Stand atop Camelback Glacial Kame at Glacial Park, and you’ll get what Tom Simpson says is the best view in the Chicago area.
“You don’t get a chance to get up high in Illinois very often, ... [but] you can see for a mile in either direction,” said Simpson, a field station ecologist at the park. “It’s wonderful.”
The surrounding paths aren’t so bad, either. They are lined with orange wildflowers and wild grass and populated by creatures ranging from dragonflies to frogs and wild turkeys.
And Glacial Park is home to just one of the many scenic paths in McHenry County. Wendy Kummerer, McHenry County Conservation District spokeswoman, said there are more than 50 miles of hiking trails at 26 sites in the district.
Those figures don’t include city trails, such as those in Emricson Park in Woodstock, which has 2.3 miles of trails, or those on state-owned land, such as Moraine Hills State Park in McHenry, which features more than 10 miles of trails.
“We like to refer to our trails as an outdoor health club,” Kummerer said. “And it’s an amenity that’s no more than 10 minutes from anyone’s home in McHenry County.”
The longest path in the conservation district is the Prairie Trail, which runs for 26 miles from north to south, spanning the length of the county’s east side and hooking up to Kane County’s trail system, Kummerer said.
“You have people go from one place to another, but it’s not a loop,” she said. “You also have avid bike riders, who may be training. It’s a great trail to do that.”
Those looking for something easier to conquer can bring their kids and strollers to Fel-Pro RRR, 1520 Crystal Lake Ave., Cary. It offers a paved, 1.2-mile loop as well as picnic and rest areas.
Simpson said other trails also could be modified for shorter hikes. For example, a loop near the Field Research Station at Glacial Park, 6316 Harts Road, Ringwood, usually can be done in about 20 minutes.
However, the paths at the park are lined with woodchips, so those with strollers might have a hard time, he said.
Jeff Romano of Johnsburg said he preferred stone or gravel paths when he takes his three boys, Jordan, 5, Justin, 7, and Joey, 8, biking. But regardless, they still go to Glacial Park on a regular basis.
His favorite is Moraine Hills, though, Romano said.
“It gets them out of the house and burns up energy,” he said. “It exposes them to nature ... and gets the away from the TV.”
Many of the parks, which are free to the public, also have interpretive signs, information centers or self-guided tours, Kummerer said.
“We encourage people to bring binoculars,” she said.
Kate Sweeney, who also likes Glacial Park, said her interest in local trails actually started with school field trips, when she learned about the area.
“There’s so much history,” she said. “Before everything was developed, people lived here and created these trails.”
Her friend Jenna Wallner, a McHenry resident who regularly walks the Glacial Park trails with her dog, Diggit, said she also enjoyed the trails at Moraine Hills.
“He loves the walk,” she said, adding that she usually spends upward of two hours going through the a park.
Simpson said he hoped that people throughout the area could find the time to experience nature this summer and fall.
“[The parks] are a great place to come,” he said. “Both to get exercise and to see wildlife.”
Looking for a trail?
For an interactive map of all trails in the McHenry County Conservation District, visit www.mccdis trict.org, click “Recreation” and then “interactive map.”
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The following are McHenry County Conservation District parks that include trails. The list does not include state parks or those overseen by municipalities:
• Glacial Park/Wiedrich Education Center
• Beck’s Woods/Piscasaw North
• Coral Woods
• Harrison Benwell
• HickoryGrove/Lyon’s Prairie and Marsh
• The Hollows
• Marengo Ridge
• Prairie Trail
• Nippersink North Branch
• Boger Bog
• Exner Marsh
• Rush Creek
• Prairieview Education Center
• Brookdale (Main Office)
• Fel-Pro RRR
• Stickney Run
• Silver Creek
• Hebron Trail
• Fox Bluff
• Elizabeth Lake
• Pleasant Valley
Source: McHenry County Conservation District