It may not be the Grand Canyon, but the unspoiled waterfront and ravine at the newly opened Openlands Lakeshore Preserve just 25 miles north of Chicago is breathtaking nonetheless, says Charles Mutscheller, communications director for the preserve.
The preserve consists of two continuous miles of shoreline, unspoiled by development, and one of the last remaining ravine and bluff ecosystems in the area. Formerly part of the Ft. Sheridan Army base, the land was donated to the forest preserve when the base was decommissioned in 1994.
The preserve starts with a ravine. A paved road, built by the Army decades ago, runs about ¾ mile and is easily navigated with strollers. When you approach the end of the ravine, “the wind picks up and you start hearing that there’s nothing else out there and it looks like an ocean. It’s undeveloped. There’s nothing around there,” says Jaime Zaplatosch, education director.
The preserve is a fun place to search for fossils-trilobites can be seen in some of the large boulders-and explore for treasures that wash up on the beach.
Because it’s an undeveloped area, there are a few things families should keep in mind before heading to the preserve. There are no restrooms, not even port-a-potties, so make sure to stop before coming out to hike. Also, this is a non-swimming area.
There’s no parking at the preserve, so park on one of the streets nearby or consider public transportation-the preserve is about ¾ mile from Metra’s Highwood exit. The trip from the train station passes places to grab a bite to eat before or after hiking.