Illinois’s Most Stunning Forest Preserve

Photos by Kim Karpeles

Independence Grove Forest Preserve is a nature lover’s paradise. Located just off of 94 West in Libertyville, the forest preserve packages all of nature’s best into one stunning location. Lush prairies? Check. Lake? Check. Trails, beach, and woodlands? Triple check. This is no typical forest preserve, folks. Once an old quarry, it has been transformed into an immaculate natural palace. Whatever your passion–jogging, hiking, biking, in-line skating, fishing, swimming, boating, picnicking, or just laying lazily in the sun–Independence Grove is the perfect place for you.

The forest preserve offers paved and gravel trails along pristine prairie, lake, and woodlands. You’ll be blown away by the breathtaking views. Keep an eye out for a variety of wildlife like owls, beavers, and deer. While Independence Grove is small enough that you can see it in its entirety from many different points, make sure to keep your map handy. The trails twist and turn and connect to the Des Plaines River Trail. If you keep on walking without paying attention, you might end up walking right out of the preserve! Not that that’s happened to me, of course.

At the marina in the South Bay, you can rent canoes, paddle boats, kayaks, fishing boats, and bikes. Recreational fishing enthusiasts can catch everything from northern pike to large-mouth bass in the 115-acre lake. Fishing is catch-and-release, so don’t be throwing that fish in a cooler. Take a dip or work on your tan at the beach, which has a nearby beach house with showers and lockers. Across the way in the North Bay, a sand volleyball court awaits you as does a playing field.

Picnic tables and grills are sprinkled throughout the preserve. Want something a bit more secluded? Check out the picnic tables in the woodlands. If picnicking isn’t your thing, grab some food at the cafe in the Visitors Center. The Visitors Center has panoramic views of the preserve and is perfect for weddings and banquets. It also contains great interactive exhibits about the preserve. Before you leave, stop by Millennia Plaza. With its gazebos, fountain and native garden, Millennia Plaza is a gorgeous spot for winding down. Free summer concerts are held at the plaza’s amphitheater every Tuesday starting June 15th.

Independence Grove Forest Preserve is by far my favorite forest preserve. It’s the perfect time to check it out!

Logistics: The preserve is open from 6:30 to one hour before sunset. The marina is currently open only on the weekends for boating. On May 29th, the marina and cafe open daily. Beach opens June 13th. Non-residents pay $5/car during the week and $10 on the weekend. For upcoming events, educational programs, rental fees, and beach passes, see

Independence Grove Forest Preserve
16400 W Buckley Rd
Libertyville, IL 60048

6 thoughts on “Illinois’s Most Stunning Forest Preserve

  1. Hey Terry,

    Libertyville is about 50 minutes north of Chicago, before Gurnee on the Edens (94W). Independence Grove is awesome; hope you enjoy it! 🙂

  2. Hey Terry,

    Libertyville is about 50 minutes north of Chicago, before Gurnee on the Edens (94W). Independence Grove is awesome; hope you enjoy it! 🙂

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