Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · Spring · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Preserves are open daily from 6:30 am to sunset.
Need to Know
The entrance is on Grass Lake Road, just west of Route 45 and east of Route 83.
Behold the gentle, rolling grassy terrain of this scenic preserve. The dips and rises here were formed by the advance and retreat of immense ice chunks during the last Ice Age. When the weather warmed, grasslands dominated. In autumn, big bluestem and switchgrass turn amber brown and yellow, swaying to the music of the wind.
McDonald Woods is a perfect place to hike, bike and cross-country ski. Trails here connect to the Millennium Trail and other community hiking and biking paths. A 3.8-mile gravel loop trail winds around the woods and wetlands. A 0.3-mile woodchip trail is open for hiking and cross-country skiing and leads to a basswood and sugar maple forest, glowing yellow in autumn.
Please keep dogs leashed and on trails at all times, and pick up after them.
Acquired in the 1970s, the preserve was named after its owner A. B. McDonald. He created a private nature preserve on roughly 295 acres in the 1940s, building three lakes and planting a pine grove and other trees. These habitats, along with the grasslands, provide homes for wildflowers and food, cover for birds and mammals, and respite for humans.
The grasslands, once fallow fields, have been restored. Now in summer and fall, the grasslands teem with native prairie plants including gray-headed coneflowers and the lavender-hued wild bergamot, called bee balm because it attracts hungry bees. The Forest Preserve also restored the three lakes into a series of wetlands, which provide food and resting spots for myriad ducks in fall and spring.
Flora & Fauna
An evergreen woods provides roosting places for chickadees and cardinals as well as birds of prey including Cooper's hawk. Pine siskins, which pluck seeds from cones, occasionally spend the winters here. Dark-eyed juncos hop on the snowy forest floor snatching seeds fallen from trees and shrubs.
In spring and summer, listen for the rollicking sounds of bobolinks and the spring-of-the-year song of the eastern meadowlark as these grassland birds prepare for another breeding season.
Shared By: Lake County Forest Preserves