Where in Cary can you go where there are no cars, not many people, and nature at its finest? Do you like to walk through a heavily wooded forest, across a wildflower prairie, or around a lake where all you will hear is the singing of birds? How about a paved path where you can push a stroller, yet still be away from busy streets and other people? Do you like to see yellow marigolds, purple coneflowers, grey squirrels, deer, chipmunks, and red-winged blackbirds? You can find all this, and more at the following places, all in my hometown of Cary.
1. The Hollows Conservation Area, 3804 Northwest High (Rt 14)
MODERATE: Either of the two loops originating in the main parking area are hilly with roots, stones and gravel, and occasional mud, but are both beautiful walks. (1.2 and 1.8 miles)
What you might see in the Hollows: Butterflies, birds, deer, dense vegetation, many lakes, great blue herons, geese, ducks.
2. Fel-Pro RRR Conservation Area, Main Entrance, 1520 Crystal Lake Rd.
Paved 2.2 mile path that is EASY walking, surrounded by open fields, woodsy areas, picnic areas, a Frisbee disc golf course, and a fishing lake a short walk from the path. The paved trails are more out in the open than other sites (if you are worried about mosquitos).
What you will see here: birds, the RRR sculpture, a picturesque set of ponds with waterfall and bridge.
Note: this area may be closed certain weekday hours in the summer for Cary Park District day camp.
3. Fel-Pro RRR Conservation Area, West Entrance 1900 Crystal Lake Rd.
EASY paved .32 mile loop around a field of colorful wildflowers. Dirt paths connect the two Fel-Pro sites for those wanting longer walks.
What you will see here: and an open field with native wildflowers, the occasional deer, and a rock abacus.
You can also park here, cross the road and follow the paved path down the hill to Rawson Bridge Road, 1 mile down, 1 mile back. Path continues in the other direction to the Junior High & Deer Path Elementary school for another .4 miles.
4. Hickory Grove Highlands, 500 Hickory Nut Grove Lane
For more miles park at the right most parking lot and add the grassy horse trail loop which takes you through tall grass on mowed paths.
5. Hickory Grove Riverfront: Across the street from the Highlands.
Approx. 1 mile of loops. Near the Fox River. Easy walking, dirt trails, some mowed grass paths in the open prairie.
What you’ll see here: a sleepy inlet off the river with fisherman asleep in chairs, a view of a bridge crossing the Fox River bridge in Island Lake.
6. Lyons Prairie & Marsh 7000 Hickory Nut Grove Road
Two trails, 1.4 mile and .82 mile loops. A trail through the woods connects with a mowed path that leads to a marshy area off the Fox River for fishing.
What you might see here: cattails, deer, dense vegetation in the woods leading to an open prairie with view of the Fox River.
One mile and .3 mile short loop with a long wooden bridge/path. Shorter walk, and you can hear traffic on nearby Rawson Bridge Rd. Not my favorite, but a nice quick walk, and kids might enjoy the wooden walkway.
Note: Lyons Prairie, Hickory Grove Highlands, and Hickory Nut Grove Riverfront, and Silver Creek are all connected by trails, although it would take a really long time to walk them all.
8. Fox Bluff, Cold Springs Road
The 0.5 mile path from the parking area up to a water tower where Fox Trails Ski Resort and Harry Hopes (a popular music venue in the 1970’s) once stood is currently under construction. There is a mowed .25 loop, pictured above.
Or park in the lot and walk up Cold Springs Road (shaded by tall trees on either side of the road, below) to Cary Algonquin Road (.5 mile).
There is also a paved .25 mile trail off the parking area to a picnic table and grassy area by the Fox River.
What to see here: More trees and birds, or sit and rest awhile and watch Fox River flow by.
Below: Cold Springs Road
9. Cary Park District Dog Park on West Main Street in Greenfields subdivision
Walk South to connect with the paved path on Cary Algonquin Road (.75 mile), or keep turning right to get to Fox Trails subdivision (1.25 miles).
Follow West Main Street to Cary Algonquin Road and turn right onto the bike path to Fox Trails subdivision, 4 miles if you go all the way to Fox Trails and then back.
Or go northwest from the dog park area to find a lake with lily pads, cattails and ducks, plus a dock you can walk on for better viewing (.3 mile). Easy paths for walking or biking.
What you’ll see here: Happy dogs romping in the fenced off dog park, community garden plots, a windmill, prairie plants, cornfields, informational signs near the entrance to the dog park, many varieties of native prairie wildflowers. (Different selection of flowers every time you go!)
10. Power Lines Path, 3 Oaks Rd between the high school and library to the Junior High.
Park near the high school or library and follow the path along Three Oaks Road to the power lines which go towards the junior high school on Crystal Lake Avenue.
What you’ll experience here: wildflowers, cornfields, solitude.
You don’t need to go very far to enjoy the beauty of our area. Why not get out and take a walk today?
Sites open sunrise to sunset, maintained and policed by the McHenry County Conservation District and Cary Park District. May need bug spray in summer months. Most sites have bags to clean up after pets, periodic benches, and restrooms. Some areas open to cross country skiing in the winter.
For more information including maps: http://www.carypark.com/rccms/trail-system/