Champaign-Urbana families have heard of Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve in Mahomet — but have you taken your kids just across the road to Buffalo Trace Prairie?
Kids of all ages (adults, too) will love exploring, hiking and creek stomping the 5-mile trail at Buffalo Trace Prairie in Mahomet
Mahomet is full of trails winding throughout picturesque nature backdrops. Popular with bikers, runners, hikers and families exploring with kids, there is something for everyone. Perhaps one of the “best kept secret” pieces to your nature adventures on the west side of Champaign County is the “five-mile trail” at Buffalo Trace Prairie. These wooded trails are popular with runners looking for a more rugged terrain. Aside from that use, however, families with kids of all ages like the short drive from Champaign-Urbana, the short walk from the parking lot to the heart of the trails and the endless hours of fun had exploring.
Buffalo Trace Prairie is a creek stomping paradise. The walk from the Buffalo Trace east parking lot (which is the one off Route 47, across from the Botanical Gardens) to the first chance to creek stomp is just about a quarter of a mile, if even that. Park in the lot (near the restrooms) and you’ll see a paved bike path to the right and a mowed grassy trail to the left. Start walking on the grassy trail. When you come to the first fork in the path, choose left again. You’ll be following a grassy trail along a creek now and as you walk down the hill you’ll arrive at a bridge. One option would be to hop in the creek right here and start stomping away.
An alternative option would be to stay on the grassy path as you approach the bridge (you’ll see it on your left). As you continue to walk along the creek a bit, you’ll see a cleared path off to the right to walk down to the creek. That’s where you can find a vine to swing on, an adorable bridge (pictured above) to walk over and lots of water to splash in.
You can follow the creek all the way up to where it begins, if you like, as there’s a “pool” of water to splash in there that your kids may enjoy. Watch the littles here as it can be a bit deep if there’s been a lot of rain. But think of it as pretty comparable to the “pool” of water at the top of the nature playscape at Homer Lake.
Because we recommend taking the grassy path to get to the creek, this trail isn’t really mobility-aid friendly or stroller friendly, though I’m sure some families with strollers have given it a go. The hill just beyond the parking lot gets steep quickly. Families that do have wheeled-apparatus in their party can still enjoy Buffalo Trace comfortably from the paved bike trails. There are TONS of wildflowers here and it is very peaceful.
We find lots of creatures when we go exploring the creeks at Buffalo Trace. Crayfish, frogs, and (eek) snakes have all been spotted here. Take your normal “out in the woods” precautions and bring bug spray, check for ticks afterwards, etc.
It is worth noting there’s a second entrance to Buffalo Trace Prairie, located just north of Mahomet-Seymour High School on Crowley Road. Take the road over the bridge over Interstate 57 and you’ll see the entrance to the trails on the right.
Mahomet is full of expansive trails that connect to one another, so whether you are on foot, on bike or something else, you can explore to the max and for hours on end.
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