Lake Forest Open Lands offers endless opportunities for year-round outdoor recreation, nature exploration and relaxation. All 8, soon to be 10, of our preserves are located within the Lake Forest community, encompassing 16 miles of trails and over 900 acres of open spaces for visitors of all ages to enjoy. Here are just a few of the activities to enjoy:

Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing: All of our preserves are open during the winter months and provide a peaceful respite in the winter. While many of our preserves get quite busy in the warmer months, the winter months tend to be quieter, perfect for hiking, snowshoeing or cross country skiing.

We lay cross-country ski trails in the winter as weather permits at Mellody Farm and Middlefork Farm Nature Preserve. The trails at Mellody Farm can be accessed just east of the parking lot on the south side of the driveway or in front of the buildings directly west through the gates. Access the Middlefork Farm trails off of Acorn Trail or from the main kiosk on Middlefork Drive. If you have any questions please email We welcome any input you may have on the tracks.

Hikers and snowshoers please try to hike or snowshoe to the side of the cross-country tracks to maintain their integrity. Thank you so much. See you down the trail!

Birding: While all of our preserves provide outstanding bird habitat there are several that are particularly of note. Skokie River Nature Preserve was a premier spot for bird banding in North America for years and is home to many of our rare midwest species. The George Beach Trail at Middlefork Farm Nature Preserve has a beautiful hidden wetland which provides amazing bird watching. Please join us for one of our upcoming bird walks!

Dog Walking: We all love dogs here at Lake Forest Open Lands, but we do require that all dog walkers be registered members of Lake Forest Open Lands with dog walking privileges ($100 Maple Mob memberships and higher included dog walking) and display a current Association dog-walking parking decal. It's a costly business to allow dog walking in our preserves and the membership requirement helps us offset those costs. 

Dogs are not permitted at Mellody Farm Nature Preserve as most of our environmental education programming is held there. We ask all of our dog walkers to exhibit common courtesy and most importantly:

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times when in view of education groups, other people or other dogs
  • Dog walkers are responsible for the bagging and removal of their dog’s waste on all Association properties
  • ​​Click here for a full list of our dog walking rules

Walking and Hiking: All of our preserves have trails for walking, hiking and running. Please stay on trail to protect the precious flora and fauna. If you need help exploring the best preserve for a walk or hike please take a look at our maps or ask one of our staff by email at or phone at 847.234.3880.