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The Trail to Fort Aldridge

Through a grant from the Cawaco RC&D Council, an addition to the path at Aldridge Gardens now leads adults and children to a new imaginative play area known as Fort Aldridge. Read more about it. 


Aldridge Gardens' gate count for 2022 was over 110,000 persons, many of whom visit the Gardens daily to walk the trail system around the Aldridge lake.  The Trail to Fort Aldridge is a new “spur” off the established trail system, replacing an informal foot path and rotted wooden steps.  

Besides being a great new trail, the ultimate destination, Fort Aldridge, is a unique play area, and a prime opportunity for children to engage in unstructured free play using what Mother Nature has given them--sticks, pine cones, leaves, branches, etc., which allows them to use their imaginations and develop problem-solving skills. In addition to the cognitive benefits, this type of natural play has significant positive impacts on physical activity outcomes.

Childhood exposed to nature is associated with better mental health in adults. Older generations often understand this intuitively and frequently reminisce about the fun they had building forts, climbing trees, and exploring the woods with their friends. Because Fort Aldridge is now on a “dedicated” and formalized trail, adults on the Aldridge Gardens' Trail System “discover” Fort Aldridge for the very first time. These adults then bring their little ones to enjoy Fort Aldridge and make new, fun-filled memories.

Because of the new trail, the Aldridge Gardens’ staff has seen a dramatic increase in Fort Aldridge use by way of the ever-changing “structures” discovered on an almost daily basis. Since Fort Aldridge is an unrestricted and non-programmed play area, it is hard to cite user numbers. But because the staff has seen an almost daily change, the assumption has to be made that the area is increasingly popular--as new structures were something rarely seen prior to the trail construction.

The new Fort Aldridge Trail spur at Hoover's Aldridge Gardens now offers an accessible trail access to a children’s free play area where collections of sticks, pine cones, and other natural materials are gathered to allow children to build forts, shelters and assorted structures in a free-play, wooded environment.  

Few children have the opportunity nowadays to interact with Mother Nature in a free, unstructured manner. The Fort Aldridge Trail allows access to this increasingly popular play area. And while it is off the main trail, it is still close enough as to not be isolated.

In addition to Fort Aldridge access, the trail spur increases the Aldridge Gardens’ Trail System by several hundred feet and also opens up another area of the Gardens that had previously been considered remote.



Download a self-guided tour map of Aldridge Gardens.
The map is a PDF file that you can view on a mobile device or print at home and bring with you. Click the link below to get the file. Fort Aldridge is located near the Fairy King sculpture. (See item 23 on the map,)