Enjoy Winter Activities, Events and Programs All Season Long in the Forest Preserves of Cook County

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Families try out the sledding hill at Caldwell Woods after the first significant snowfall.

The Forest Preserves of Cook County Winter 2019-2020 Programs and Events guide proves winter doesn’t limit outdoor fun in the Forest Preserves. The season welcomes opportunities to experience winter-themed events throughout the preserves and chances to stay active with sledding, ice skating and ice fishing, snowshoeing and more.

Winter sports enthusiasts can enjoy over 350 miles of cross-country skiing trails from sunrise to sunset in the Forest Preserves. From mid-December to early March, weather permitting, Sagawau Environmental Learning Center transforms into Sagawau Nordic, a full-service cross-country ski center. The center provides rental equipment, lessons and access to groomed trails.

The Forest Preserves also provides opportunities to sled and snowboard in the winter. Caldwell Woods, Dan Ryan Woods, Swallow Cliff and Westchester Woods offer lighted sledding hills from 10 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from 10 am – 8:30 pm Friday and Saturday. Snowboarders can take advantage of a designated snowboard-only hill at Dan Ryan Woods. Deer Grove, Pioneer Woods, Ted Lechowicz Woods and Schiller Woods are open to sledders from 10 am to sunset every day. Snowboarding and sledding opportunities are contingent on snow cover.

As always, the flora and fauna of the Forest Preserves are on constant display throughout winter. Stroll a trail to see tree limbs crystallized in ice, listen to the elk bugle at Busse Woods or bring binoculars to watch waterfowl skate across the preserves’ frozen waterways.

For those who wish to escape the cold, unique exhibits and engaging events can be found at the Forest Preserves’ six nature centers throughout the winter season.

For a full list of Forest Preserves events and programs, visit https://fpdcc.com/events/.

Hike the Des Plaines

Join us on a casual-paced walk along the Des Plaines Trail. We’ll hike roughly 2 miles on this non-looped trail.

Saturday, Dec 21 • 11 a.m.

Evans Field – W Bloomingdale Ave & Thatcher Ave, River Grove

 

Winter Break-Out Adventure

Come out for fun and adventure during winter break! Sledding and snowshoes (conditions permitting), hikes and more. Free.

  • Monday, Dec 23 • 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Thatcher Woods Pavilion – Chicago Ave, west of Thatcher Ave, River Forest

  • Friday, December 27 • 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Rolling Knolls – 11N260 Rohrssen Rd, Elgin

  • Thursday, Jan 2 • 11 am-2 pm

Dan Ryan Woods-Visitor Center – S Western Ave & W 87th St, Chicago

 

Stewardship Workday & Exploring Winter Creatures Hike

Help restore this unique ecosystem then enjoy a hike to explore winter animals. In partnership with the Field Museum.

Saturday, Jan 4 * 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Beaubien Woods – W Doty Ave S, southeast of E 130th St & S Ellis Ave, Chicago

 

Winter Watercolors*

Join us for a winter art workshop as we explore the beauty of nature through watercolor painting. Materials provided. Ages 21+. BYOB (no glass). Registration required.

Friday, Jan 10 • 5-7 p.m.

Rolling Knolls – 11N260 Rohrssen Rd, Elgin

 

Ice Fishing 101

Enjoy a family fishing adventure through the ice. Build an ice-rod and discuss necessary tackle, bait, suitable locations and safety precautions. In partnership with the Elgin Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America.

Saturday, Jan 11 10 a.m.-Noon

Rolling Knolls – 11N260 Rohrssen Rd, Elgin

 

All About Fire

Learn safe practices for fire building and containment, then make your own fire and toast a marshmallow. All ages.

Saturday, Jan 11 • 1-3 p.m.

Thatcher Woods Pavilion – Chicago Ave, west of Thatcher Ave, River Forest

 

Winter Photoshoot

We’ll hike around Thatcher Woods and down to the Des Plaines River for some magical winter photography. Registration required; call 312-533-5751.

Thursday, Jan 16 • 8-10 a.m.

Thatcher Woods Pavilion – Chicago Ave, west of Thatcher Ave, River Forest

 

Major Event: M.L.K. Jr. Day of Service*

Remove invasive plants while learning about efforts being made to maintain healthy habitats. Enjoy sledding (weather permitting) and winter activities. Groups of 10 or more, register at Credell.Walls@cookcountyil.gov.

Monday, Jan 20 • Noon-3 p.m.

Dan Ryan Woods – 87th & Western, Chicago

 

Wellness in the Woods Walk

Led by UIE Master Naturalist Roberta Jannsen. Registration required; call 708-386-4042.

Saturday, Jan 25 • 10 a.m.-Noon

Dan Ryan Woods Pavilion – W 87th St & S Western Ave, Chicago

 

Winter Exploration Day

Find your way using a compass, follow local animal tracks and more. Warm up by the indoor fire and make a s’more. Snowshoeing and sledding available weather permitting.
Saturday, Jan 25 • 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Caldwell Woods Warming Shelter – 6350 W Devon Ave, Chicago

 

Cold Weather Crafting

Enjoy a cozy winter morning inside with hot beverages and listening to the crackle of a fire while creating nature-themed art.

Saturday, Feb 1 • 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Swallow Cliff-North Pavilion – Calumet Sag Rd, west of La Grange Rd, Palos Hills

 

Winter Exploration Day

Learn to navigate using new-found orienteering skills, make a craft using natural materials, track animals and learn photography skills.

Saturday, Feb 8 • Noon-3 p.m.

Thatcher Woods Pavilion – Chicago Ave, west of Thatcher Ave, River Forest

 

Canned Heat the Chicago Way: Hot Giardiniera

Learn the history of food canning, make and take home giardiniera. In partnership with Urban Growers Collaborative. Registration required; call 708-386-4042.

Saturday, Feb 22 • 10 a.m.-Noon

Dan Ryan Woods Pavilion – W 87th St & S Western Ave, Chicago

 

Winter Wellness

Don’t let the cold weather get you down! Tune into nature with a guided meditation with staff from Elgin’s Gail Borden Public Library. Registration required.

Saturday, Feb 22 • Noon-2 p.m.

Rolling Knolls – 11N260 Rohrssen Rd, Elgin

 

Black History Month: Underground Railroad Hikes

Join us on a narrated journey that follows the Underground Railroad route in the Calumet Region during the mid-1800s.

Saturday, Feb 23 • Hikes at 11 a.m. & 2 p.m.

Sand Ridge Nature Center – 15891 Paxton Ave, South Holland

 

Winter Watercolors

Join us for a winter art workshop as we explore the beauty of nature through watercolor painting. Materials provided. All ages.

Saturday, Feb 29 • 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

Mathew Bieszczat Volunteer Resource Center – 6100 N Central Ave, Chicago

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