Maps and Guides

First-Time Visitors Guide

New to The Morton Arboretum? Here’s what you need to know to enjoy your first visit.

Content Detail

The Morton Arboretum is a large public garden with tree-filled landscapes, flower-filled gardens, festive events, areas for children to safely play outdoors, and extensive walking trails through beautiful woodlands, lakes, and prairies.

Located in Chicago’s western suburbs, The Morton Arboretum is just west of Interstate 355 and north of Interstate 88 on Illinois Route 53 in DuPage County. It is open from 9:00 a.m. to sunset 364 days a year, with some early-morning hours set aside for members. Visitors who are not members must purchase general admission, which includes parking.

The Arboretum is an outdoor place, so dress for the weather. With 1,700 beautiful acres (690 hectares), it offers far more than anyone can see in one day. It is divided into the East Side and the West Side by Illinois Route 53. Many popular attractions are found on the Arboretum’s East Side.

On a first visit you will find plenty of things to do within walking distance of the main parking lot and Visitor Center on the East Side. This central area also has an indoor restaurant, accessible restrooms, a gift shop, an information desk, and many sitting areas.

When you are ready to explore beyond the central area, drive or bike the scenic one-way road that circles the entire Arboretum. You can stop off at smaller parking areas and access miles of tranquil, well-tended walking trails through woods, prairies, and collections of magnificent trees. A map and guide will help you plan your visit.

The Arboretum is much more than a park or recreation area. It is a living museum of trees and a scientific institution. Its tree-filled landscapes, with carefully selected collections of tree species from around the world, is used for research by a global network of scientists. The vision of The Morton Arboretum is a greener, healthier, more beautiful world where people and trees thrive together.

What you will see will be different every time you visit, since the living trees and plants change throughout the year. There is variety in the Arboretum, as different parts of the grounds are used for different purposes. Near the Visitor Center you will find more formal, carefully tended gardens and other areas for visitor enjoyment. The tree collection areas are arranged to showcase special groupings of trees. The natural areas, such as the woodlands and prairies, are deliberately less tended, with fallen leaves carpeting the ground and dead trees left where they fall to provide wildlife habitat.

For answers to many questions about visiting the Arboretum, see the FAQ.

Things to Do Near the Visitor Center

For your first visit, park in Parking Lot 1 on the East Side and enjoy the central area near the Visitor Center.

 

Visitor Center and Arbor Court

The main Visitor Center building has accessible restrooms, amenities, and sitting areas. There are also big maps and an information desk, where friendly staff will be happy to help you get oriented and make plans for what you will see. Manual wheelchairs are available for loan. Personal wheelchairs and strollers are welcome at the Arboretum.

The Ginkgo Restaurant and Café are just inside the Visitor Center, along with fully accessible restrooms and a gift shop for that perfect souvenir.

Just outside the Visitor Center is a central courtyard called Arbor Court, which is a hub for nearby attractions and for activities throughout the year. It has seating areas and colorful plantings in spring, summer, and fall.

 

Children’s Garden and Maze Garden

Far more than just a playground, the Children’s Garden is a 4-acre outdoor play space that encourages children to safely romp, climb, splash, see new things, and wonder about trees and nature. There are ponds, streams, things to climb on, and plenty of places for grownups to sit while children play. Many of its interactive features are based on tree science. It is designed for children from toddlers to 12-year-olds.

Next to the Children’s Garden is a twisty Maze Garden made of living green shrubs. Find the secret to reach the big sycamore tree for a towering view! Children love to solve the puzzle.

 

Colorful Gardens

To take a break amid shady trees and colorful flowers, enjoy the nearby Ground Cover Garden, with shady, tranquil walks and benches, and The Gerard T. Donnelly Grand Garden, with bright blooms, a sunny plaza, and long vistas. Enjoy the view; there are plenty of places to sit and for families to gather.

 

Paved Paths

The Visitor Center is surrounded by paved, accessible trails that lead around lovely Meadow Lake and amid stately, cool trees in the Conifer Collection. These trails are perfect for a half-hour to hourlong excursion.

Two accessible paved paths connect to Arbor Court, the main courtyard.

  • Meadow Lake Trail, about a mile long, circles a manmade lake. Its shoreline is planted with sweeps of native plants and towering trees.
  • The Conifer Walk loops through the Arboretum’s collection of cone-bearing trees and shrubs from all over the world. Because most are evergreen, this is a lovely walk in winter. Looping paths allow you to take a ½- or 1-mile walk, and the path connects to the Meadow Lake Trail for an even longer jaunt.

 

Sculptures and Art Exhibitions

The Arboretum hosts exhibitions of large-scale artworks, with a new exhibition every couple of years. The artworks are arranged outdoors in the landscape. Some of them are close enough to walk to from the main parking lot, but others will require a drive or a bike ride. The current exhibition is Of the Earth by Olga Ziemska. Maps of the sculptures are available at the Visitor Center Information Desk.

