Located in the southwest suburbs of Chicago lies Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Gardens, an 85 acre nature oasis.  I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago and quite honestly I’ve never really explored Lake Katherine. I don’t know why it took so long! I’ve heard that Lake Katherine was a great place to be one with nature but after spending a couple hours here  I can’t believe what I’ve been missing. Read all about our visit then plan a visit yourself. You can thank me later.  

See the waterfall

You all know I’m a bit obsessed with waterfalls, and Lake Katherine’s man-made waterfall did not disappoint. The larger waterfalls are found by climbing to the top of the hill. One of my favorite things about Lake Katherine is that there are benches placed everywhere you turn encouraging visitors to sit down, relax and enjoy the scenery. 

Tip: If you parked in the parking lot, just follow the sounds to the gushing waterfall.

Tip: Stop by during St. Patrick’s Day when they dye the waterfall green. Truly a spectacle!


Take a walk around the Lake

Our adventure started by crossing the bridge and following the mulched trail. The hike was an easy one mile loop around the Lake with plenty of little paths that lead directly to the edge of the Lake. It’s scenic all the way around with plenty of stopping points and benches should you need a break. The paths were wide enough to distance ourselves from others, and the towering trees provided much-needed shade from the sun.

Let kids play

Historic Schoolhouse Arch leads to the Children’s Forest

As you know, I am a huge fan of play areas where kids can use their imagination to play with nature. It was great to hear that Lake Katherine had a Children’s Forest and nature play area. The small area had a large climbable rock with fossil indentations -perfect for creating rubbings, a couple mushroom “seats,” and other things to climb and explore.


Stop and smell the flowers

Just past the Nature Center, find a butterfly garden and an herb garden. Closer to the waterfall there is a buzz n’ bloom prairie.  Even as we walked around the Lake, we found all sorts of pretty flowers.

Nature Center

Because of Covid, the Nature Center was closed. Although small compared to other nature centers, there are plenty of things that are offered that will sure to intrigue young minds including reptiles, fossils, fish, and a play area. In the past, my daughter and I have enjoyed attending their programs. Check their website for more fun offerings. 

Bottom Line:

Lake Katherine is no doubt a south suburban gem. My only regret is not visiting sooner!  Next time, we’ll pack a picnic, explore by boat, or maybe bring the bikes or scooters.

Tips to enjoy Lake Katherine:

  • Bring your scooters or bikes. The Cal-Sag Trail is right next to it.
  • Hungry? Doughs Guys Bakery is just a few minutes down. Their maple bacon long johns were featured on Chicago’s Best, but unfortunately they ran out when we visited. Instead, we indulged in their cookie dough brownies and WOW! In the mood for ice cream? Plush Horse is nearby as well.

  • Rent a kayak and go on enjoy the relaxing and peaceful Lake.
  • Love reading? Bring a book and get a book at the Little Free Library (by the Nature Center.)

  • Download a map here

Nitty Gritty:

Website:  https://www.lakekatherine.org/
Address: 7402 W Lake Katherine Drive, Palos Heights, IL
Admission: Free

Explore Lake Katherine Nature Center and Botanic Garden is Palos Heights, Illinois. Find waterfalls, easy hiking trails, a nature center, gardens, and more.

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