With no big plans for Labor Day we stepped out to rediscover the beauty of one of the Barrington area’s best-kept secrets… Grassy Lake Forest Preserve. Nearly 700 acres of quiet rolling hills, oak woodlands, marshes and moraines and we seem to forget that this local treasure is just beyond our back door. Have you been here lately?
5.8 miles of gravel and mowed grass trails wind through Grassy Lake Forest Preserve’s colorful sedge meadows, mature oak woodlands and a variety of other natural habitats. Six scenic overlooks offer magnificent views of the Fox River Valley and of Grassy Lake.
Silver maples, cottonwoods and willows line the banks of the Fox River and its floodwater-storing floodplain. Burly old-growth oaks sit slightly higher ground above the river and former agriculture fields are being restored to prairie.
Prominent geological landforms such as kettles and kames tell of Lake County’s not too distant glacial shaping, while providing sweeping views of the river valley and the surrounding area. Centuries-old landscape plantings of catalpa trees, Douglas firs, and a hedgerow of osage orange are reminders of those who lived here before us. The landscape’s layers are lovely with an abundance of textures and colorful flowers.
Three rare and valuable natural features of the preserve include Wagner Fen, Flint Creek and wooded bluffs. Oak woodlands surround the fen and creek, providing habitat for songbirds, woodpeckers and hawks. We spotted many birds, insects and deer during our hike beneath huge, puffy clouds.
Kelsey Road divides the preserve’s two separate northern sections, but a trail tunnel and an at-grade road crossing with a flashing beacon provide safe passage at both locations. Trail connections are also provided to adjacent neighborhoods.
Trails here are open only for hiking and cross-country skiing. Biking is not allowed but you’re welcome to bring dogs. Just remember to keep them leashed, on the trails and pick up any messes along the way.
Grassy Lake Forest Preserve is open from 6:30 a.m. to sunset daily. The main entrance is on Kelsey Road west of Old Barrington Road. Parking is also available at Lake Barrington Village Hall on Old Barrington Road south of Kelsey Road and southwest of Miller Road.
Learn more at LCFPD.org/Grassy-Lake.