Festive Events

Throughout the year, there are lively events near the Visitor Center. For example,

  • Nature Play for All is a spring event in the Children’s Garden where children of all abilities can play and explore nature through accessible activities.
  • Arbor Evenings outdoor concerts take place Wednesday evenings in the summer near Meadow Lake.
  • Celebración des Árboles celebrates the culture and trees of the Americas during Hispanic Heritage Month.
  • In October, the Glass Pumpkin Patch, an annual sale of fall-themed blown glass art is held near the Visitor Center.
  • From mid-November through early January, the Arboretum’s trees are artistically lighted for the festive, interactive Illumination: Tree Lights at The Morton Arboretum.

Visit the Arboretum’s website and subscribe to the Arboretum’s newsletter for upcoming events

Beyond the Central Area

There is much more to the Arboretum beyond the area near the Visitor Center. Once you have paid general admission, you can drive and park anywhere with no additional admission or parking cost. Altogether, there are about 9 miles (about 14 kilometers) of roads and 16 miles (about 26 kilometers) of trails at the Arboretum.

 

Seasonal Vistas

During a drive along the Main Route or a walk along one of the many trails, you can enjoy the color and variety of the Arboretum’s trees and plants. In spring, the grounds are full of color as blooms emerge; visitors can check what’s blooming during the season in the weekly Spring Bloom Report. In summer, the landscape is lush and green and the trails are shady and cool. In autumn, the Arboretum’s trees from around the world provide a vivid tapestry of color. The Arboretum details the changing colors of its trees in the Fall Color Report so visitors can choose where to visit.

 

Driving Route

Follow the signs from Parking Lot 1 to the East Side Main Route to tour the East Side of the Arboretum. The entire loop, from Parking Lot 1 back to the exit from the Arboretum, takes about 25 minutes to drive, but there are two shortcut loops to the exit if time runs short. Or you can extend your tour to the West Side by following the signs.

 

Guided Tram Tours

To get an overview of the entire Arboretum without driving, take a ride along the road loop aboard the Acorn Express, a shaded open-air tram tour that departs near Arbor Court in spring, summer, and fall. The driver will explain what you see as you pass. Purchase tickets in the Visitor Center. Tram tours run from late April to mid-November.

 

Walking and Hiking Trails

There are more than 16 miles (about 26 kilometers) of walking and hiking trails. Those near the Visitor Center are paved and accessible. Most others are spread with wood chips for good footing, but are not usable with strollers or wheelchairs. All the trails are connected, and you can follow the trails for a very long walk if you choose. Many visitors prefer to drive to one of the more than 30 small parking areas that connect with the trail network to begin a walk.

Two visitor stations serve as hubs for the trail network. The Big Rock Visitor Station (Parking Lot 13) connects to a network of trails in oak woodlands. The Schulenberg Prairie Visitor Station (Parking Lot 25) is at a restored prairie that gives a sense of what the Illinois landscape looked like 200 years ago. Each visitor station has accessible portable toilets, nearby picnic tables, and a short paved path that is accessible for people who use wheelchairs, strollers, and walkers.

 

Natural Areas

More than half of the Arboretum’s land is managed naturally to encourage as much diversity as possible of native plants and animals. These include the East Woods (Parking Lots 8 through 14), an extensive area of restored oak-dominated woodland, and the Schulenberg Prairie (Parking Lot 25), one of the oldest restored prairies in the Midwest.

 

Tree and Plant Collections

Because The Morton Arboretum is a scientific institution and a museum, many of its living trees and plants are organized into formal collections that show off specimens of many species, These areas, such as the Magnolia Collection (Parking Lot 5), the Oak Collection (Parking Lot 8), and the Maple Collection (Parking Lot 14), are lovely places, with trails and benches among the trees. You can admire the differences between even closely related trees.

 

The Arboretum’s West Side

Although many of the Arboretum’s visitor attractions are on the East Side of Illinois Rt. 53, there is another whole area of beauty on the other side of the highway. The West Side is reached through an underpass near the Visitor Center. On the West Side you will find the Thornhill Education Center, where many classes and events are held; the lovely Fragrance Garden nearby; and more walking paths and trails, including the paved Joy Path.

 

Education Programs

The Arboretum has extensive nature and art education programs for adults and children. Programs take place both on the West Side, in and around the Thornhill Education Center, and on the East Side. Browse a list of upcoming classes for adults as well as children and family programs.

How to Get Around

The Morton Arboretum is very large, taking in more than 1,700 acres (690 hectares). There are 9 miles of roads and 16 miles of walking trails. On your first visit, you will be able to park in Parking Lot 1 and walk to see many attractions near the Visitor Center.

Many other areas of the Arboretum, such as many of the tree collections, the natural areas, and the West Side, are too far for most people to walk. You can drive or bicycle along the paved Main Route.

 

Accessibility

The Arboretum is hilly. Paved paths near the Visitor Center are mostly flat, but roads and trails elsewhere may include slopes. Facilities, gardens, and paved paths near the Visitor Center are accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. Learn more about accessibility at the Arboretum.

