Van Patten Woods was Lake County’s first forest preserve, created in 1961. The key natural feature here is the river and its adjacent floodplain, which serve as a refuge to many native species while providing flood control to Lake County residents. On higher ground to the river’s east, you can relax among native oak woodlands and planted pine groves. To the west, natural areas are being restored where the former gravel quarry had severely altered the land. A rustic campground that can be reserved for organized youth groups of up to 60 is located on the preserve’s northern end
Five miles of trails are open for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and cross-country skiing. Please keep dogs leashed and on trails at all times, and pick up after them.
The Des Plaines River Trail bisects the preserve and is also open to horseback riding and snowmobilers. It’s accessible from the preserve trails or from the trailhead at the preserve’s second entrance on the south side of Russell Road. Sterling Lake boasts a public launch for car-top boats: canoes, kayaks, or small watercraft. Launching is free and at your own risk. You’ll need approved floatation gear and your boat must be properly registered with the State of Illinois. Trailers are permitted but parking is limited tot he grass overflow lot.