Hit the Nearby Trails This Fall

Spring and Summer have faded, and here we go into fall. The growing season has come to an end. A few asters remain in flower, but the majority of plants have set their seed and begin dormancy. Bottlebrush Rye, a common name that makes sense. Photo credit: Matt Bucher   With that, comes beautiful fall colors. It's already November, but it's not too late to hike (or bike) the trails. Before the snow falls, check out these Chicago spots.

Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary

  Photo credit: Matt Bucher Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary is an accessible site for anybody within the city. As the name implies, this expanse of natural area along Lake Michigan is an eye-catching permanent home for many of our local birds. Surrounded by the city, a sanctuary is certainly a misnomer.  Fall is the perfect time to hike here as its allure brings in migratory species as well, looking for food and shelter on their flights south. Bring a pair of binoculars and feel free to ask any of the many "birders" what they've seen. They'll be happy to discuss.  

LaBagh Woods

And the rest of the North Branch Trail

  Photo credit: Matt Bucher Chicago River as it runs through LaBagh Woods, photo credit: Matt Bucher Located just North of Cicero and Foster, LaBagh Woods is an easy few hour getaway. LaBagh Woods is an excellent sample of restoration in progress. Shrubs and trees have been planted throughout in place of invasive plants in order to better the woodland for plants, animals, and the people that enjoy our preserves. A trail runs along the Chicago River and provides a tranquil environment. Similar to Deer Grove East, Bike the Preserves has a bike rental station at LaBagh Woods. Using a simple app, give your legs a rest and take the time to explore more of the North Branch Trail including Forest Glen, Edgebrook Woods, Sidney Yates Flatwoods, and Bunker Hill.  

Somme Woods

Photo credit: Matt Bucher Somme Woods can be found along Dundee Road in Northbrook and is one a true hidden gem of the region. Invasive shrubs line Dundee Road but to look beyond is to see a glimpse into the natural history of our region. A bright, open woodland that is the subject of studies and massive volunteer efforts. It's neighbor, Somme Prairie Grove is the subject of an excellent read, Miracle Under the Oaks. Within Somme Woods, it is possible follow the trail while being lost in the colors and sounds of Chicago autumn.

Lake in the Hills Fen

Photo credit: Matt Bucher It's easy to forget that fall colors can be found beyond the woodland. My favorite fall hike this season was through Lake in the Hills Fen. Visitors can access the trails through this nature preserve via Barbara Key Park. You'll have to leave the pets at home as the nature preserve status of this site protects one of the rarest ecosystem types in the state: fen wetlands. Somme Woods and LaBagh Woods both see their fair share of ecological volunteers, driven by the opportunity to care for the needs of our woodlands. The Somme Woods Community can be found there every weekend and the occasional weekday.  LaBagh Woods is one of many areas managed by the North Branch Restoration Project.  Lake in the Hills Fen offers various opportunities for those willing to give their time. There might be a stronger chill in the air these days, but there's still some truly beautiful nature to be discovered right in our own backyards. Take the time to bundle up, grab your camera and relish that last bit of Fall air before we head into the confines of winter and the rush of the holiday season.  
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Matthew Bucher