Perkins Woods

Evanston’s Only Forest Preserve

While reviewing satellite maps of the Chicago area to find off-the-beaten-path hikes, I noticed a little square patch of forest near an elementary school called Perkins Woods. A square block of continuous forest so close to home is rare in the city, so we added it to our list of places to check out.

Perkins Woods is the only Cook County Forest Preserve in Evanston, and is named after Dwight Perkins, who was instrumental in the founding of the Cook County Forest Preserve District. Perkins was a nationally known architect who designed over 200 buildings around Chicago. Additionally, his personal historic home, which he designed, is located just north of the preserve, at 2319 Lincoln Street.

Enjoying the tree canopy at Perkins Woods.

Trip Report

We had to run an errand in Evanston in the early evening, so we figured it was the perfect time to stop by Perkins Woods for a short hike. Although there is no official parking for the preserve, we were able to easily find a spot on Ewing Ave. Other streets nearby seemed to have parking rules. Perkins Woods is small, only about a square block, and has 5 short trails that meet in the middle to form an ‘X’. If you walk all five spokes of the trail, you can get in about 2/3 of a mile – not bad!

Map of Perkins Woods

During our stroll, we found a number of interesting plants including chokecherry, prickly-ash, fringed loosestrife, and mapleleaf viburnum. I snacked on some wild grapes and we finally found some ripe gooseberries! The preserve had many wildflowers, and apparently features elderberries, raspberries, and currants – though I didn’t find any myself. I can’t say that we saw any fauna, besides your typical squirrels and birds. There was a strong presence of poison ivy, and the woods were dotted with vernal ponds, so there seemed like little opportunity for off-trail exploration.

The forest felt secluded – we only saw one other couple during our hike. However, just when you feel like you’re alone in nature – there’s a chance you’ll hear some screaming children at the nearby playground. The crushed gravel trails were well-maintained, and the area has undergone significant restoration efforts over the past 30 years, with volunteers removing thousands of invasive buckthorn and honeysuckle trees.

If you’re coming from the city AND haven’t been to other preserves that are actually in the city, I wouldn’t prioritize visiting Perkins Woods. For this, I would recommend West Ridge Nature Preserve, North Park Village Nature Center, or LaBagh Woods.

Otherwise, if you want to escape the cityscape for a half-hour, Perkins Woods makes a fine stop for a short hike – and would be especially swell to visit regularly if you’re fortunate enough to live in the area.

Wildlife✶ ✶ ✶
Scenery✶ ✶ ✶ ✶
Isolation✶ ✶
Upkeep✶ ✶ ✶ ✶
Distance (from Chicago)33 miles

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