout much of the park. Most, though admittedly not all, of the mowed and dirt trails are well maintained throughout the year. My only words of advice: wear bug repellent! The mosquitos on this trail aren’t for the faint of heart.