A trio of prime spots to hit a nature trail with kids

Parenting can be stressful! Never in a million years could I have imagined that I would be in engaged in bedtime battles with a 2-year old who defiantly hits the light switch and loudly announces “on” when it is time to snooze. (Good thing my husband Walter took out the bright bulbs.)

With all the challenges of parenthood, my husband and I try to get outdoors to de-stress and breathe in fresh air with our little guy, Isaiah, as much as possible. Bonus: Our nature walks always help burn up some of Isaiah’s seemingly endless toddler energy and make the bedtime routine just a bit easier.

If your family loves a good walk in nature, check out these prime spots around Chicagoland.

The Morton Arboretum

With 1,700 acres there is no shortage of breathtaking nature to explore at The Morton Arboretum, but a couple of good options for families are the Joy Path and the trail around Meadow Lake. The Joy Path will take your crew down a gentle hill and it’s paved, so you can push your little ones in a stroller. Be sure to keep your eyes on the skies for phoebe or flycatcher birds. Meanwhile, a stroll around tranquil Meadow Lake is a mile long and paved as well. Introduce your pint-sized explorers to the trees along the way, including paw paws, conifers, and, one of my faves, redbuds. The Arboretum is spicing things up this year with the Troll Hunt Exhibition that opens on June 22. Your kiddos can look up, way up, and marvel at the 15- to 20-foot-tall wooden trolls that will be appearing in various spots throughout the Arboretum.

Gallery Park

When my son was just a little peanut we enjoyed a wonderful family outing to Gallery Park in Glenview. It has 140 acres to explore and we opted for the paved 1.5-mile path around Lake Glenview. Slow down to spot a great blue heron (These majestic birds have a wing span of 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 feet!) or to catch a glimpse of a turtle basking in the sun.

The Little Bear Garden will be a hit with the kiddos, and yes, there are bathrooms. After a good dose of outdoor walking and play, you can find just about everything a family could want nearby at The Glen Town Center. There’s a Starbucks for coffee, or mommy juice, as I like to call it. Kiddos can devour a scoop from Ben and Jerry’s. The Glen has ton of family–friendly events on the docket this summer so you can top off your trot on the nature trail with everything from concerts to puppet workshops.

The North Branch Trail

My family moved near The North Branch Trail when I was a teenager. After one particularly late night of, ahem, teenage shenanigans, I came home and wondered when my parents had bought such a life-like deer statue. Then it moved. Yes, there is a good chance you will spot a Bambi look-alike or three somewhere along this 33.5-mile trail system that stretches from the far North Side of Chicago all the way out to the Chicago Botanic Garden. If you do spot a deer, admire it from a safe distance, and move away without impeding its path. There are so many options for families to walk a chunk of this scenic wooded trail and forget that city and suburban life is very nearby.

If you wanted to be really ambitious you could pick a starting point and bike your way into the Chicago Botanic Garden. Your reward for arriving on two wheels instead of four? Avoiding the hefty parking fee.

The trails are calling! Now just pack up your nature-loving crew and start exploring. I bet the whole family will end up feeling less stressed and refreshed.

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