Crystal Lake Park District Nature Center
Hiking and Nature Observation
Located in Veteran Acres Park, the Nature Center is a great place to start a day of hiking and experiencing nature. Within the 130 acres of the park you can find woodlands, wetlands and prairie, all of which can be accessed by hiking trails.
A massive restoration project was conducted on the pond and surrounding wetlands.
Because of this project, the area now offers many opportunities to view a wide variety of native plants and animals. Many frogs and turtles can be found along the waters edge among wetland wildflowers such as blue flag iris and pickerel weed. This is also a great area to observe numerous wetland birds. Egrets, great blue herons, wood ducks and more are all common visitors to Veteran Acres Pond.
If you are looking for a longer hike, you may find Veteran Acres Woods and Wingate Prairie to be more to your liking. Located in the northeast portion of the park, these natural areas provide miles of trails through hilly terrain, left behind by retreating glaciers over 13,000 years ago. In the early spring, wildflowers know as spring ephemerals, cover the ground throughout the oak woodlands. Large displays of Virginia Bluebells, Trout Lilly and Celandine Poppy are interspersed with Prairie Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit and Solomon’s Seal.
As the season progresses, the prairie comes to life. Wingate Prairie, named after Bill Wingate, is a formally dedicated Illinois Nature Preserve. This high quality gravel hill prairie is host to several rare, threatened and endangered plants. Wandering among the big bluestem as a red-tailed hawk soars overhead, it is easy to feel as if you have been transported back to a time when Northern Illinois was covered by a rich mosaic of habitats.
Trail maps are available at the Nature Center and the Administrative Offices
Click here to download a Trail Map (Adobe PDF)