Babbling Brook: Mother’s Day Hike in McHenry County

To no surprise, my wife wanted to visit a new place and hike on Mother’s Day.  Although we usually head south or west from our home near Plano to explore new places, we decided to do something different and headed north on Rt 23 into McHenry County to Marengo Ridge Conservation Area, owned by the McHenry County Conservation District.  It’s located just a little north of the town of Marengo.

Marengo Ridge is one of the more popular natural areas to hike up there.  It contains 818 acres of oak and hickory woodlands interspersed with spruce, aspen and sumac groves.  The ridge is actually a glacial deposit, created about 24,000 years ago by the Wisconsin glacier, is 40 miles long and three miles wide, and is one of the steeper moraines in Illinois.  Up on top of the ridge, you can see for miles!

The 5 miles of trails meander through woodlands and restored prairies, and up and down the rolling glacial landscape; that’s typical topography on top of a glacial ridge.  I am told the campground there is excellent and they have plenty of picnic areas, as well.

We hiked the Long Hiking Loop Trail and also the Kelly Hertel Nature Trail.  It was a really warm, nice sunny day and the wildflowers in the woods were spectacular.  You could tell they just did a recent late woodland burn as the ground had a scorched look, but the wildflowers really looked great.  There were some of my favorites that we don’t always see such as yellow bellwort and nodding white trillium.  The red trilliums were everywhere. I saw a Louisiana Water Thrush (a type of warbler) along a small creek, which was a good find. It was also nice to see many families hiking with moms.

What we do at The Conservation Foundation, and what many others are doing as well, is preserving land that helps keep our water and air clean, protects wildlife habitat, and creates places for you to enjoy the natural health benefits of being outside.  Land conservation also helps mitigate the negative impacts of climate change- something we have been doing for nearly 50 years!

One reason I write this Blog is to encourage you to seek out new places to explore.  We have so many spectacular parks, forest preserves and conservation areas in Northeastern Illinois. I know it’s not easy to always find the time for a day trip, or even a half-day trip, but if you can carve some nature time into your busy schedules, you’ll discover the many beautiful and unusual places that our land conservation efforts have set aside for you, your family, and future generations.


  “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods


Written by Brook McDonald, President/CEO


Click for directions and more information about Marengo Ridge Conservation Area

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