Wellness at Crooked Creek and Palos

Wellness: Outdoors at Crooked Creek and Palos

The Palos Preserves and Crooked Creek offer numerous amenities to explore nature and improve wellness. Numerous studies show a direct relationship between access to nature and good physical and mental health and long-term well-being. Some of the benefits include lower stress and anxiety; reduced incidences of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure; children doing better in school; lower impacts from ADHD; and improved immune function. A meta-analysis of 140 such studies involving 290 million people from 20 countries by the University of East Anglia in the U.K. confirmed that “spending time in, or living close to, natural green spaces is associated with diverse and significant health benefits,” including most of those listed above.


The Palos Preserves are renowned for its nesting, migrant, and overwintering bird life—nearly 300 species of birds have been seen in the woodlands and wetlands of the Palos region. The Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center offers bird walks and other programs and information about birds and wildlife.  For more information about birding visit the Chicago Audubon Society


Camp Bullfrog Lake offers year-round camping, group activities and water-based recreation such as canoe rentals and fishing.

Canoe and Kayak

There are several options for renting canoes and kayaks in the Palos Forest Preserves: REI maintains a boathouse at Saganashkee Slough; you can rent at Maple Lake; or you can take boats out on Tampier Slough.  

Hiking and Walking

The Palos Forest Preserves are home to over 50 miles of trails for all purposes, especially hiking and walking. The network of trails provides a number of length and difficulty options for trail users, along with the opportunity to visit several sloughs (shallow lakes). Check out a complete trail map of the Palos system here.

Horseback Riding

The Palos Preserves has many unpaved trail loops available for horseback riding. Horse trailer parking is available at Country Lane Woods, Dan McMahon Woods, Camp Kiwanis Equestrian Staging Area and Hidden Pond Woods-East.

Mountain Biking

There 40 miles of mountain bike trails in the Palos Preserves. The official staging area for mountain biking is at Pulaski Woods South, though Wolf Road Woods links to a number of trails as well. Mountain bikers must stay on designated trails to protect the plants and animals that live throughout the preserves.

Creative Guides to Experience Nature

Download our easy-to-use guides for exercises for all ages in how to create a nature journal, use sound maps, drawing challenges, how to make a nature slide show, and how to use all four senses to experience the wonder of nature that is all around you at Crooked Creek and in the Palos region.