Spend a Day of Fun in the Forest Preserves of Western Cook County

As summer approaches, there's nothing better than exploring the great outdoors. And what better way to get out in nature than right here in the Chicagoland area. Oak Park and the surrounding suburbs offer some of nature's most beautiful locations. From walking and biking trails to picnics and kayaking, this blog will explore all the wonderful things to do in the forest preserves of western Cook County. 


Exploring Nature’s Haven: The Importance of Connecting with the Great Outdoors


Stepping outside to soak up nature isn't just a breath of fresh air—it's a full-on boost for your body and brain! Nature acts like a chill pill for your mind, melting away stress and sprinkling a little serenity into your day. Plus, getting active outdoors isn’t just fun—it amps up your fitness  and gives your heart health a hearty high-five. And what’s better than sharing all this goodness with family and friends?


Stick with us as we dive into the top forest preserves where you can laugh, play, and reap all these awesome benefits!


Forest Preserves Near Oak Park and Western Suburbs 


While Oak Park may feel like an extension of Chicago, people may not know that it is surrounded by so many options for outdoor adventures. Join us as we explore different Cook County forest preserves near the Oak Park area and beyond. 




Brookfield Woods


Located just west of 1st Ave is Brookfield Woods. Home to the Salt Creek Trail, Brookfield Woods offers various paved and unpaved trails that run along the Des Plaines River, Salt Creek, and Brookfield Zoo. Visitors can enjoy views of a glacial valley, gravelly moraine, and Salt Creek’s unique pool and riffle environment.


Address: 31st St, west of 1st Ave Brookfield, IL 60513 


Learn more about Brookfield Woods.


Things to do in Brookfield 


In addition to Brookfield Woods is Brookfield Zoo, a 216-acre zoo housing hundreds of different species and plant life just waiting to be explored. This year the zoo commemorates 90 years of existence, bringing significant transformations with renovations, new animals, and other personal experiences for visitors.


Zoo Address: 8400 31st St, Brookfield, IL 60513


Click here to learn more about Brookfield Zoo Chicago. 


Or, click here to look at other fun things to do while you’re in Brookfield.  



Forest Park


Miller Meadow Woods


Forest Park has a plethora of forest preserves for visitors and residents alike to explore. Miller Meadow is one to note, with walking trails, picnic areas, and unique offerings like an off-leash dog area and drone and model airplane flying field. The off-leash dog area is 7 acres with an outdoor shelter and two miles of trails connected.


An annual membership is required for $60/dog for Cook County residents and $120/dog for non-residents. 


Miller Meadow Model Airplane Flying Field
Address: 1st Ave Cutoff, north of Cermak Rd Cook County, IL 60130 

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Miller Meadow-North
Address: Roosevelt Rd, east of 1st Ave Cook County, IL 60130

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Miller Meadow-South
Address: 1st Ave, south of Roosevelt Rd Cook County, IL 60130 

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Things to do in Forest Park 


In addition to a variety of forest preserves to explore, Forest Park is a hub for family-friendly restaurants and fun activities. From the Junction Diner, which delivers your food on a train, to date-night restaurants like caffe DeLuca, there are a slew of options to choose from. Discover an array of shopping spots and entertainment along Madison Street, as well as the Ferrara Pan Candy Company's boutique, located at its historic factory site in Forest Park, offering a tempting assortment of its renowned Lemonhead candy.


Click here to look at other fun things to do while you’re in Forest Park. 



La Grange


Arie Crown Forest


La Grange has a variety of forest preserves nearby in the surrounding areas of Countryside and Hodgkins. Arie Crown is a forest preserve located off of La Grange Rd, offering hiking trails, places to fish, and beautiful views. Dogs are allowed, but only on a leash. Explore nature with your furry friend or gather with friends and family for a picnic. 


Address:  S LaGrange Rd, north of 67th St Countryside, IL 60525 


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Theodore Stone Forest

Theodore Stone Forest offers 142 acres of woodland acres, with miles of paths, nature, and wildlife. Amidst the tranquility of nature, visitors can enjoy a leisurely picnic at one of the preserve's two spacious picnic groves, offering a serene setting for relaxation and connection with the outdoors.


Address: 67th St, east of S La Grange Rd Hodgkins, IL 60525 


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Things to Do in LaGrange 


LaGrange is a vibrant community filled with beautiful architecture, restaurants, and bustling streets just waiting to be explored. From renowned restaurants and fantastic shopping, there is plenty to do in this lively town. Check out one of the many incredible antique stores, like the Jackson Square Mall or catch a film at the historic LaGrange Theater


Click here to look at other fun things to do while you’re in La Grange.



River Forest


Thatcher Woods 


Located less than 25 minutes away from the center of town is Thatcher Woods, a 245-acre area offering miles of unpaved walking trails, beautiful scenery, and a trailside museum. Home to a diverse array of bird species and plant life, Thatcher Woods is the ultimate location to visit to get out and explore nature near Oak Park. The Trailside Museum is free to visitors and offers a host of events throughout the year for kids, teens, and adults. Whether you want to go fishing, enjoy a long hike, or have a picnic, Thatcher Woods is an excellent place to enjoy.


