52 Hike Challenge – Hike 12 – Oldfield Oaks Forest Preserve

It’s so easy to miss nature in our everyday urban/suburban environment. While staying with a friend in Northern Illinois I wanted to get in a few hikes. I was shocked to learn that her house is near many DuPage County Forest Preserve sites. I’ve visitied this friend dozens of times and had no idea! For my 52 Hike Challenge Hike 12 I decided to visit Oldfield Oaks. The best part was I didn’t even have to drive. Oldfield Oaks is just a mile from where I was staying, turning this into a 3.7 mile hike.

Oldfield Oaks has two trails: North Loop (1.1 miles) and South Loop (0.6 mile). I hiked both, making a large loop around the Preserve. The trails are wonderfully wide, flat and covered in crushed limestone. You get a lot of bang for your mile here, passing through mature oak woodland, restored prairie and natural wetland.

All of the variety makes for great wildlife viewing. I was lucky to see quite a few critters on my hike. One that really caught my eye was the American Goldfinch.

These birds are hard to miss due to their bright yellow coloring, but hard to capture in a picture since I didn’t have my DSLR with me. I was lucky to be crossing the only footbridge on the trail just as a pair of ducks was floating by. I love the coloring of Mallard ducks and it was fun to get such a close look at these two.

They stopped close by to preen (clean) themselves, and I got a quick video:

The highlight of my trip, though, was the 20 minutes I spent with two deer who were chomping their way through some yummy spring  leaves in the forest. I stayed silent and motionless, and while they definitely noticed (smelled) me, they didn’t run. I remained glued to my spot on the trail until they had moved on to deeper cover in the woods. It was a beautiful moment, connecting with nature.

You can see the “lead” deer here, munching away:

I loved playing some hide and seek with the following deer. I see you!

The rest of the hike back to the trailhead was quick, flat and quiet, except for the western-most part of the loop, where you get quite close to the road and hear a lot of traffic noise. I did stop when I noticed some nut shells on the ground. Once I got home I could easily identify the tree they came from by the pictures I took of the shells and the very distinctive bark of the Shagbark Hickory.

There are three log benches evenly dispersed along the trail to stop and rest, or to take a break to watch some of the many bird species in the Preserve. Many wildflowers were blooming throughout the Preserve, adding pops of yellow, white and purple to the landscape.

This trail is in an area with ticks, and bug spray is essential. I hiked on a cool but muggy May day and the trail was already buggy. I can only imagine this will get worse as the temperature rises. I was surprised at how many birds there were in this Preserve! If you’re a bird watcher I think you would love this trail.

This was one of my favorite trails this year and if I lived closer it would be a repeat. Have you been surprised by finding a great trail close to home? Tell me about it in the comments!


  1. I loved the picture of the Goldfinch! We have lots of wildlife in Colorado, but I miss the colorful birds of the east coast!

    • Unfortunately I had to grab a stock close up photo of the Goldfinch, but I learned my lesson and took my DSLR out with me on my next hike. So many birds in this area, I was really surprised! I’m heading west soon and can’t wait to see more wildlife! Surprise animal encounters are my favorite part of hiking.

  2. My husband & I are on the 52 Hike Challenge (up to hike 35!) and live in the Northern Illinois region. One of our hikes recently was at Waterfall Glen, which was nearby this location.

    • Wow, congrats on your progress! I really love the challenge and hope you do, too. Is this your first year participating? I won’t get to Waterfall Glen this trip, but it looks like a great place to hike and I hope I can make it one of my 52 this year. I guess if not there’s always next year!

  3. This is our first year! I envy some of the hikes that other challengers are taking- the mountains are lovely, although there is beauty in nature everywhere. But our family is planning a trip to Shawnee Forest & Garden of the Gods later in the summer to wrap up our hikes.

    • I hiked Garden of the Gods and some other trails in Shawnee last summer in my pre-52 Hike Challenge days. Definitely a forgotten treasure in Illinois and worth the trip. Hope you share some of your adventures. I love the idea of special wrap up hikes. Might have to do some planning for that! I have been lucky to hike in Yosemite this year and have many more National Parks planned, but sometimes the flat, wooded/prairie trails of the Midwest are just what you need. I’ve been working through a knee injury that shut me down in the mountains but is nonexistent here. I’m grateful to be here at this time so I can keep hiking. I make a point to actively appreciate the nature all around me every day, and Northern Illinois certainly has its fair share of beautiful places!!

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