The Morton Arboretum welcomes visitors with disabilities and strives to create a safe, enjoyable, and engaging experience for all visitors. This page provides detailed information for navigating the Arboretum and includes information for visitors with accessibility concerns. To read our commitment to web accessibility, visit our Accessibility Statement.
Plan Your Visit
As an outdoor institution, the conditions of our paths and trails change daily with the weather. Please call Visitor Services at 630-968-0074 on the day of your visit to inquire about trail or garden closures, grounds maintenance, or prescribed burn activity. You can also stop by the Visitor Center (Parking Lot 1) when you arrive, and our Visitor Services staff will be happy to discuss path conditions, weather-related closures, and suggestions to help you plan your day.
Attendance is typically larger on Wednesdays, when we offer discounted admission, particularly when the weather is nice. We also tend to see large crowds for festivals and other special events.
On days with high visitation, we may direct traffic to outlying parking lots. If you have an accessible parking placard, make sure it is visible to our parking attendants when you arrive. (We recommend holding it out the driver’s side window to ensure it’s seen.) Guests are also welcome to use the drop-off circle in front of the Visitor Center. If you need direction to the drop-off circle, a Gatehouse Attendant or Parking Attendant will be happy to direct you.
For accessibility-related questions, please contact our Visitor Services team at 630-968-0074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visitors will find 33 parking lots along the roads winding through the Arboretum. These lots vary in size and surface. Parking Lot 1 (P1) and Parking Lot 21 (P21) are used the most.
Adjacent to the Visitor Center is Parking Lot 1. This parking lot is close to the Visitor Center, Plant Clinic, Ginkgo Restaurant, Arboretum Store, and Children's Garden. The distance from the furthest parking spot to the main entrance of the Visitor Center is one quarter of a mile. The nearest accessible trail is the Meadow Lake Path.
P1 is an environmentally friendly parking lot. As such, it is made up of interlocking pavers, which allow for water drainage, filtration, and (because of its drainage into Meadow Lake) natural water purification. Open spaces in the interlocking pavers are filled with gravel. For more information on P1, including a photo of the pavers, and how it sustains a better environment, please see this report.
Parking Lot 21 (P21) is located at the Thornhill Education Center, where the majority of our education courses take place. This lot is close to the Thornhill Education Center, Founder's Room, Fragrance Garden, and Thornhill Shelter. The nearest accessible trail is the Joy Path.
P21 is a paved asphalt parking lot.
Accessible restrooms are located in the Visitor Center (both East and West Pavilions), Children's Garden, Thornhill Education Center (limited hours), Administration and Research Center (limited hours), Big Rock Visitor Station (portable facility), Prairie Visitor Station (portable facility), and Thornhill Shelter. Family restrooms are available in the Visitor Center East and West Pavilions and the Children's Garden.
Manual Wheelchair Loans
Manual wheelchairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Visitor Center. The rental is complimentary; all we ask is to hold a photo ID for the duration of the rental. Please note that during days of high visitation, including special events, wheelchair availability can be limited. Please inquire in the Visitor Center as soon as you arrive to check availability. Should you need to charge your personal scooter or powerchair, there are a limited number of outlets in the Visitor Center. Please be aware that The Morton Arboretum is not responsible for lost items or damage to the scooter or powerchair while it is left behind to charge. Manual wheelchairs are available for rent during Visitor Center operating hours.
Acorn Express Tram Tours
The Acorn Express, our open-air tram, can accommodate up to two manual wheelchairs per tour. These seats are first-come, first-served. Please let our Visitor Services staff know when purchasing your tickets that you will need wheelchair accommodations. A ramp is provided to assist in boarding the tram. Should you prefer, wheelchairs (or walkers and strollers) may be left in the Visitor Center or at the Tram Circle while guests enjoy their Acorn Express Tram tour. For more information, please visit our tram tour page.
Service animals are welcome at The Morton Arboretum; pets are not permitted except on select dates.
Because we do not allow pets on our grounds (and some visitors disregard this rule), staff or visitors may inquire about your service animal if it is not wearing a vest or label. To help alleviate these questions, please let our Gatehouse Attendants know you have a service animal with you when you enter the Arboretum so we can make staff aware.
Visual schedule books for the Visitor Center Area, Meadow Lake Path, Children’s Garden, and Thornhill Area are available on a first-come, first-served basis for use while at the Arboretum and can be checked out at the Information Desk in the Visitor Center. These map-based tools help guests plan their visit and are specifically designed for those on the autism spectrum or with learning or developmental disabilities. The rental is complimentary; all we ask is to hold a photo ID for the duration of the rental.
