Winter is a wonderful time to explore the great outdoors!
Winter hikes can be just as fun as warm-weather ones. All it takes is a little creativity and a lot of warm layers (and maybe a thermos of hot cocoa, too!). So, don’t hang up your hiking boots when the first snowflakes fall — take your family on a snow-tastic outdoor adventure instead!
Activities and Gear Rental
Ice Skating, Tubing, and Snowboarding
If you have your own skates, bring them to the Nicholas Conservatory Eclipse Lagoon or the Rockton Ice Rink (located on E. Main Street, just east of Settler’s Park) when the temperatures are cold enough. No gear? That is no problem at Snow Park at Alpine Hills, where you can enjoy ice skating, tubing, and snow boarding!
Cross-Country Skiing, Snow Shoeing, and Mountain Biking
Atwood Center offers rental for cross-country skis, snow shoes, and mountain bikes! Head to their website or call (815) 966-8747 for details.
For those who would like some instruction before setting off into the winter terrain, Rocktown Adventures in Rockford offers instruction, rental, and guided group outings utilizing cross-country skis and snowshoes. Visit their website for pricing and reservation details.
Rock Cut State Park has fifteen miles of groomed cross-country trails that wind through rolling terrain in scenic woods and prairies. Both skis and snow shoes can be rented at the Rock Cut Concession Stand, however rentals have been temporarily suspended due to COVID-19. Call the concession stand at 815-885-4740 for updated rental information, or follow their Facebook page.
Snowmobiling is an exciting and popular winter pastime and is allowed in five of the forest preserves. Pecatonica Wetlands, Pecatonica River, Four Lakes, Sugar River and Seward Bluffs are available for snowmobiling. Snowmobiles are allowed on designated trails only when four inches of snow cover is on 80% of the designated trail. Snowmobiling is not allowed at other forest preserves and is at the operator’s own risk. Find snowmobile trail maps here.
Winter Hours and Access
Forest Preserves of Winnebago County
All preserves are open to foot traffic throughout the season for walking, hiking, cross-country skiing and show shoeing, from sunrise to a half hour after sunset. FPWC welcomes walk-in traffic at all preserves, but please do not block gates when parking. In an effort to reduce snow plowing expenses, some preserve gates are locked during winter months. Check winnebagoforest.org for access information for all preserves.
Rock Cut State Park- Winter Hours
Between November and April, Rock Cut State Park is open from 8am-5pm.
Klehm Arboretum and Botanic Garden
In winter months, Klehm grounds and Visitor’s Center are open Monday-Saturday 9am-4pm. The entrance gate closes at 3:30pm.
Nature at the Confluence
The Nature Center building is closed November-March but the site is open for outdoor public exploration at all daylight hours.
Video: If you are new to hiking in the winter, or want to spend more time in nature this season, Shelley from Atwood shares advice and hacks to maximize safety and comfort on your next outdoor adventure!