Chicago, IL: Pilcher Park

Look for the hidden surprises--wildflowers, turtles, a mineral-rich well, and even a historic greenhouse--on this family-friendly, 3.3-mile loop around Pilcher Park.
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Look for the hidden surprises--wildflowers, turtles, a mineral-rich well, and even a historic greenhouse--on this family-friendly, 3.3-mile loop around Pilcher Park.

Pilcher Park packs a lot into just 640 acres on Joliet's eastern outskirts: upland forest, bottomland woods, wetlands, streams, and some interesting history. This hike begins on the park's west side and climbs 80 feet to a wooded bluff for a half-mile ramble through dense woods. Near mile 1.4, you'll skirt the park road and turn east toward the first of two historic landmarks: a still-used 200-foot well with a mystical mineral legend. Follow the Red Trail 0.4 mile to the second landmark: an impressive Renaissance-style greenhouse. The last mile of trail heads west across bottomland forest and several intermittent streams before reaching the creek just a few hundred yards south of the nature center.
Note: This relatively easy hike has plenty of bail-out options and is a good choice for families, but allow extra time if you're hiking with kids: they'll want to check out the turtle pond inside the nature center, as well as several fish-filled aquariums, live snakes, and birds of prey.
-Mapped by Ted Villaire

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 5.3

Waypoints

PIL001

Location: 41.532953, -88.0223107

Start the hike at the totem pole in front of the log-cabin-style nature center. Follow the green trail on the west side of the parking lot and turn right immediately to cross a footbridge.

PIL002

Location: 41.5347078, -88.0206156

Cross Pilcher Park Road and then climb the 80-foot bluff on the Green Trail. In springtime, the bluff is rife with wildflowers; look for trilliums and may apples.

PIL003

Location: 41.5370448, -88.0201328

Stay right at the 3-way junction near the bluff-top. The bluff drops down on the right into a deep, wooded ravine.

PIL004

Location: 41.5380647, -88.0220854

Turn right at 3-way junction onto the Purple Trail (also known as the Outer Loop Trail). Just ahead, keep straight at the 4-way junction bypassing the Yellow Trail.

PIL005

Location: 41.5387714, -88.0155408

Take a break on the bench overlooking another pristine, wooded ravine. Given all the development in the area, you may be surprised by the remote feel of this densely wooded corner of the park.

PIL006

Location: 41.5366834, -88.0158198

Stay left at this 3-way junction to descend the bluff through the oak forest and return to the Hickory Creek floodplain.

PIL007

Location: 41.5331578, -88.0166781

Follow the park road briefly to a marked trail on the left. Cross a footbridge and pass into a lush bottomland forest.

PIL008

Location: 41.5323105, -88.0107193

Cross Flowing Well Road to a picnic area and, if necessary, fill up your water bottles from the well. Head toward the greenhouse by keeping left and joining the paved Red Trail (the Pilcher Interpretive Trail).

PIL009

Location: 41.5289131, -88.0062497

At mile 2.2, the southeast corner of this loop lands at the Bird Haven Greenhouse. The Renaissance-style building houses an impressive floral collection. Behind the greenhouse, backtrack on the Pink Trail (Hummingbird Lane) heading west toward the nature center.

PIL010

Location: 41.5300217, -88.009407

Skirt a small pond and a marshy area on the left and stay straight at this 3-way junction. Up ahead, the trail crosses the park road and a small footbridge.

PIL011

Location: 41.5294914, -88.0152359

Look for wildflowers as you continue through the bottomland forest and keep straight at the 3-way trail junction up ahead. A couple of wooden footbridges pass over rocky streams flowing toward Hickory Creek.

PIL012

Location: 41.5312383, -88.0208194

Turn left onto the Blue Trail (Hickory Creek Trail) where you'll likely see hopeful anglers. Stay right at two successive junctions to head back to the nature center.

Green Trail

Location: 41.5350331, -88.0199075

In the spring, wildflowers bloom in this section of the Green Trail.

Ravine

Location: 41.5365549, -88.019489

An intermittent stream runs alongside the trail at the bottom of this ravine.

Stream

Location: 41.5328686, -88.0161953

One of the many seasonal streams that flow through the bottomland woods in the eastern half of Pilcher Park.

Robert Pilcher

Location: 41.532973, -88.0221391

A statue outside the nature center commemorates the man who donated this property to the city of Joliet.