Address: 738 Thatcher Ave River Forest, IL 60305


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Things to do in River Forest


Just 10 miles west of Chicago, River Forest is a charming village nestled along the eastern edge of the Des Plaines River, just west of Oak Park. Known for its elegant homes, including numerous classic residences designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, River Forest boasts some of the highest property values in the Chicago area.


Visitors can explore the architectural beauty of these historic homes, enjoy scenic walks along the river, and take in the serene atmosphere of this picturesque suburb. With its proximity to Chicago, River Forest offers a perfect blend of suburban tranquility and easy access to the vibrant city life.


Click here to look at other fun things to do while you’re in River Forest. 





Schuth’s Grove


If you’re looking for true scenic beauty from the comfort of a kayak, look no further than Schuth’s Grove in Riverside. Located along the Des Plaines River, Schuth's Grove offers a serene retreat with a convenient canoe and kayak launch, charming picnic areas, and well-maintained pathways. This tranquil oasis invites visitors to explore with ease with plenty of parking and a stable shoreline to ensure hassle-free access to the water's edge.


Whether you're searching for a leisurely paddle, a riverside stroll, or a picnic with loved ones, Schuth's Grove provides a welcoming escape in the Chicagoland area. 


Address: W Cermak Rd, west of Des Plaines Ave Cook County, IL 60546 


Learn more about Schuth’s Grove.


Things to do in Riverside


After a long day of kayaking, head over to one of Riverside’s famous restaurants La Barra or The Chew Chew. Or visit the Riverside Historical Museum; a key point in town that offers historic architecture and educates visitors on the culture and history of the town of Riverside. The museum is open on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. 


Click here to look at other fun things to do while you're in Riverside. 




Schiller Park


Schiller Woods


If you’re in the Schiller Park area, there are plenty of forest preserves to discover. The top of the list is Schiller Woods. Discover the natural landscapes within, where a variety of habitats thrive, and visitors can view lush woodlands to vibrant prairies, sedge meadows, and wetlands. Boasting expansive open spaces and a tranquil pond, this sanctuary offers visitors many opportunities for outdoor recreation.


Whether you're picnicking amidst the greenery, casting a line for fishing, or soaring kites into the sky, Schiller Woods has a variety of offerings for nature enthusiasts of all ages. Schiller Woods also has many other areas to explore where visitors can enjoy fishing, bicycling, and sledding in the winter. Or, you can hop in line to visit the Schiller Woods Magic Water Pump


Address: W Irving Park Rd, west of N Cumberland Ave Chicago, IL 60634 


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Irving Park Road Canoe Landing


Irving Park offers a canoe landing with access to the Des Plaines River. Individuals and families can easily board their canoe for a tranquil trip in the water with exceptional views of nature. 


Address: Des Plaines River Rd, north of Irving Park Rd Schiller Park, IL 60176 


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River Bend Family Picnic Area 


Gathering with friends and family amidst the tranquil beauty of a forest preserve offers a perfect escape from the bustle of daily life. Surrounded by towering trees, picnicking becomes a great escape, and the River Bend Family Picnic Area in Schiller Park offers the perfect location to do just that. Surrounded by acres of wildlife and beautiful scenery, visitors will love this inviting oasis. 


Address: Des Plaines River Rd, north of Lawrence Ave Schiller Park, IL 60176 


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Other Things to Do in Schiller Park


Located only 13 miles from the city of Chicago, Schiller Park offers a host of events and fun activities to do in the area. Explore Schiller Park this summer for events like movie nights in the park and live concerts in the community.  If you like craft beers, check out Short Fuse Brewing Company, where they also offer live music every Friday and Saturday. The local park district also hosts a wide array of sporting and leisure activities.


Click here to look at other fun things to do while you're in Schiller Park. 





Westchester Woods


Westchester Woods is a great spot to gather with friends or go for a long walk to detox the mind and relieve stress amongst the hustle and bustle of daily life. And, while winter may seem far away, Westchester Woods is known to be one of the best sledding spots around. With the ultimate hill, visitors can soar through the snow at record speed. 


Address: W Cermak Rd, east of S Manheim Rd/S La Grange Rd Cook County, IL 60526


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Other Things to Do in Westchester


Westchester is home to charming eateries, grocery stores, fitness centers, and boutique shops. Each August, the village comes alive with the vibrant Westchester Fest, a three-day celebration filled with live music, delicious food, engaging activities for children, and dazzling fireworks.


Westchester also has the captivating Wolf Road Prairie, a precious segment of the Illinois State Nature Preserve devoted to admiring the expansive prairies that were once a large part of the Illinois landscape, offering visitors a glimpse into the region's rich ecological heritage. As an added bonus, Brookfield Zoo Chicago is only a short drive away.


Click here to look at other fun things to do while you're in Westchester. 


Whether you explore nature alone or embark on an adventure with a group, the forest preserves of the near west suburbs stand ready to welcome you. So, lace up your hiking boots, pack a picnic basket, and venture forth into the great outdoors!