This Black Friday, take a tip from our friends at REI and #OptOutside instead of waiting in line at the mall. Spending Black Friday outside is better for your wallet and your health, more respectful to service industry employees, and way more fun. Here’s how you can have an adventure in the Forest Preserves of Cook County-- even with this time of year’s unpredictable weather:

For a sunny day

When the sky is clear, break out your bicycle or hiking shoes and explore the Des Plaines Trail System. This belt of green space winds through western Cook County and beyond, all the way to the Wisconsin border. The trail system seamlessly connects densely wooded areas with clearings reminiscent of this region’s oak savannas. On the wild twisting trails, the sounds of the songbirds and the Des Plaines River obscure those of the urban environment around you, making it easy to forget that you’re a stone’s throw from someone’s backyard.

When it rains

On a rainy day, renting a warm, dry cabin is the way to go. Camp Bullfrog Lake rents cabins year-round, with reduced prices during the off-season (that’s right now). Bring some hot cocoa and your favorite board games for the coziest rainy-day experience.

If the weather clears, you can light a fire and look up at the night sky. Due to their isolation, our Southwest Zone forests boast some of Cook County’s best stargazing.

cross country skiing

When it snows

Snow sports are an abundant resource in the Forest Preserves, and cross country skiing is permitted on over 350 miles of trails. Check out Sagawau Nordic, the cross-country ski center at Sagawau Environmental learning Center, where you can rent cross-country skiing equipment, take classes at any level, and test your skills on a groomed set of trails through the surrounding woods. Noise doesn’t travel well in a snowy forest, so this already serene area seems almost perfectly still whenever fresh powder falls.

The end of the year can be a stressful time in Cook County. The short days and cold nights remind us of the long winter ahead. Whether you choose to #OptOutside for Black Friday, or catch a little nature on another day off, don’t let the weather keep you stuck on the couch.

Studies show that spending time in nature has both physical and mental health benefits, so if you feel worn out this season, try adventuring in the Forest Preserves of Cook County.

Spread the word around