 

Driving

The paved roads are a one-way loop, with some shortcut loops. Roads are one lane with no passing allowed. The speed limit is 20 mph, with 10 mph in some stretches. Drive carefully and share the road with pedestrians and bicyclists. If you want to pause and enjoy a beautiful sight, please pull in to one of more than 30 small parking areas along the road so other cars can get by.

 

Biking

Bicycles are permitted only on the paved roads. They are not allowed on the paved paths or wood-chipped trails. Cyclists must ride in the direction of traffic. Please do not chain bicycles to trees. Bicycle racks are available near the gatehouse; at the Visitor Center on the East Side; at the Big Rock Visitor Station on the East Side; at the Thornhill Education Center on the West Side; and at the Prairie Visitor Station on the West Side. Learn more about biking at the Arboretum.

 

Walking and Hiking

There are more than 16 miles of walking trails. Those near the Visitor Center are paved and accessible. Most others are spread with wood chips for good footing. All the trails are connected, so you can take a very long walk if you choose. However, many visitors prefer to drive to one of the more than 30 small parking areas that connect with the trail network to begin a walk. You may also walk along the roads, but please keep to the right and be aware of cars that may be coming up behind you.

 

Running and Jogging

Running at the Arboretum is permitted only on the paved roads. It is not permitted on paved paths or wood-chipped paths. Runners should run against the flow of traffic and keep to the right. Learn more about running at the Arboretum.

Restrooms and Refreshments

Indoor restrooms are available in the central Visitor Center area and at the Thornhill Education Center. Accessible portable toilets are available at the visitor stations.

 

Restrooms

Indoor, accessible restrooms are available at the Visitor Center; in the Children’s Garden; near the Sterling Morton Library in the Administration and Research Center (Parking Lot 1 on the East Side), and at the Thornhill Education Center (Parking Lot 22 on the West Side). Accessible portable toilets can be found at the Big Rock Visitor Station (Parking Lot 13 on the East Side) and the Prairie Visitor Station (Parking Lot 25 on the West Side).

 

Refreshments and Picnic Areas

Lunch, coffee, snacks, and water are available at the Ginkgo Restaurant and Café in the Visitor Center, open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. During some special events, food trucks and concessions are available in the central area. Refreshments are not sold further out, such as along the walking trails.

If you brought lunch or snacks, there are indoor and outdoor tables in the Visitor Center and Arbor Court. There are also three outdoor picnic areas:

  • on the north side of Meadow Lake (near the north end of Parking Lot 1)
  • at the Big Rock Visitor Station (Parking Lot 13 on the East Side); and
  • at the Prairie Visitor Station (Parking Lot 25 on the West Side).

At both visitor stations, the picnic areas are across the road, with their own parking areas.

What to Bring

Plan ahead for an enjoyable outing to The Morton Arboretum.

 

Essentials

Visitors who are not Arboretum members must purchase general admission online before arriving at the Arboretum. Your general admission tickets will be emailed to you. Present your tickets to the gatehouse staff when you arrive. General admission includes parking.

If you will be walking on paths or trails, it’s wise to bring a water bottle. Water and refreshments are available in the Ginkgo Restaurant and Café in the Visitor Center, but refreshments are not sold further out, such as along the walking trails.

 

Clothing and Protection

Shoes: If you will be walking beyond the immediate area of the Visitor Center, the trails may be covered with wood chips rather than being paved. Wear sturdy lace-up shoes.

Hats: For longer walks, a hat for sun protection is a good idea, especially in summer.

Bug spray and sunscreen: The Arboretum is all outdoors, so protect yourself against insects and sun exposure.

 

Wheeled Mobility

Wheelchairs and strollers are welcome. Manual wheelchairs are available for loan in the Visitor Center at the Visitor Information Desk. Seated personal mobility scooters are allowed on the Arboretum’s paved trails and roads. Learn more about accessibility at the Arboretum.

 

Scooters and Drones

For visitor safety, the following are not allowed: scooters, rollerblades, skateboards, longboards, e-scooters, kites, drones, and other sports equipment. Seated personal mobility scooters (for physical assistance) are allowed only on the paved trails and roads.

Rules and Policies

For complete information on rules and policies, see the FAQ.

 

Weather Delays and Closures

Some areas of the Arboretum may be closed temporarily if weather conditions create safety hazards. Please check the Know Before You Go page to learn about any temporary closures.

 

Dogs

Dogs are not permitted at the Arboretum except on designated Dog Admission Days.

 

Scooters and Drones

For visitor safety, the following are not allowed: scooters, rollerblades, skateboards, longboards, e-scooters, kites, drones, and other sports equipment. Seated personal mobility scooters (for physical assistance) are allowed only on the paved trails and roads.

 

Smoking

Smoking and tobacco use is prohibited anywhere on Arboretum property, including vapes and smokeless cigarettes.

Become a Member

When a trip to the Arboretum inspires you to explore more, become a member to visit again and again.

Join now