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Take a Hike

This Mother’s Day, Take Mom for a Hike to Enjoy the Many Healthful Benefits Along Our Local Trails

Article by Michael Beightol

Photography by Stephen Barten

Originally published in SW Lake Lifestyle

Ah, the fresh air. The views. The exercise while getting out to stretch the legs after another long winter.

Mothers and their families will appreciate getting together outside to enjoy the many benefits of hiking the local trails in and around Lake County. Not only will families be able to spend time together in the fresh air to enjoy the company of each other and take in the sights, the very act of movement outside offers so many curative qualities.

Research shows that to maintain a healthy weight it’s important to match the calories burned over the course of the day with the calories consumed. If you’re looking to drop a few pounds, hiking (or walking around the neighborhood) can help create a calorie deficit. The secret to losing weight is to burn more calories than you take in each day. Something as simple as an hour-long walk can burn up to 500 calories.

Here in our corner of the (ahem) woods, there are an abundance of walking/hiking options. Considering we’re living on the mostly flat bottom of what was once a vast ocean, the degree of difficulty here from hiking is relatively low, thanks to the absence of extreme hills. Flat walking means most folks can cover a lot of ground in an hour while sharing conversations and the occasional glimpses of the wildlife with which we share this area.

Tower Lakes photographer Dr. Stephen Barten shared with us some photos he’s taken over the years, ranging from local and migratory birds to plenty of four-legged furry critters. One of his favorite places for capturing these images is Crabtree Nature Center in Barrington Hills (3 Stover Road). This marvelous park has three short trails and is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The network of trails winds through woods and a prairie section next to marshes, and includes a boardwalk section over Bullrush Pond.

Further north in Barrington is Cuba Marsh. Through an intergovernmental agreement between the Barrington Park District and Lake County, Barrington’s Citizen’s Park (site of the former Jewel Tree Company headquarters) is a good place to start. Parking is available on the north side of the park (near the train tracks). Start hiking east where the trail merges into Cuba Marsh for an adventure on well-traveled, well-marked trails. If Mother’s Day on May 9 is a sunny day, expect to greet a lot of fellow hikers along the way, including on the iconic long boardwalk that curves over the namesake marsh in the center of the park.

East of Wauconda, at the intersection of Route 176 and Fairfield Road is Lakewood, one of the crown jewels of the Lake County Forest Preserves. There are a host of trail options starting at either the main parking lot at 27277 Forest Preserve Road or across Fairfield at the Winter Sports area. One trail of note is the lighted trail that is open after sunset for night hiking. The way is lighted with small solar powered lights (think luminarias) that guide hikers through the woods and in a loop around a marsh and pond. The lighted path doesn’t interfere with seeing the brilliance of the sky on a clear night.

Before heading out be sure to wear sturdy shoes, carry enough water to stave off dehydration, pack some healthy snacks for a trailside nosh, check the websites for each park in advance for any updates and pay close attention to the weather forecast. Enjoy a Mother’s Day hike and keep stepping.

More Local Hiking Options

Way up north at 6316 Harts Road in Ringwood is Glacial Park Conservation Area. This vast park was carved out of the topography when the glaciers retreated north. What was left behind are bogs, marshes, ponds, prairies, savannas, and kames (large hills made primarily of gravel deposited by the glaciers 10,000 years ago).

In Lake Barrington Grassy Lake Forest Preserve is a lightly used park with a hub-and-spoke trail network that covers a lot of varied terrain—woods, savannas, a prairie section undergoing restoration and two separate Fox River overlooks. Parking is available at either 23900 W. Kelsey Road or the Village Hall (23860 N. Old Barrington Road).

South of McHenry and east of the Fox River is Moraine Hills State Park (1510 S. River Road), a mammoth 2,200-acre park with 10 miles of trails. Three trails of varying lengths are surfaced with crushed limestone, and wind their way around lakes and marshes offering great scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities.

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