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posted: 1/12/2010 12:01 AM

Forest preserves, arboretum offer plenty of winter activities

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  • Like those at DuPage County's forest preserves, the trails at Morton Arboretum beckon cross-country skiers and even cold-weather runners.

      Like those at DuPage County's forest preserves, the trails at Morton Arboretum beckon cross-country skiers and even cold-weather runners.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Jessica Sabbah

When the scene out the window is snowy, most people want to stay inside where it's warm and cozy.

But with activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and dog sledding, our area is beckoning homebodies outdoors to enjoy the winter wonderland before the season changes.

"In the winter, people don't realize what the area has to offer and we encourage them to get out," said Jay Johnson, manager of site operations for the West Division of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

For those looking to experience the snow or just enjoy nature, the Morton Arboretum in Lisle and the forest preserve district offer numerous ways to take advantage of the season and have some fun in the process.

Bonnie Olszewski, public affairs specialist with the forest preserve district, said there are a lot of great ways to enjoy the outdoors, whether it's being active or just observing nature.

Cross-country skiing is one of the most popular activities in the DuPage forest preserves, which offer more than 25 skiing trails.

"We have several areas that are real popular for cross-country skiing in places that are good for it and it's been like that for about 30 years or so," Johnson said.

Snow tubing at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville has been particularly popular this winter, Johnson said.

Participants can enjoy an 800-foot run and must use tubes rented from the district for $4. The run is open on weekends and school holidays until February when there's at least 3 inches of snow on the ground.

Preserves also have designated areas for sledding, ice skating, ice fishing and dog sledding during the snowy season.

"If you don't come out at all during the wintertime, you'll miss out on a lot of fun," Olszewski said.

Snowshoeing is one of the biggest winter draws at Morton Arboretum, which offers more than 1,700 acres to trek through. Those who don't have their own snowshoes may rent one of 400 pairs available daily. Rates for a three-hour rental are $6 for members, $8 for others.

Cross-country skiing, hiking, biking and running are also among the numerous activities that individuals can relish at the arboretum. And families can search for ceramic gnomes in the Children's Garden, one of several family-oriented activities offered there.

Katherine Johnson, who manages the Children's Garden, said getting outdoors during the winter is good for your health, lifts your spirit and wards off cabin fever.

"Anytime you can get out, just getting that physical exercise, getting that fresh air will help you to feel better," said Rick Hootman, director of visitor programs at the arboretum.

Although the cold weather is ideal for many winter activities, safety precautions should be taken to keep warm.

"It's really a matter just being prepared to be outdoors," Hootman said. "Dress in layers, be hydrated, bring water with you and those types of things."

Individuals should check to make sure ice and snow levels are safe for activities, Hootman said. All activities are done at the participant's own risk.

Outdoor activities

The Morton Arboretum and the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County offer numerous winter activities. Certain activities require a minimum number of inches of snow or ice. Most activities require the use of the participants' own equipment, however, some equipment is available to rent.

Morton Arboretum

Hours: 7 a.m. to sunset daily

Location: 4100 Route 53, Lisle

Winter activities: Snowshoeing, cross country skiing, hiking, biking, running

Admission: $11 for adults, $10 seniors, $8 for youths; free for members and children under 2

Info: or (630) 968-0074

DuPage forest preserves

Hours: Sunrise to sunset daily

Location: Varies by activity

Winter activities: Cross country skiing, ice fishing, ice skating, snow tubing, sledding, snowshoeing, dog sledding

Admission: Free

Info: or (630) 933-7248