West Side Walking Trails
You can walk from the East Side to the West Side from the main parking lot, and you can also drive or bike to the West Side by following the signs and crossing under the overpass. The West Side's 500 acres offer diverse habitats, three manmade lakes, the restored Willoway Brook, Hemlock and Spruce Hills, and the prototypical 100-acre Schulenberg Prairie.
There are gardens around the Thornhill Education Center, and the one and only Joy Path leading south. Trees from Northern Europe, the Ozarks, and Southwest U.S. can be found here, as well as collections of Willows, Walnuts, Birches, and flowering pears, crabapples, and magnolias.
- West Side Main Loop 1
- West Side Main Loop 2
- West Side Main Loop 3
- West Side Main Loop 4
- Prairie Trail
West Side Main Trail, Loop 1 is a 1.10-mile, wood-chipped loop. It takes you through the Ozarks Collection—plants from the upland area of Missouri and Arkansas. The collection was started in 1932 and is just south of Lake Jopamaca. Lake Jopamaca is named for the four Morton brothers: Joy, Paul, Mark, and Carl.
Between Lake Jopamaca and Sunfish Pond are bald cypress trees, famous for their knees poking out from the wet soils.
Sunfish Pond contains the former stream channel of the DuPage River's East Branch. The river channel was adjusted in the late 1930s with the improvement of Route 53.
Loop 1 winds through a planting of Norway spruce then past the Europe Collections. You can get a feel for Germany's Black Forest by stepping off the trail and walking through the evergreens planted here.
A side path takes a short detour to the Morton Family Cemetery. You can explore a little of the Morton family's history and pay your respects to Joy Morton, the Arboretum's founder.
From the trail, you have a wonderful view of the West Side Crabapple, Magnolia, and Pear Collections. These collections blossom in spring with colorful flowers.
The West Side Main Trail Loop 2 is a 1.37-mile, wood-chipped trail through willows, spring flowers, and spruce trees. The trail also connects to Joy Path, a paved 0.32-mile trail leading to the Thornhill Education Center.
Loop 2 is vibrant in spring when flowers are in bloom. The trail passes by the Crabapple, Magnolia, and Pear Collections and through Sargent's Glade and Daffodil Glade. The crabapple, magnolia, and pear blossom in spring with white, pink, and red flowers. Sargent's Glade, full of spring bulbs, honors C.S. Sargent, the Director of the Arnold Arboretum in Massachusetts and primary advisor for Joy Morton during the Arboretum's initial planning. Daffodil Glade erupts into yellow when thousands of daffodils appear in spring.
Past Daffodil Glade and near Lake Marmo are patches of persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), which are a favorite among birds and mammals, so keep your eyes open for wildlife.
The trail swings around Lake Marmo before veering onto Hemlock Hill and Spruce Hill. Hemlock Hill and Spruce Hill have a wonderful atmosphere that will make you feel as if you have entered a mystical evergreen forest.
The 0.89-mile, wood-chipped West Side Main Trail Loop 3 features two bodies of water and the oldest collection on the Arboretum's grounds.
The trail follows the edge of both Lake Marmo and Sterling Pond. Sterling Pond was named for Joy Morton's son Sterling. Both lakes are constructed. Sterling Pond was created to catch sediment flowing from Willoway Brook before entering Lake Marmo and then the DuPage River system.
The area around Pine Hill contains some of the oldest existing plantings of the Arboretum, which began in 1922 when it first opened.
The short, wood-chipped West Side Main Trail Loop 4 is only ½ mile long. The highlight of this short loop is the Schulenberg Prairie. Started by Ray Schulenberg in 1962, the prairie is one of the largest restored prairies in Illinois and shows what most of Illinois' landscape once looked like. Over 500 different plant species now live in the prairie.
Crossing the trail is Willoway Brook, a tributary to the East Branch of the DuPage River and an example of stream restoration. The Arboretum reshaped and stabilized a portion of the brook and planted native prairie and savanna plants to minimize erosion.
To visit the Schulenberg Prairie, begin at the Prairie Visitor Station on the West Side, and follow the signs to the prairie trail. From You will pass an old field in the process of progressing to prairie. You will also walk through part of a savanna under restoration, where large, wide-spreading oaks will one day provide habitat for indigenous plants less adaptable to either open prairie or deeply shaded woodland.
Once you begin walking the Prairie Trail, interpretive signs will tell you the surprising story of this prairie, help you identify key plants, and provide information about how the Schulenberg Prairie is maintained. As you walk along, listen to the sound of grasses blowing in the wind, look out over breathtaking vistas, and sell the aroma of prairie plants like prairie dropseed, wild bergamot, and common mountain mint.