Explore Lake County Illinois Forest Preserves. The Lake County Forest Preserve District has 31,000 acres of natural land and is the second largest Forest Preserve District in Illinois. The locations are too numerous to list here but you can search by facilities and activity on the LCFP website. This post is an overview of what is offered. The website is very well done and is easy to navigate. While most LCFP locations are only accessible by car – parking and almost all activities and events are free.
2021: Check with each location before heading out due to Covid restrictions and closures.
Explore all recreational activities here
Winter only activities:
Cross-Country skiing: When conditions allow, skiers can use the dedicated equestrian trails at Lakewood and Raven Glen and most forest preserve hiking trails, except at the Ryerson Conservation Area in Riverwoods. Ryerson hiking trails are not groomed. A 4-inch snow base is required at Ryerson in order to protect sensitive habitat at this Illinois Dedicated Nature Preserve site.
Groomed trails are available at the Lakewood Winter Sports Area, Old School, and along the Des Plaines River Trail between Old School and the Wright Woods Canoe Launch on Route 60. Grooming is typically done two days after a large snow.
Ice Fishing: When conditions allow, you can ice fish at one of five great locations, 6:30 am–sunset, daily:
- Hastings Lake: permitted on any part of the lake. View map.
- Independence Grove: permitted on the south bay only, catch-and-release fishing is mandatory. View map.
- Lake Carina: permitted on any part of the lake. View map.
- Van Patten Woods: permitted on any part of Sterling Lake. Ice fishing is open extended hours 6:30 am–one hour after sunset, daily. View map.
Sledding: Sled hills are located at Lakewood in Wauconda and at Old School in Libertyville.
Snowmobiling: When conditions allow, snowmobile trails are open 6:30 am–11 pm, Sunday–Thursday, and 6:30 am–midnight, on Fridays and Saturdays. The following snowmobile trailer parking lots are open extended hours for snowmobilers. All other lots close at dusk.
- Van Patten Woods Canoe Launch on Russell Road east of Route 41, for northern Des Plaines River Trail access.
- Sedge Meadow main entrance on Wadsworth Road east of Route 41, for northern Des Plaines River Trail access.
- Lakewood Forest Preserve Horse Trailer lot, located on the west end of Ivanhoe Road/Brown Road near Route 12.
Ice Skating: When conditions allow, ice skating is offered at Lakewood in Wauconda and Independence Grove in Libertyville.
Explore Lake County Illinois Forest Preserves – Activities:
- Marinas: two marinas with boat rental. Closed in winter.
- Dogs: Daily dog permits are required and available for purchase through Pay by Phone. Permit holders will be asked to follow these guidelines.
- Equestrian activities: More than 69 miles of trails are open to horseback riding throughout the Lake County Forest Preserves.
- Fishing: Fishing and ice fishing for all ages and experience levels at many lakes and ponds in forest preserves throughout Lake County. A valid Illinois fishing license is required for ages 16 and older.
- Non-Motorized Watercraft: Bring your own cartop boat, canoe, kayak, paddleboard or other small non-motorized watercraft and launch it on one of four inland lakes:
- Sterling Lake at Van Patten Woods in Wadsworth. View map.
- Long Lake at Grant Woods in Ingleside. Use boat launch parking lot in the south section of preserve, south of Rollins Road. View map.
- Hastings Lake in Lake Villa. View map.
- Lake Carina in Gurnee. View map.
- DesPlaines River canoe launches
Other things to see and do
Explore Lake County Species Our scientists use a variety of methods to find, measure and map plant and animal communities within the preserves. Learn more »
Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County
At the Dunn Museum, our passion is to explore history as a vibrant force that connects us all through time. Our vision is to encourage and inspire others to make a positive influence in their communities and our world.
The Dunn Museum is among only 3% of museums nationally to have earned accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums, an industry mark of distinction. Operated by the Lake County Forest Preserves and located in Libertyville, Illinois, the Dunn Museum is named for Bess Bower Dunn (1877–1959), Lake County’s first official historian. Her determination to preserve the early history of Lake County demonstrates the potential of each individual to make a significant and lasting contribution to a better world—and inspires us to do the same.
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