With 168 parks, sled hills, skating rinks and 48 miles of trails, the Fox Valley Park District is a 2,500-acre playground for winter activities and cold-weather fun. Here are the best places to find it:
It’s one of the joys of childhood, but please remind the young ones to sled down the middle of the hill and walk up the sides to avoid the dreaded “bowling alley” scenario and potential injury. Here are the go-to hills:
- Lincoln Park – Located at Russell Avenue and Lakewood Place in Aurora, this is a gentle hill suitable for young children and beginners.
- McCullough Park – Launch from the Prisco Community Center parking lot at 150 W. Illinois Avenue and enjoy Fox River views on the way down.
- Waubonsie Lake Park – Located just west of the playground, this semi-steep hill is an annual favorite for thrill seekers.
- Oakhurst Forest Preserve – The big hill on Fifth Avenue, just west of Kautz Road, offers the fastest and steepest sledding in the area and is maintained by the Forest Preserve District of Kane County.
The Park District maintains four outdoor skating rinks that are free and open to the public from dawn to dusk as conditions permit. Please obey the color flag system at each site. Green = Open. Red = Closed.
- Eola Community Center – Two rinks are available where the outdoor volleyball courts occupy; one for hockey and one for general skating.
- Lincoln Park – One rink for general skating.
- Randall Park – One rink for general skating.
- Wilbert Walters Park (formerly May Street Park) – One rink for general skating.
Snowshoeing is permitted in any of the District’s 165 parks and across the 48-mile network of trails. Enjoy the peace, beauty and serenity of winter in the parks.
Whenever the snow cover is three inches or more, snowshoes are available for rent seven days a week at the Red Oak Nature Center. For $5, you can rent a pair of Atlas 925 snowshoes – poles included – to navigate across the white stuff. (Red Oak is weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
Cross Country Skiing
Where there’s snow, there’s skiing. Unlike downhill, Nordic skiing requires no expensive lift ticket. Free fun is literally right out the door. Here are some personally tested favorites with minimal road crossings:
- Fox River Trail – Start in North Aurora on either side of the State Street Bridge and stride northward. Both sides are wooded, peaceful and beautiful. The more ambitious can travel a loop to Batavia, crossing the river at the Clark Island bridges.
- Virgil Gilman Trail – The trailheads at Prairie Street or Galena Boulevard are both good starting points. Heading westward, skiers will enjoy a rustic glide, all the way to Waubonsee College. Blackberry Creek parallels much of the route, further enriching the scenery.
- Waubonsie Lake Trail – This popular network of trails can be accessed at Waubonsie Lake Park (off Kautz Road) and from the parking lot at the Eola Community Center. One tour around Waubonsie Lake on skis is all it takes for this destination to be added to the favorites list.
- Stuart Sports Complex/Jericho Lake – A sprawling expanse of snow – nearly 400 acres worth – provides plenty of room for skiers to roam to their heart’s content. Park at the south entrance off Route 30 near the dog park.
The above trails are not groomed, relying instead on skiers to carve tracks – so, the more skiers who use the trails, the better the tracks.
Fortunately, it’s only January right now – meaning there’s plenty more of winter fun awaiting!
Jeff Long (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the public affairs and communications manager for the Fox Valley Park District.