Day Trip,  Hiking,  Illinois,  Kids,  Waterfall

Hiking The Nature Institute’s Olin Preserve

Based in Godfrey Illinois, the Nature Institute is non-profit land conservation and environmental education organization that aims to foster an appreciation of the natural world. The Institute owns and manages 450 acres of natural areas to provide the public a place to experience the diversity of the Riverbend area. The Olin Nature Preserve is one of these managed areas that provides a wonderful place for all ages to explore and enjoy nature.

The Nature Institute Olin Preserve

About Olin Nature Preserve

The 294 acres of the Olin Preserve were once owned by John M. Olin. The site is a dedicated Illinois Nature Preserve with over 300 plant species and 150 species of birds identified on the property. Hikers can explore woods, prairies, creeks, and waterfalls. Perched atop 150 tall limestone bluffs, the preserve offers wonderful Mississippi River views.

The Nature Institute Olin Preserve

Fall is my favorite time to visit the preserve. The changing leaves are stunning. Spring is also a great time to view wildflowers plus more water in the waterfalls. Summer can also be a good time as the trails are mostly all shaded. Just remember to bring plenty of bug spray! Other than special events, the trails are closed during the winter.

The Nature Institute Olin Preserve

Before or after hiking, kids will enjoy the fun nature playground located behind the lodge. There are musical instruments, a wooden train, canoe, and much more!

The Nature Institute Olin Preserve

The Nature Institute also hosts special events such as summer camps, telescope night, and moonlight hikes. Follow their Facebook page or check their events calendar.

Olin Nature Preserve Hikes

Olin Preserve is a wonderful place for hikers of all ages. There are trails as short as 0.5 miles and even a paved loop. The trailhead is easy to drive to and there are restrooms and a playground too! Many of the trails overlap and share the same route for a portion of the distance. The trails are well marked with signs at each junction.

The Nature Institute Olin Preserve

The trails start from behind the gate by the gravel parking area. There is also a kiosk and map available here.

Frog Trail

The Frog Trail is the shortest and easiest trail. This paved 0.5 mile loop is flat and passes through the trees with views of sinkholes. They usually have a storybook walk here, making it a great option for kids (or deer!)

The Nature Institute Olin Nature Preserve
The Nature Institute Olin Nature Preserve

All of the trails also pass by the old stone Skeet towers. Walk out past the towers for an amazing view of the river below. If you are able to visit at sunset, this is a wonderful spot to end the day.

The Nature Institute Olin Nature Preserve
The Nature Institute Olin Nature Preserve

Fox Trail

This 1 mile loop is also flat and easy. Portions of the loop follow the frog trail before splitting off to make a longer loop through the trees.

Rock Trail

The Rock Trail is a moderate 1.5 mile loop. The trail passes by the Skeet towers and then follows an old road steeply downhill.

The Nature Institute Olin Nature Preserve

At the bottom of the hill you can view an Underground Railroad monument. The trail follows a stream and exposed bedrock before making the climb back up the hill. I recommend hiking this trail counter-clockwise to make the steep climb down the old road and a more gradual climb back uphill on a dirt trail to complete the loop.

Beaver Trail

The Beaver Trail is my favorite trail at the preserve. This 2.3 mile trail is moderate with a similar change in elevation to the Rock Trail. The highlight of this trail is the view of Beaver Falls, the tallest waterfall on the property.

The Beaver Trail shares a path with the Rock Trail down the hill and past the Underground Railroad Monument. Again, I recommend hiking counter-clockwise by passing the skeet towers first and heading down the steep old road. When the Rock Trail splits off to the left, keep going straight and follow the signs to Beaver Falls.

The Nature Institute Olin Nature Preserve

Beaver Falls consists of one taller waterfall with several smaller waterfalls and cascades both upstream and downstream from the larger falls. The trail passes right alongside the creek with great views of these little cascades. Even during dry times, there is normally at least some water trickling over the falls.

The Nature Institute Olin Nature Preserve
The Nature Institute Olin Nature Preserve

The Beaver Falls Trail splits with one section continuing to the lower portion of the falls.

Take in the view below the falls before returning to the main path.

The Nature Institute Olin Nature Preserve

The trail continues to an upper view of the falls before crossing over the top of the falls. The trail then follows the opposite bank of the falls before crossing back over the creek again and climbing up a ridge.

Just when you have caught your breath, there is another downhill section followed another uphill climb. The trail levels out for a little while before one more climb downhill and across a bridge. After the bridge, the path makes one last climb towards the lodge where it rejoins the paved Frog Trail path.

Deer Trail

The Deer Trail is the longest trail on the property at 3 miles long. Portions of the trail share a path with the others trails. This trail is moderately difficult with several sections of hills up and down. Some areas of the trail are more narrow and can be slightly overgrown. The trail passes some exposed bedrock and creek areas.

The Nature Institute Olin Nature Preserve
The Nature Institute Olin Nature Preserve

Hutchison Bird Trail

This trail is part of the Hutchison Bird Sanctuary and has a separate parking area just outside the main entrance along Levis Lane. This flat 0.4 mile loop features a restored prairie with wildflowers, pollinators, and wildlife.

Things to Know Before You Go

  • Olin Preseve is located at 2213 S. Levis Lane, Godfrey, IL. Continue down the entrance road past the lodge to reach the gravel parking area. Do not park in the paved circle drive.
  • The trails are open 7 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. daily. The nature institute trails close during the winter, typically from December 1 – March 31sth.
  • You can click here to print a trail map.
  • Bring bug spray as the trails along the creek can be buggy in summer.
  • Flush restrooms are located behind the lodge in the tan building.
  • NO dogs are allowed since portions of the property are a protect nature preserve
  • No picking or collecting flowers or other natural items
  • Obey all signs for private property and remain on designated trails.
  • Only picnic in the area around the lodge. Be sure to practice leave no trace and pack out whatever you bring in.
The Nature Institute Olin Nature Preserve

More to See

If you are looking for more to explore in the area, Pere Marquette State Park offers great trails and a beautiful stone lodge for dining or staying overnight.

Godfrey offers several great parks including Glazebrook Park which has a playground and splash pad.

The nearby city of Alton offers many attractions including the free Great Rivers Museum. Or head to nearby Hartford to explore the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site and Confluence Tower.

Have you ever hiked at Olin Nature Preserve?

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