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Outdoor Winter Activites

Though it’s cold, winter activities can be a blast. Just bundle up and get going. You won’t be disappointed.

Hiking “Hiking in the crisp winter air can be refreshing to the body and spirit,” says Wendy Kummerer of the McHenry County Conservation District. “The first heavy snowfall brings a quiet motionless serenity.”

The McHenry County Conservation District’s trails are open all year round. “Go for a walk in the woods at The Hollows in Cary or Marengo Ridge in Marengo or enjoy wide open spaces at Elizabeth Lake in Richmond or Silver Creek Conservation Area in Crystal Lake,” says Kummerer. “Gaze clearly through the woodland savannas now that the trees have lost their leaves and provide a view. The nests of birds, squirrels and wasps, all previously hidden, become a visible attraction. Deer become more noticeable, as their brown fur stands in stark contrast to the white snow. Mice make tunnels just under the surface of the whiteness. Owls intermittently pierce the silence with their eerie, yet beautiful, calls.”

For information on trails in your area check out


Nothing defines winter more than a fast ride down a sledding hill. Many area parks offer lighted sledding as well as warming stations. Call your local park district for facility information.

We’ve found the best hills at Veteran Acres in Crystal Lake, Lions Park in Cary, the Picnic Grove in Fox River Grove, Indian Prairie Park in Crystal Lake, Emricson Park in Woodstock and Albert A. Adams Park in McHenry.

Ice Fishing and Skating

When the ice is at least 4 inches thick, you can fish at Fel Pro RRR, Hickory Grove and Lyons Prairie Marsh, The Hollows, Pleasant Valley, Rush Creek and Stickney Run conservation areas. Take note of the posted signs to ensure the ice is safe.

If you want to go for a skate, bring your shovel. You can skate at any of the aforementioned sites, but the lakes are not cleared by the district.

You can also skate at the Main and West beaches of Crystal Lake, Freund Field and Emricson Park in McHenry.

Cross Country Skiing

Glide through the snow and take in the sights while getting a great workout. The McHenry County Conservation District grooms trails with 4 inches of snow at many of its parks, including Glacial Park, Hickory Grove and Lyons Prairie Marsh, The Hollows, Marengo Ridge, Pleasant Valley, Prairieview Education Center and Rush Creek. Other trails are open for skiers but may not be groomed. For more information visit

You can also check out the trails at Sterne’s Woods and Fen in Crystal Lake (on Hillside Road, just east of Walkup) or Emricson Park in McHenry.


The McHenry County Conservation District offers more than 17 miles of snowmobile trails in Glacial Park and along the Prairie Trail that connect with many other county trails. Trails are open when there is at least 4 inches of snow on the frozen ground, 6 inches on unfrozen ground. Call 815-339-6223 for trail conditions and maps. For county snowmobile trail updates and classes call the McHenry County Snowmobile Association at 815-334-SNOW.

Winter Camping

If you really want to get out in the snow, head out to Marengo Ridge. You can enjoy camping and exploring over 5 miles of hiking and cross-country ski trails. The campground can accommodate up to 160 people, so bring a crowd. To make reservations and obtain a permit call 815-338-6223 at least 10 working days in advance.


Raging Buffalo Snowboard Park in Algonquin ( is a “snowboard exclusive” area. Founded in defiance of the skiers-only mentality of early ‘90s ski areas, the park offers season passes, day rates and classes.


You can try snowshoeing when there is at least 6 inches of light, fluffy snow. “For a memorable outdoor excursion, try Coral Woods nature trail, Prairieview wooded trail, Exner Marsh south loop, Hickory Grove Highlands or Rush Creek,” says Kummerer.


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