• Activities:

    Photography, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Year Round

  • Trail Type:

    Loop

  • RT Distance:

    5 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    0 Feet

Bathrooms
Family Friendly
Forest
Lake
Picnic Area
Wildflowers

Main Trail Loops is a beautiful hike through the luscious gardens and forests of the Morton Arboretum. This 5-mile hike can be cut shorter if desired. Along the hike, you'll see over 4,100 different species of trees, shrubs and other woody plants from around the globe. The arboretum is open 365 days per year.

The Morton Arboretum is located off of Route 53 in Lisle, IL. The arboretum spans both the east and west sides of the road. Head to the east side of the park to access the Main Trail Loops. Visitors have to pay a small fee to enter the arboretum ($14 April through November, $9 December through March). Additionally, Wednesdays in the warm months are also $9. After paying admission, head to the parking lot and then to the Visitors Center.

Once in the arboretum, head to the trail that surrounds Meadow Lake behind the Visitors Center. To access the Main Trail Loops, hike around either side of the lake until reaching the path to Main Trail Loop 1. Cross the road to reach the beginning of Main Trail Loop 1. There are four Main Trail Loops in the arboretum, and therefore, this hike can be adjusted by length depending on how many loops you choose to connect. I recommend hitting all of the loops (1 – 4) to create one big loop around the entire east side of the arboretum. This way, you get to see the largest diversity of trees and ecosystems in the park.

Begin hiking on Main Trail Loop 1 in either direction, left or right (clock- or counterclockwise, respectively). At each new loop, there will be an option to leave the loop that you are currently on and continue to the next loop. Continue to do this until you reach the fourth loop. Hike around Main Trail Loop 4 (furthest end of the arboretum) and continue back on the opposite sides of each Main Trail Loop until you return back to Meadow Lake. This entire perimeter loop is approximately 5 miles.

In the spring and throughout summer, there are gorgeous wildflowers along the hike. In the fall, the trees are turning colors. In the winter, after a snowfall, the trees are covered in beautiful powder. Truly, there is no bad time of the year to do this hike.

If needed, there is a picnic area and restroom at Big Rock Visitors Station in Loop 3. If you're with children, there is a 4-acre interactive Children's Garden and a 1-acre Maze Garden near the Visitors Center.

Pack List

  • Hiking or walking shoes
  • Camera
  • Bug spray (summer)
  • Sunscreen
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Matthew Sampson

Photographer, explorer, homebrewer based out of Door County, WI. I love exploring the outdoors and exploring new cities through food and beverage. Follow me — @mattdsampson.

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