A visit to Hickory Knolls Discovery Center is an opportunity to observe, explore, unwind, connect and wonder at the natural world that exists right here in the Fox River Valley. Our 130+ acre property and 3+ miles of trails are the perfect place to escape the day-to-day hustle and bustle. Nestled between busy suburbs and unique ecological areas, the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center is your gateway to the natural world. Let us inspire the naturalist in you!
Most visits to the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center are self-guided. We recommend giving yourself at least an hour to explore the site. During your time, you can:
Say “Hello” to the animals
Check out the interactive floor-to-ceiling mural
Located in the exhibit hall, our mural was created by local artist Joshua Ebersole of “The Art of Outdoors.” A 60 foot long work of art, it depicts the four ecosystems found within the Hickory Knolls Natural Area. Hidden among the detailed renderings of woodland, wetland, prairie and savanna plants, in a “Where’s Waldo?” fashion, are more than 30 species of native wildlife.
Observe the birds at the feeders
Pull up a chair and watch native birds and other animals visit the feeders located outside the exhibit hall. While our fowl friends feast on sunflower seeds and suet, you can help keep the “Recent Sightings” board up-to-date by noting what birds you’ve seen and where. Binoculars and field guides, generously donated by the DuPage Birding Club, are available for checkout at the front desk. Birdfeeders generously donated by Kane County Audubon.
Learn about Ice Age landforms and dig into geology in the sandbox
Check out “The Kame That Went,” an exhibit that tells the story of St. Charles’ glacial features and how many were mined for gravel that then became foundations for the area’s buildings and roads. A 12 foot tall kame bisection shows what such glacial formations are made of and also displays examples of the wildlife drawn to such habitats. Plus, you can dig into our geology sandbox and see our brand new Musk Ox display.
Explore Native American traditions in the wigwam
Stop in the lobby and explore our replica Potawatomi wigwam and dugout canoe. Examine Native American artifacts and discover hands-on history.
Unwind on 3+ miles of trails
Hickory Knolls has several miles of hiking trails for you to explore. Take a jog or bring your furry friend for a stoll! The natural area is a great place to get some exercise while communing with nature. A copy of our trail map can be found here. Trail rules and safety information can be found here.
Discover unique flora and fauna
Are you into plants and animals? Then hop, slither or jump to Hickory Knolls! In addition to all the amazing animals inside the Discovery Center, the natural area is home to all types of resident wildlife. Deer, fox, coyote, rabbits, opossum, raccoons, voles, mice, snakes, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, chorus frogs, honey bees and hundreds of other insects, birds and critters call our natural area home. Come out and see if you can find tracks in the snow or mud, scat left behind, or other evidence of our wildlife friends.
More of a plant person? Visit the native gardens that surround our building. Here you’ll see a variety of native plants, grasses, shrubs, and trees that grow in northern Illinois. Self-guided tour brochures are available at the front desk.
Observe scenic woodland, wetland, and prairie habitats
Whether you’re taking a hike or just looking out a window at the Discovery Center, you can see the amazingly diverse environments that surround Hickory Knolls. The quiet oak woodlands that are home to Scarlet Tanagers and Tufted Titmice, the wetlands that echo with the croaks of frogs, and the prairies of abundant wildflowers that attract butterflies and bees. Come see them all!
Programs & Activities
If you want to enhance your visit, sign up for one of our seasonal classes, special events, school and scout programs, summer camps or birthday parties. For more information, click on the applicable program type below or explore them all under the “Programs & Events” tab.
Are you looking for an ideal outdoor location to have a wedding, a family reunion, a corporate get-together, or special event? Hickory Knolls Discovery Center has a picnic pavilion to meet your needs.
Located near the Discovery Center, the Hickory Knolls Natural Area pavilion can seat up to 100 people and features a beautiful stone fireplace. Full day pavilion rentals are $50 for residents and $75 for non-residents.
Persons interested in renting a pavilion must complete the Pavilion Rental Application Form. Reservations may be made by calling 630-584-1885. Credit card payments will be accepted over the phone. Make checks payable to the St. Charles Park District and mail payment to the Parks Department, St. Charles Park District, 8 North Avenue, St. Charles, Illinois 60174.
More information on renting – including a helpful FAQ – can be found here.
If you’re looking to plan a larger event and want to utilize both the pavilion and interior spaces at the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, check out our Weddings & Rentals page here or call us at 630-513-4345.