Free Winter Fun at the Forest Preserves of Cook County

January 1, 2022

We Chicagoans are hardy people. We not only endure the winter weather, we embrace it. So if you are looking for some ways to get the most out of this season, you don’t have to go far. The Forest Preserves of Cook County have dozens of ways to enjoy sparkling, snow-covered landscapes, peaceful scenery and fresh air. It is 70,000 acres that they describe as “wild and wonderful” and, best of all, it’s free fun.

To enjoy nature and to find some tranquility away from the bustle of the city, walk the Forest Preserves trails. The Forest Preserves team point out that “[t]he sights, sounds and even the scents…change with the seasons, offering up new experiences all year.” To find the nearest trail, navigate to the interactive web map at

Are you a little bored with your indoor exercise routine? Head outdoors to the Forest Preserves. In addition to walking the trails, you can use one of the fitness stairs to get your heart rate up. The Forest Preserves website,, suggests: “At Swallow Cliff Woods-North, stair users can take on a loop of limestone steps that ascend the 100-foot bluff. Or head to one of the Forest Preserve’s locations within Chicago to use the fitness stairs at South Side’s Dan Ryan Woods.”

There are groomed cross-country ski trails (complete with equipment rental and lessons) and nine sledding hills located throughout the Forest Preserves. Five Forest Preserves nature centers loan out snowshoes.

If you want to come in from the cold, the Forest Preserves have marvelous nature centers with displays of plants and animals and naturalists on hand to offer insight into forest life in the winter. Forest Preserves also offers many “kid-focused programs [which] will get the whole family into nature to join in on fun outdoor adventures like snowshoeing, guided hikes, stories and s’mores around a campfire, and so much more.”

You can find the full schedule of all the events and attractions at