Waterfall Glen is a forest preserve in Dupage County near the town of Darien, Illinois. The area is more famous or infamous for the Argonne Laboratory. Enrico Fermi created the world’s first self-sustaining nuclear reaction underneath the University of Chicago’s Stagg Football field in 1942. The experiments were deemed too dangerous and they were moved to this south suburban Chicago location and the lab was renamed from the surrounding forest.
The Argonne Laboratory still exists and now there is a peaceful almost ten mile hiking and biking trail that loops around the facility. Despite some not so pretty views of the lab, power stations, and railroad tracks, there are more than enough pretty views to offset the ugly manmade structures.
The gravel path goes through hardwood forest, open savanna, wetlands, and even a waterfall to boot. I have hiked all around the Chicago area and as far as I know, this is the closest waterfall to the city. Before hiking this trail, the closest waterfall I have come across in Illinois was at Matthiessen State Park or Starved Rock. If there is one I am missing, please let me know in the comment section below.
Related: Matthiessen State Park Dells Area
The waterfall is found about three miles from the Lemont Road entrance. This is a perfect place to park and have a nice six mile hike to a waterfall and back. For those who think six miles is too much, parking spots abound all around the 9.6 mile loop, so just click here and check out this map to find a parking area closer to the waterfall that suits your adventure comfort level.
What really impressed me about the forest preserve besides the nice almost ten mile loop trail and the waterfall is the amount of pine trees. There are times during the loop you feel you are in a Wisconsin northwoods pine forest only to hear the roar of I-55 and remember you are in Illinois. According to one source, in 1953, one million pine trees were planted by Argonne employees.
The amount of activities one can do along the trail is endless. There is fishing, hiking, biking, bird-watching, waterfall viewing, running, orienteering, and you can even take your model airplane out for a spin. In the winter, you can add cross-country skiing to the list as the ten mile loop makes an ideal skiing adventure, if we ever get snow again.
The wildlife is pretty impressive for a Chicago forest preserve as well. I have seen deer, coyote, red-tailed hawks, wood ducks, and great blue herons to name just a small array of the bird and wildlife species that can be seen here.
Waterfall Glen could be the best forest preserve in the Chicagoland area. It definitely is the only one I know of that has a waterfall.
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