IL Lake County Forest Preserve Van Patten Woods

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Van Patten Woods - Lake County Forest Preserve - Illinois

Van Patten Woods - Bridge over Des Plaines River
Van Patten Woods

Van Patten Woods is part of the Lake County Forest Preserve system (I believe it was the first forest preserve in the Lake County system). Within the park boundaries lie Van Patten Woods, Sterling Lake, and a section of the Des Plaines River. This provides a mix of woodlands, prairie, and wetlands areas. There are a series of trails used for bicycling, hiking, cross-country skiing, and horseback riding. Van Patten Woods is also the northern end of the Des Plaines River Trail which runs through the park.

  • Terrain / Scenery: Mainly flat with a couple of rolling hills. Lake, River, wetlands, prairie, woodlands.
  • Fees / Permits: None
  • Trail Conditions: You can post or view trail reports on this site by clicking the Discussion tab.
  • Trail Markings: Des Plaines River Trail is marked, others are not.
  • Facilities: Pit toilets, picnic areas, canoe launch.
  • Official Web Page: trail map available for download.
  • Getting There: Van Patten Woods is located north of the town of Wadsworth, IL. The main park entrance is located on State Highway 173 just east of State Highway 41. There is also a small parking area on Russel Road that accesses the Des Plaines River Trail, and a separate canoe launch parking area also on Russel Road.

Map IL Lake County Forest Preserve Van Patten Woods.png

All trails in Van Patten Woods are multi-use trails. The crushed-stone trails (Des Plaines River Trail and trail around Sterling Lake) get a lot of bicycle use and foot traffic. Horses are allowed on all trails and you will regularly encounter them. The Des Plaines River Trail is open to snowmobiles in the winter.

Map Notes: The color coding on the map is for demonstration purposes only (there are no color markers on the trails). Red designates the Des Plaines River Trail which has a crushed stone surface, Yellow designates other crushed stone surfaced trails in the park, and Green designated natural surfaced trails (grass, dirt, wood chips). There is a foot bridge across the Des Plaines River and another across the small center section of Sterling Lake.

Bicycling: The Des Plaines River Trail is the main draw for bicyclists in the park. This is the northernmost section of the trail. All trails would be considered easy and can be easily ridden with a road bike (except for maybe the natural surfaced trails if they are muddy).

Hiking: You can hike any of the trails in the park. The crushed stone surfaced trails are rather wide. The natural surfaced trails get the least amount of traffic and go through a mix or woodlands and wetlands. They can get rather muddy since horse traffic tends to chew up the trails a bit. There is a raised wooden walkway through a wetland area at the northern end of the natural trail.

Cross-country skiing: You can cross-country ski in the park but the trails are not groomed and the flat terrain is rather uninspiring. Snowmobile use on the Des Plaines River trail also makes it unattractive for skiing.

Canoeing / Kayaking: There is a canoe launch on Russel Road just west of the town of Russel. The Des Plaines River is a muddy slow moving meandering river that, despite running through urban areas, maintains a wild feel due to the flood plain buffer. You can expect frequent obstacles (mainly downed trees and log jams) on parts of the river that keep things interesting. The River flows from North to South, but it is slow enough to allow paddling upstream. This northern section of the river is best paddled at high water. I'm pretty sure you can also paddle Sterling Lake (though I never have). You should be able to put in from the parking area on the West side of the lake.

  • Related Links:

Des Plaines River Trail

Des Plaines River

  • External Links:

Lake County Forest Preserve District

This page is authored and maintained by Dave Piasecki