Put on your coziest coat and get ready to snowshoe, hike, or ski cross-country on some of Illinois’ best trails for witnessing a winter wonderland.
Staff groom some, but not all, of the 16 miles of trail weaving through the DuPage County grove—and that’s part of the fun. Cross-country skis or snowshoes, both available for rent at the visitor center between January 15 and March 21, carry guests through the untouched powder and snow-laced trees.
Bring your own snowshoes, cross country skis, or spikes to visit frozen waterfalls draping over cliffs along the 13-mile Starved Rock trail network. Keep watch for bald eagles, which flock to the area come wintertime (the dam’s churning water keeps the Illinois River thawed and the fish catchable).
The challenging, three-mile trail leading into and out of the box canyon involves steep stairs carved into rock, so pack appropriate spikes and shoes. Still, wandering by looming sandstone overhangs and snow-crusted sycamores is well worth the quad-burners. A shorter path offers views of the Mississippi River floodplain and colorful cliff walls.
Burial mounds belonging to Native American peoples dot the park, including near McAdams Peak, a popular vantage point for glimpsing bald eagles perched in the treetops. As you wander along 12 miles of marked trail past limestone formations, keep your footsteps light for a chance at spotting a deer.
Stop by the Nordic Center General Pro Shop to rent a pair of snowshoes before beginning your trek around the 6,800-acre property. To truly get your heart pumping, try the 3.5-mile-long trail filled with rolling hills and enchanting woodlands along the back half of the General golf course.
Solar-powered lights line the trails in these two McHenry County parks, guiding cross-country skiers on their evening jaunts (trails close at 9 p.m.). Opt for the flatter terrain on Pleasant Valley’s half-mile loop if you’re new to the sport, saving Hickory Grove’s .75-mile path through restored savanna for when you’ve built up endurance.
Adventure awaits no matter where you’re traveling in the Land of Lincoln, as long as you’re willing to bundle up. Pause a second to admire a mural you’ve only ever driven by, peruse shop windows on that block off main street, or simply marvel at a park’s blank canvas of freshly fallen snow—before adding a snow angel, of course.By Angela Ufheil
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