COVID-19 and the measures taken to prevent its spread have had a profound effect on our lives. For those who love to be active, the closing of gyms and parks has been one of the most significant blows. Still, there are some outdoor spaces open to the public, and as long as you practice good social distancing habits, they are some of the best ways to spend your time.

“Healthy people and healthy communities are at the heart of The Conservation Foundation’s mission. We will explore rescheduling options when we see how this all unfolds. We urge you to get outside during this time of isolation, following social distancing and Shelter In Place guidelines. Wishing you good health and good spirits—we’re all in this together!”
The Conservation Foundation

One spot still available to me is the Dayton Bluffs Forest Preserve near my hometown of Ottawa, IL. The site is brought to us by The Conservation Foundation, which is responsible for many the great nature preserves in the Will and DuPage area, but also the surrounding counties. Dayton Bluffs is a smaller preserve, but it’s within a few minutes drive from me and has some interesting sights. It has a beautiful view of the Fox River and is not far from where it intersects with the I and M Canal. I consider it the next best thing to Starved Rock.

Here’s a map and handout for the preserve if you decide to visit Dayton Bluffs. I took advantage of one nice day after a week of overcast and rain to have this little adventure. I arrived around noon and was surprised to see so many people here, mostly families and dogs.

The shack they keep all the groundskeeping stuff in, along with a bench. If you are following along on the map, I took a left from here (and got lost after that).

Trails were muddy in some spots, but it got better once I hit the decline.

This is where the trails really start to get interesting. The only trail markers are posts and small red bands tried around some of the trees (which tend to come off). This is where I got lost. The other side of the clearing is the Fox River, so I’m surprised they put a bench out this far, but it would be a great place for a picnic or to fish.

I doubled back, went down another trail and found my favorite view from within the woods.

I finally found my way to the main river walk. The other side is residential land, so I tried to keep my shots along the trail.

This part was the most fun I had all day. The trail could use some upkeep, but I had fun working through the hard parts. This definitely was not stroller-friendly terrain.

Finally hit the end, but the climb back up destroyed my legs. This path eventually leads back to the field and the parking lot, I just had to focus on not slipping.

This was most of the place, but there were a few side trails I can save for another day. I hope you enjoyed this walkthrough, it was great to have an excuse to stretch my legs and take a closer look at one of the many wonderful preserves in our region. Try to take advantage of the preserves in your area, and don’t let isolation mean unproductive. Stay active and stay healthy.