Sign Language Interpretation
If you need to schedule American Sign Language interpretation for a scheduled program or event, please indicate this when you register/purchase tickets. You can also email Visitor Services at email@example.com at least three weeks prior to the program and we will do our best to schedule an interpreter.
Accessible Areas on the East Side
Visitor Center (P1)
The Visitor Center hosts the Ginkgo Cafe, Ginkgo Restaurant, and Arboretum Store and is accessible to visitors with disabilities. Guests may also visit the Visitor Center to check in with the Membership Desk or Information Desk for help regarding memberships or general questions, respectively.
Meadow Lake Path (P1)
Length: 0.6 miles
Estimated time: 30 to 35 minutes
Surface: Paved Asphalt
Typical Grade: 3%
Maximum Grade: 8%
This path around a manmade lake is located directly outside our Visitor Center. In season, visitors can see birds, turtles, and native prairie plantings from this partially shaded paved path. A woodchipped picnic area is located adjacent to the northeast corner of Parking 1 and Meadow Lake.
Children’s Garden (P1)
Size: 4 acres
Estimated time: 30 minutes to 3 hours
Surface: Concrete and Paved Asphalt
Typical Grade: 2%
Maximum Grade: 6%
The Children's Garden is a four-acre space encompassing two main garden areas: Backyard Discovery Garden and Adventure Woods. These two areas are linked by the Central Plaza and include 10 different themed gardens. You can learn more about each of these themed gardens on the Children’s Garden page.
The vast majority of the Children's Garden is accessed by paved paths and accessible wooden bridges. Several areas of the garden have additional routes of entry by rope bridge, stairs, or ladders. If you have specific questions, call Visitor Services at 630-968-0074.
Accessible restrooms, including a family restroom, are located in the Central Plaza near the picnic pavilion. Additional restrooms, including a family restroom, are available nearby in the Visitor Center. There Children's Garden includes a partially covered picnic area on concrete. Accessible picnic tables are available in season.
Ground Cover Garden (P1)
Estimated Time: 10 to 30 minutes
Surface: Paved Asphalt
Typical Grade: .5%
Maximum Grade: 5%
The Ground Cover Garden can be enjoyed via a short path which links the Visitor Center area to the Administration and Research Center. Depending on the time of year, this garden hosts up to 350 different species of plants.
Administration and Research Center, including the Sterling Morton Library (Library Parking or P1)
The Administration and Research Center contains the Sterling Morton Library and the Cudahy Room. Visitors are welcome to use the library during open hours, and members may obtain a library card and check out books from the collection. Some classes and events will take place in the Cudahy Room.
The Library Parking Lot can be accessed by taking a right at the stop sign after passing the Gatehouse, and then taking the first left. Parking here is limited, and additional parking is located in P1.
Big Rock Visitor Station Interpretive Path (P13)
Length: .2 miles
Estimated Time: 10 minutes
Surface: Textured Concrete
Typical Grade: 2%
Maximum Grade: 7%
An Ecosystem Sampler (Accessible Trail) departs from and returns to this Visitor Station. This trail is made of textured concrete and is just under a quarter of a mile.
The Big Rock Visitor Station is also the trailhead for the Heritage Trail and Woodland Trails and provides access to Main Trail Loop 3. The trails leading off from the Big Rock Visitor Station are wood-chipped. This visitor station has a picnic area on gravel and accessible portable toilets.
Accessible Areas on the West Side
Thornhill Education Center (P21)
The Thornhill Education Center hosts many of the classes that are offered by The Morton Arboretum. The building has two floors, with the majority of classes taking place on the lower level, which can be accessed by stairs or an elevator.
The accessible entrance is on the east side of the building. Looking at the entrance of the education center, go to the left of the front steps to the corner of the building to find the accessible ramp. There are accessible parking spaces near start of the ramp.
Prairie Visitor Station Interpretive Path (P25)
Length: .2 miles
Estimated Time: 15 to 20 minutes
Surface: Textured Concrete
Typical Grade: 5%
Maximum Grade: 10%
The Accessible Trail is a 1/4-mile paved trail that winds through a sample prairie, gives views of the Schulenberg Prairie, and takes guests past the remains of a 19th-century barn.
The Prairie Visitor Station is also the starting point for the Prairie Trail (gravel surface) and Acre Trail (mown grass) and provides access to Main Trail Loop 4 (woodchipped surface). This visitor station has a picnic area on gravel. There are also accessible Port-O-Let facilities at the Prairie Visitor Station.