Hiking with kids requires a bit of preparation and planning. You want to find a trail that’s the shorter side and one that is interesting enough that they will be engaged and not complaining. Hiking with kids is a great way to get outside, get some exercise, and have fun all while maintaining social distancing standards. Recently we visited Old School Forest Preserve in Mettawa.
Hiking Old School Forest Preserve with Kids
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If you have driven on I-94, you have probably seen the large sled hill at Old School Forest Preserve. The preserve, located in Mettawa off of St. Mary’s Rd., is one of the most popular parks LCFPD has. It’s easy to see why, as it offers a large variety of activities, including horseback riding and fishing and has both paved and gravel paths.
We went on a Friday morning and the first lot when you pull in at St. Mary’s Rd. was pretty full and there were lots of people biking the trails. We proceeded to the next lot to park and get started on our adventure.
Old School Fores Preserve has four trails, and you can see the trail map on the LCFPD website. The longest trail is 2.7 miles (yellow), and a portion of the loop is part of the Des Plaines River Trail (DPRT). There is a 1-mile gravel loop (blue) that goes around the lake. You will want to park at Shelter E or the Playground to make that trail with children in tow (note playgrounds are not currently open). Otherwise, you will be hiking a little over a mile before you even get to the loop. There is a 1.5-mile paved trail (red) that is very popular with bikers.
The morning we visited was hot, so we headed out on the pink trail, not knowing what we were getting into, just that it was 1.2 miles. Remember when I said hiking with kids required pre-planning, I failed on this trip. See the Pink Trail at Old School is a fitness trail, which is excellent! Unless you are hiking with two kids who haven’t been on a playground in 3-months. It was super fun for them, not so much for the big sister!
The hike it self was beautiful, almost totally shaded. It would be a perfect place for a run and workout early one morning. With kids, it was the longest 1-mile hike I ever did. We stopped at every single workout station to try it out. It was great fun for them and an excellent way to tire them out for the day.
Now I am not suggesting you use this trail as an alternative to closed playgrounds. I am merely sharing what’s there. If you want to avoid outdoor equipment, I would skip the pink trail until you are more comfortable.
My kids thoroughly enjoyed the trail and the forest. We heard woodpeckers, saw a blue jay, and enjoyed being fully immersed in a forest and out of the sun. If you’re looking for a short shady hike give Old School Forest Preserve a try, don’t forget the bug spray!
Old School Forest Preserve
28285 St. Mary’s Rd., Mettawa
The entrance is on Saint Mary’s Road south of Route 176 and north of Route 60 (Townline Road).
Open 6:30 a.m. – sunset daily