With more than 3,400 species of trees and plants, the Morton Arboretum is a living museum, a local treasure, and a worthwhile destination west of Chicago. This easy, 1.6-mile walk through the East Woods is a great way to end your trip, or to experience the slightly wilder side of the manicured grounds.
Beginning at the Big Rock Visitor Station, head north on the Heritage Trail. Bear right twice within the first hundred yards and hike west on the Woodland Trail. The trail cruises a well-drained but moist canopy and passes several interpretive signs. Less than a quarter mile from the visitor station, turn north and begin a rolling stroll past common natives such as ironwood, oak, sugar maple, and white ash before turning downhill as the trail curves west.
At mile 0.6 a glacier-deposited hunk of granite—Big Rock—marks a 3-way junction. Stay straight on the trail to continue east past an old field that is vibrant with wildflowers in spring. Near its end, the trail loops across the park road and continues south toward the trailhead.
Note: Entrance fee required. Consider the arboretum as a winter destination as well. The trails are open to cross-country skiers and snowshoers when snow covers the trails.
-Mapped by Ted Villaire
- Distance: 2.6
Location: 41.818832, -88.047255
Pick up the wood-chip trail at the backside of the Big Rock Visitor Station and bear right at two successive trail junctions. This route follows the southern half of the Woodland Trail, which traces a small stream flowing through a shallow ravine on the right.
Location: 41.821534, -88.045152
Pass under occasional enormous white oaks (Illinois’ state tree) as the trail rolls through dense woodland. Stay right at this junction to follow the Shortcut Trail as it turns west and gradually descends.
Location: 41.823765, -88.048038
About 0.6 mile from the trailhead you’ll skirt a big rock, a granite car-sized boulder dropped near here by a glacier 14,000 years ago. Farmers utilizing the adjoining field moved the rock to its present location about 100 years ago. Bypass the left-leading trail just before the rock and proceed toward a big open prairie fringed by oaks and birch stands.
Location: 41.823713, -88.052958
The Heritage Trail crosses the park road twice on its western half. Though the crossings are well marked and road traffic is light, look both ways before crossing here at mile 0.9 and again in about 0.3 mile.
Location: 41.820263, -88.048291
Stay right at the next two junctions to return to the Big Rock Visitor Station on the wide path.
Location: 41.81869, -88.046644
This map kiosk will orient you as you head out on the trail.
Location: 41.818832, -88.04718
The trails are well marked and easy to follow.
Location: 41.81932, -88.045217
Interpretive signs dot the Woodland Trail.
Location: 41.821095, -88.044541
One of the many species you’ll likely encounter on this short hike.
Location: 41.823941, -88.047481
Approaching the namesake of this part of the arboretum, Big Rock.
Location: 41.823709, -88.052877
Though the arboretum’s roads are quiet, use caution at this road crossing and a second one crossing back about 0.3 mile ahead.