Fall on Tiptoe with Woods Walk Hiking Challenges

Celebrate the 20th anniversary of Woods Walk by hiking the trails of Will County.

The popular, self-paced hiking program kicks off September 1 and runs until November 30. Hit seven of 10 designated trails to earn a commemorative medallion.

“It’s been a beloved program since its inception,” said Forest Preserve Recreation Coordinator Jen Guest. “Over these 20 years, the forest reserve has grown in both acres of land and miles of trails, so there are more paths to choose from.”

To mark Woods Walk’s anniversary, an 11th bonus trail included in the first Woods Walk program has been added to this year’s roster.

“Be sure to check out this bonus trail at Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve in Monee Township for a short hike in a beautiful reserve worth exploring,” Guest said.

Here are the other routes for 2022:
• Four Rivers Trail to McKinley Woods – Kerry Sheridan Grove: 1.99 miles
• Hammel Woods Nature Trail in Hammel Woods – Route 59 Access: 2.86 miles
• Hickory Creek Bike Path to Hickory Creek Preserve – LaPorte Road Access: 3.47 miles
• Kankakee Sands Trail at Kankakee Sands Preserve – Route 113 Access: 2.53 miles
• North and South Loop trails at Messenger Woods Nature Preserve: 3 km
• Plum Creek Greenway Trail in Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve: 2.92 miles
• Prairie Bluff Trail to Prairie Bluff Preserve: 2.62 miles
• Rock Run Greenway to Theodore Marsh Trail: 2.93 miles
• Spring Creek Greenway to Hadley Valley Trail: 3.41 miles
• Wauponsee Glacier Trail to Sugar Creek Preserve: 2.4 km

One of the best things about this program is that people can take their time and hit the trails as they please, Guest said.

“Admire the fall scenery as you explore the reserves,” she added. “With the 11 trails on offer, I hope program participants will once again hike beloved trails or explore new ones.”

And Guest reminded hikers to make sure they hike at least seven of the trails to earn the commemorative medallion to display on a cane, hat or backpack.

“A new design is created every year,” she said. “Whether this is your 20th medal or the start of your collection, you’re well on your way to exploring the outdoors.”

For dog lovers considering this challenge, only the trails in Goodenow Grove, Messenger Woods, and Raccoon Grove do not allow canine companions as they are state-designated nature preserves that protect higher quality natural areas . The remaining eight trails are all dog friendly, but dogs must be leashed and owners must clean up after their dogs.

To get started, pick up your Woods Walk guidebook on or after September 1 at one of five visitor centers: Four Rivers Environmental Education Center in Channahon, Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Bolingbrook, Isle a la Cache Museum in Romeoville, Plum Creek Nature Center in the township of Crete and the administrative center of Sugar Creek in Joliet. The guide will also be available online from 1 September.

The deadline for submitting a completed hiking guide submission form – which can be found on the back of the guide or online from September 1 – to receive a medallion is Saturday, December 31. Medallions will be available starting September 30.

“The coolest part of this addition is that you can see where you are on the track,” Guest explained. “It also highlights the beginning and end of each Wood Walk trail.”

For those who like to take pictures, the Woods Walk program is also the perfect opportunity to snap some shots to submit to Forest Preserve’s Preserve the Moment Photo Contest. Winners are chosen monthly and each receives a $75 MasterCard gift card. At the end of the contest, the first, second and third place winners will receive MasterCard gift cards of $500, $250 and $150 respectively. And perhaps best of all, everyone gets a freebie for just participating. Read all contest rules and photo upload instructions before entering the contest.