The Lake County Forest Preserve system offers nearly 130 miles of cross-county ski trails in various preserves across the county. In fact, you can ski on any preserve hiking trail. But there are only two preserves in the network that offer groomed trails, the Winter Sports Area at the Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda and the Old School Forest Preserve in Libertyville, Ill. You can call the 24-hour winter sports hotline (847-968-3235) to get skiing conditions at either preserve as well as updates on other winter activities.
What Makes It Great
The original forested area that would eventually become the Lakewood Forest Preserve began as source of firewood and lumber for farmers in the area during the 19th century. In 1937, Malcolm Boyle bought much of the land to create Lakewood Farms, a country estate for him and his family. It would eventually become the county’s largest, with orchards and gardens in addition to his livestock and farming operations. It was converted to a dairy ranch when purchased by Howard Quinn in 1961. The Lake County Forest Preserve started buying pieces of the property in 1968, and over the next 30 years continued to expand the preserve. You can still see many pieces of the farming history on the property as part of the Discovery Museum Complex.
The Lakewood Forest Preserve’s aptly named Winter Sports Area features 2,117 acres that offers not only cross-country skiing, but ice skating, sledding and ice fishing. It’s also the home of the Lake County Discovery Museum, a regional history museum that can be a nice place to hit on the trip as well.
The preserve also offers something unique in the area—night skiing. The 1.3 mile Millennium Trail in the park features small solar lights to illuminate your way. While the rest of the preserve closes at sunset, the lighted path is open until 9 p.m. during the winter. The sled hill at Lakewood is also illuminated for nighttime activity.
The cross-country ski trails aren’t particularly long—you get just over three miles of groomed trails—but they are well maintained and scenic. There is a snowmobile trail in another section of the park, but in the winter sports area it’s human-powered locomotion only. You can find the trail map here.
Who is Going to Love It
Recreational cross-country skiers and winter sports enthusiasts.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Look for signs to the parking area at Fairfield Road, south of the dog exercise area. The preserve is located at 27277 N. Forest Preserve Road.
The preserve his open from 6:30 a.m. until sunset, except for the illuminated Millennium Trail, which is open until 9 p.m. in the winter.