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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
- Distance: 5.3
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Location: 41.5350331, -88.0199075
In the spring, wildflowers bloom in this section of the Green Trail.
Location: 41.5365549, -88.019489
An intermittent stream runs alongside the trail at the bottom of this ravine.
Location: 41.5328686, -88.0161953
One of the many seasonal streams that flow through the bottomland woods in the eastern half of Pilcher Park.
Location: 41.532973, -88.0221391
A statue outside the nature center commemorates the man who donated this property to the city of Joliet.