Top 7 Outdoor Winter Activities in the Chain O’Lakes

Check Out This List of Winter Favorites from Seawalls Unlimited!

The Chain O’Lakes is already always a kind of paradise for any nature-lover, but when temperatures drop and snow starts to fall, that’s when it really becomes a winter wonderland for the local outdoorsmen. This system of 15 lakes in Northern Illinois is home to numerous state parks and recreational areas, as well as a local culture that takes full advantage of them. Seawalls Unlimited calls the Chain O’Lakes our home, too, so let us show you some of our favorite outdoor winter activities you can try here this winter!

1. Exploring Chain O’Lakes State Park

This sprawling park has so much to do in winter that you could spend the whole season here and never get bored. Cross-country skiing, ice skating, sledding, hunting, and more—all are available here. The park borders three natural lakes, ensuring there are plenty of beautiful views and winter sports.

However, Chain O’Lakes State Park is far from being the end-all, be-all for wintertime outdoor activities in the region. Let’s take a look at a handful of winter sports and all the places you can find them throughout the Chain this winter.

2. Ice Fishing

If you miss those long days of fishing in the summer, then why not try ice fishing? There are ice fishing spots available on lakes throughout the region when the ice is thick enough for it, Chain O’Lakes State Park included.

There’s also something that may add an element of competition to the sport, if that’s what you’re looking for: the Annual Ice Fishing Derby and Winter Festival held on Channel Lake near Antioch. In February of 2018 the competition will enter its 58th year, already the longest-running outdoor event in Illinois. The derby also features raffles, auctions, and other events, and raises money for the Northern Illinois Conservation Society. Participants are welcome to fish from boats, piers, or however else they want—this past year, the ice wasn’t thick enough to go out on the lake, but they still fished from piers where the ice was thicker!

Just be sure to check the conditions before you go out, so you can stay safe on the ice!

3. Snowshoeing and Cross-Country Skiing

Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are great ways to experience natural winter landscapes at a reasonable pace. Lake County alone boasts more than 166 total miles of cross-country skiing trails in its forest preserves. Good locations for these sports include:

  • Raven Glen Forest Preserve in Antioch—Half-mile woodland trail for hiking, two-mile gravel trail for cross-country skiing.
  • Volo Bog State Natural Area in Ingleside—The Tamarack View Trail here is almost three miles long and offers a more tranquil experience, since skiing and snowshoeing are the only permitted winter sports.
  • Old School Forest Preserve in Libertyville—This forest preserve has designated cross-country skiing trail lit by solar lighting each day.
  • Van Patten Woods in Wadsworth—This park features five full miles of trails for cross-country skiing.

4. Sledding and Tobogganing

Anyone that went sledding as a kid knows it’s one of the most exciting thrills winter has to offer. Fortunately, it’s still something adults can enjoy, too, especially with family. Here are some good spots to take your sled or toboggan:

  • Warren Township Sled Hills—Toboggans and snowboards aren’t allowed, but the big lighted hill is great for sleds. There are also bunny hills for sleds and saucers if you’re there with kids!
  • Caboose Park Sled Hill in Lake Villa—Sled and toboggan hills here are open and lit daily when the weather is right for it.
  • Old School Forest Preserve in Libertyville—This location has sledding areas but toboggans, metal runners, and snowboards aren’t allowed.
  • Wadsworth Sled Hill—This hill allows sledding when there’s enough snow, but sledding down the back side of the hill isn’t allowed.

5. Ice Skating and Hockey

If you’ve never tried ice skating, this year’s the perfect time to give it a try. It’s easier than it looks—if you’ve used roller blades, it should come pretty easily!

Here are a few of the cities throughout the Chain O’Lakes that have spots for ice skating:

  • Grayslake—There are many spots throughout the Grayslake Park District for ice skating, including Gray’s Lake itself as well as Chesapeake Landing, Molly’s Pond, and Cambridge park. Some have designated areas for hockey, too.
  • Gurnee—Parks with rinks for skating and/or hockey include University Park, Esper Petersen Park, Betty Russell Park, and Christine Thompson Park.
  • Libertyville—Independence Grove Forest Preserve features an ice rink that allows ice skating but not hockey.
  • Lindenhurst—Oak Ridge Park, Millennium Park, and John Janega Memorial Park all have designated areas for ice skating when the conditions are right.
  • Mundelein—Keith Mione Community Park has a lighted rink for ice skating and hockey games. There are even scheduled hockey games, during which the rink is closed for public skating.
  • Waukegan—Belvidere Park Ice Rink, Victory Park, and Arbor Park all have outdoor ice rinks for skating.

6. Snowmobiling

Snowmobiles are a popular fun way of getting around the Chain O’Lakes in the winter. Riders cruise over the ice near the shores of Fox Lake, across Grass Lake, and throughout Chain O’Lakes State Park.

It’s so popular, in fact, that there have been a handful of snowmobile accidents the past few years where people have lost control of their snowmobiles. If you’re planning to go out and ride your snowmobile, make sure to phone ahead to the park district and ask about the conditions, and always stay aware of shifting ice and snow conditions.

7. Winter Hunting

If hunting is more your kind of sport, then winter provides plenty of options. In Chain O’Lakes State Park alone, there are hunting seasons in November and December for deer and turkey archery hunting, controlled pheasant hunting, and firearm deer hunting. Just check the dates and requirements, get the necessary permits and equipment, and plan your next wintertime hunting trip.

Seawalls Unlimited Supports the Preservation of Our Waterways

As you can see, the Chain O’Lakes is a gift to everyone living in the region. That’s why Seawalls Unlimited considers the preservation of our waterways extremely important. Without careful attention, the lakes and rivers in the Chain O’Lakes would degrade and our children wouldn’t be able to get the same enjoyment out of them that we do.

Part of that preservation is the use of seawalls. Residents and other property owners along the Chain’s waterways use seawalls to provide beach protection and shield shorelines from erosion. Seawalls Unlimited has been installing and servicing seawalls in the Chain O’Lakes for many years—call us at (815) 331-8830 today, and help us preserve this natural paradise for generations to come!