As you know, our family loves exploring new places. Because of the pandemic, we decided to get outdoors more and try hiking around us. Guess what? We loved it! Not only did we get out as a family and exercise more, but we were able to explore new-to-us places. A win-win in our books! I’m so lucky to live in an area with a fantastic Conservation District – the McHenry County Conservation District. When I heard they had a hike with gnomes scattered at the Harrison Benwell Conservation Area, I couldn’t wait to to visit. (I am a bit obsessed with gnomes!) We all had a blast!

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This year we’re going to step up and make it our family goal this year is to conquer the #52HikeChallenge. (Psst. You can sign up for FREE and download a log.) So basically one hike a week. What a perfect way to explore the great outdoors!  

Winter hiking at Harrison Benwell in McHenry County

Download the map

Whenever we go hiking, I always download a map if my All Trails app doesn’t work. Here’s a link to the map. 

Getting started at Harrison Benwell

After parking and putting our gear on (snow boots, snow pants, and gloves) we proceeded to what we believed was the path. (Just a little bit hard with the snow covering the sidewalk.) Basically, just follow the footprints!

FYI If you can’t wait, there is a bathroom available.

Get hiking

As our first time hiking in the snow, it was quite a fun experience. Breathing the fresh, crisp air with a snowy background. Simply amazing and so beautiful! We followed the Short Loop (.51 miles) to find the gnomes. If we wanted, there was an option to connect to the South Loop (.75 miles.) This hike at Harrison Benwell was less than a mile hike and relatively flat with a few hills here and there. We’ll have to check out the South Loop next time.

Get out and enjoy the great outdoors during winter at Harrison Benwell in Wonder Lake. Hike and search for gnomes!

Get out and enjoy the great outdoors during winter at Harrison Benwell in Wonder Lake. Hike and search for gnomes!

Get out and enjoy the great outdoors during winter at Harrison Benwell in Wonder Lake. Hike and search for gnomes!

Get out and enjoy the great outdoors during winter at Harrison Benwell in Wonder Lake. Hike and search for gnomes!

Find the gnomes

After we crossed the bridge, we immediately found our first gnome.After finding our first one, we followed the trail to the right and found the rest of the gnomes. There are 4 gnomes total and if you peek at the back of their hats, you’ll see their names. They were pretty easy to find, since they were colorful against the white snowy background. Although, we did happen to miss the second gnome and went around the loop twice. In between looking for the gnomes, the kids had a blast playing in the snow and leaving little snowmen for others. The Conservation District will move the gnomes to another location come January 18. 

Get out and enjoy the great outdoors during winter at Harrison Benwell in Wonder Lake. Hike and search for gnomes!

 

While you’re here

  • Reward yourself afterwards with ice cream, coffee, or over the top shakes at Rusty Malt’s. Bonus: They have a drive through!

  • Still in the mood for more hiking? We LOVED our hike at Glacial Park where you can climb a kame. And it’s located just a few minutes away! Read all about it here.
  • Visit the charming town of Richmond. Richmond Brathaus with their huge Bavarian pretzels are on my list. Anderson’s Candy is also located here.
  • Take a stroll through downtown McHenry. They have a short but fun riverwalk. We ALWAYS find painted rocks here. Make sure to grab pizza from Buddyz or donuts from Riverside Bakery.

 

 

 

Nitty Gritty:

Website: https://www.mccdistrict.org/visit___explore/places_to_go/find_a_site/harrison_benwell.php
Location: 7055 McCullom Lake Road, Wonder Lake
Cost: Free
Parking: Small parking lot
Crowded: We visited on a Saturday afternoon and it was not busy at all.

 

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