Kids Explore Nature at Hickory Knolls

Are you looking for a family outdoor adventure that’s totally different, educational and loads of fun? Hickory Knolls Natural Area in St. Charles is open daily all year, from dawn to dusk.

The St. Charles Park District has found a unique way to celebrate this hidden gem. Walking trails have an original walk-and-read children’s tale that shares the history of the land and the many animals that live in and around this scenic open space.

“Hickory Knolls: A History of Our Home” follows Harley the hawk and Greta the grasshopper as they journey through the natural area. Along the way, Harley teaches Greta about efforts to preserve this special land they call home.

“Kids will learn and pick up fun facts about the animals, plants and land,” says Erika Young, marketing manager for the park district. “The walk-and-read story was inspired by Park Board Commissioner Bob Thomson. We took the idea and ran with it, and our St. Charles Park District marketing department created an entirely original story for Hickory Knolls.”

While reading the story, children may see characters come to life. They might hear frog calls while reading Spencer the spring peeper’s explanation of metamorphosis. Or, they might witness monarch butterflies fluttering through the prairie near Archery Woods, while learning about restoration efforts that help pollinators to thrive.

Creating this interactive experience was a way to bring attention to the beauty of the Hickory Knolls Natural Area and entice families to get outdoors. Designated as an Illinois Land & Water Reserve, this preserve stretches over 120 acres of prairies, woodlands, savannas, marshes and more. It’s a quiet, peaceful and uncrowded preserve with a 2-mile trail. The story walk is an estimated ¾ of a mile.

There are, indeed, many ways to celebrate the outdoors, breathe in the fresh air and unplug.

“The St. Charles Park District provides a myriad of fun and distinctive experiences to engage the community,” adds Young.

Hickory Knolls Natural Area is located at 3795 Campton Hills Road, in St. Charles. Learn more at