Ecological restoration in the 100-acre McDonald Woods has transformed a formerly degraded oak woodland remnant into a natural treasure. It is home to five community types and a startling amount of plant and animal diversity.

When restoration efforts began in 1988, most of the site was severely degraded, with little reproduction of dominant canopy trees, depauperate herbaceous layer, significant gully and surface erosion, and abundant exotic invasive species. Several factors contributed to this degraded condition: fire suppression, habitat fragmentation, high density of deer, past land use history, and the invasion of exotic species. Our ecologists, along with dedicated volunteers, have worked for decades on repairing and restoring this woodland habitat. In 2013, these efforts were recognized with a “Gold Accreditation” from the Chicago Wilderness Excellence in Environmental Restoration Program.

McDonald Woods is located along Lake Cook Road from the Garden entrance east to Green Bay Road. Hiking trails are accessible from parking lots 2 and 5; 5-minute walk from the Visitor Center.

Spring ephemerals put on quite a show in springtime, and the nature trail is a great way to experience fall color in the Woods.

Many Garden programs use McDonald Woods as an outdoor classroom, including school field trips, our Nature Preschool and Camp CBG programs, as well as nature walk, birding, plant ID, nature study, and photography classes through our adult education program.