A Little Time and a Keyboard: Hiking Veteran Acres Woods and Wingate Prairie in Crystal Lake

Hiking Veteran Acres Woods and Wingate Prairie in Crystal Lake

Monday, September 28, 2015

A few weeks ago we spread our hiking wings a little further and trekked through Veteran Acres Woods and Wingate Prairie in Crystal Lake. We found the preserve to have a little bit of everything making it a great hiking location for families.

We parked near the Nature Center and quickly made our way down to the pond. A path circles the lake and guides you through wetlands. We found that the further we walked from the Nature Center, the more wildlife we found in and around the pond.

pond and wetland

While circling the pond, we discovered a path up to a large picnic area and playground. I love finding playgrounds on hikes because they provide the perfect opportunity for the kids to run around a bit before continuing on the hike. Also in this area are restrooms, something that is handy for any parent to know! There are benches in this area as well as at certain points along the pond for a bit of a breather!


Picnic Table

After our brief rest, we headed into the woods! We enjoyed walking along a rustic path. Some of the terrain is a bit hilly, making it a little more challenging than other preserves in the Chicago area. However, I would say it is more of pleasant change of pace type of a challenge rather than one of too much difficulty.


rustic trail

We also hiked through a portion of Wingate Prairie during our adventure. The prairie was alive with brilliant prairie flowers and butterflies including a handful of monarchs. After walking through such a stunning prairie preserve, one has to wonder why we removed so much of the prairie in Illinois to  begin with. I am so happy that we have so many preserves bringing this vibrant ecosystem back!

monarch butterfly

prairie sunflower

A walk through Veteran Acre Woods was just want we needed to recharge before the week ahead! I really loved how the preserve combines a more rustic adventure through the woods with a sizable prairie and picturesque wetland area. The playground and picnic area make it exceptionally friendly for families!

Things to know:
  • Varied ecosystems including wetland, prairie and forest providing for unique hiking experiences every time.
  • The picnic area is large and would be great for a family gathering.
  • Actual restrooms rather than port-a-potties are located in the picnic area.
  • Be sure to bring bug spray--we got bit quite a bit in the prairie and had to spray mid-hike.
  • The trails are more rustic but not overly difficult. There are some hills.

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