The Only Living Waterfall in Illinois

Well, maybe it's not the only one, but it's a local one!

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Where To Go

Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve | DuPage County

This week’s park was among the first that my family ventured out to this summer and, in a way, served as the inspiration for this newsletter and our quest to find more fun and beautiful places to visit around the Chicagoland area.

Located in Darien (which is a much shorter drive from the northwest suburbs than I had thought), Waterfall Glen is expansive, serene and well worth the trip. Situated on land that was once rife with limestone bluffs (that served as the source of Joliet limestone for downtown Chicago’s iconic Water Tower and Northwestern University’s University Hall), this forest preserve is 2,500+ acres of prairies, woodlands and stompin’ creeks.

There is also a small tiered waterfall that was constructed by engineers in the 1930s and is the main draw for my kids. You would think that Waterfall Glen is named for this waterfall, but in a Parks & Rec-worthy twist, it’s actually named for Seymour “Bud” Waterfall, an early president of the forest preserve district.

My family sojourned to Waterfall Glen three times this summer and had a better experience with each visit. My three young kids are mainly interested in throwing rocks in bodies of water right now, so we spent the majority of our time by the Rocky Glen falls and the water.

But here’s my super-secret pro tip: If you go up the waterfall and follow the creek back along a wooded trail, you will come to a much more secluded section of water (with plenty of rocks for throwing!) that is a perfect little hangout to have some creek-stomping, rock-throwing and lunch-eating fun all in one location. There is a bit of a beach leading up to the creek at this point where parents can sit and watch their kids play in the water. It’s also a little shaded here, which is not the case for a lot of the preserve and especially in the waterfall area. You could also stomp down the creek for quite a stretch from here and might even be able to stomp all the way back to the waterfall (I’m not sure how deep it is and our kids were too young to try).

It was also interesting how the waterfalls and creeks changed depending on the amount of recent rainfall. The first time we came, the creek near the waterfall was a lot deeper and had a weak current, making my attempts to help my kids move from rock to rock a lot more treacherous. The next time we went, the water level was a lot lower, exposing many more rocks in the creek and making it easier to stomp around.

I’m sure there are other sides to this preserve that we will explore on future trips, as there are more than 10 miles of marked trails for hiking, biking and horseback-riding. We never even made it to the scenic overlooks! (Trail Map)

Tips from Dad

  • Parking is rough. The small parking lots do not do justice to the popularity of this forest preserve. The only time we got a spot in a lot was when we came on a weekday morning. On Saturdays, we had to park on a street bounding the preserve, which meant quite a hike before we even got to the main trail that led to the waterfall. The grounds are beautiful, so it’s not really a problem, but parents with small children should be aware. We also got caught in an impromptu rainstorm on our first trip, and the run back to our car felt even longer with two strollers in the rain.

  • Pack a lunch, blanket or folding bag chairs. If you use my super-secret pro tip above and discover that hidden area, you will be glad to have a chair to set up and some food to devour after getting your fill of creek stomping. There are plenty of areas throughout the preserve where you could take a break with a chair or a snack. Just remember that alcohol is prohibited.

  • Sunscreen and bug spray are a good idea. Some areas are more shaded than others. If you’re spending time in the creek, you’ll want sunscreen. If you’re walking the wooded trails, you’ll want bug spray. Apply liberally.

  • Bring shoes or sandals made for stomping. Walking on the rocks is not the most comfortable proposition, so I was sure to be prepared on my second trip and brought some waterproof sandals to wear in the water. Bringing water-worthy shoes made the experience a lot better for our kids as well, and they lasted far longer than they did without them the first time.

If you decide to check out Waterfall Glen or already have, be sure to reply and let me know what you thought! Do you know about something that I should share in this newsletter? Drop me a line at and let me know! Thanks for reading and use the button below to share this newsletter with others who might like to read it!