I love to hike and explore the outdoors, and I want to teach my family to love it as well. However, I have learned the hard way a couple of times now to be sure to keep the adventure short and exciting with a four- and one-year-old, or I will end up lugging two kids back out on each hip, which is so NOT fun.
Lake County has a few great options for kid-friendly hiking paths to explore the great outdoors, prime with lakes, playgrounds, benches, and natural attractions. Create a scavenger hunt and pack a picnic lunch, and you have the makings for a memorable day!
Best Hikes for Kids in Lake County
Some of our favorite trails in Lake County that are one-mile or less for little hikers include:
Nippersink Forest Preserve
900 W. Belvidere Rd., Round Lake
With a gravel path and a couple of different loops around two lakes, it’s a beautiful forest preserve with plenty of nature to explore. There are multiple picnic shelters, and the biggest circle is only 1.3 miles long. The gravel path here is a little tough on the strollers. Nippersink Forest Preserve is also one of Little Lake County’s recommended best places for outdoor photos, so be sure to take the camera along.
Hastings Lake Forest Preserve
21155 Gelden Rd., Lake Villa
With a paved path around the lake and one of the best playgrounds in all of Lake County, this is a natural choice for a hike. The loop around the lake is about 2 miles long, but there are much shorter gravel loops of a little less than a mile long and closer to the entrance that your tykes can explore. Read the full profile of the Hastings Lake playground.
Ryerson Woods Conservation Area
21950 N. Riverwoods Rd., Riverwoods
While it has several small trails and loops that you can explore, it also has historic buildings, farm animals, and a visitor center to rapt the attention of small children. Ryerson Woods is another one of Little Lake County’s recommended best places for outdoor photos. The Welcome Center also houses Trail Tales, which brings a storybook to life on the short trail with large books along the path. Access the Trail Tale by parking in the lot at the Brushwood Center.
Middlefork Savannah Forest Preserve
1401 Middlefork Dr., Lake Forest
Middlefork is my personal favorite as it connects with the Wildlife Discovery Center and a great neighborhood park. The trail has a loop about 1 mile long with lots of bridges; half of it is a grassy trail, so it’s not very stroller friendly.
28478 W. Brandenburg Rd., Ingleside
This little gem was perfect for my littles on a recent visit. With a nature center that my kids could have stayed at for an hour (and did!) it also has some unique trails that take you on bridges over the bog, (which some kids could find unnerving or exciting). There are also some lovely hilly short trails connecting you to the parking lot for an easy escape should the kids get bored or tired.
There are many other great trails in the area with fewer amenities and just straight 1-mile trails such as Lake Carina (Gurnee) and Raven Glen Forest Preserves (Antioch).
Now that you know where to go, enjoy the beautiful weather and get the whole family out for a hike!
Are there any great trails that we missed? Which is your favorite for exploration with the family?
My Kids love the fitness trail at Old School Forest Preserve in Mettawa (Libertyville/Green Oaks). The trail is a 1.2 mile crushed gravel loop (no problem for strollers). The fitness equipment breaks up the hike for the littlest ones, as they look forward to seeing what comes next, and the bigger kids can walk a little ahead and feel like they are on their own. The preserve also has other trails as well as a basic, but fun and open playground with space for picnics.
We have found that the shortest hikes in the annual Hike Lake County challenge are a great way to find new family hikes.