Will County forest district’s Take It Outside Challenge kicks off Sunday

This year’s Forest Preserve District of Will County Take It Outside Challenge will be divided into four seasonal competitions. The Winter Workout challenge begins Sunday, Sept. 21.

If you loved the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Take It Outside Challenge in 2023 or wish you had joined, a new version of the popular program will launch Sunday, Jan. 21.

The 2023 yearlong challenge drew more than 1,200 participants who completed about 115,000 nature-themed missions ranging from GPS check-ins at various locations, photos of nature scenes and wildlife, selfies and trivia questions.

This year’s challenge comes with a twist. Instead of a yearlong competition, the 2024 program will be divided into seasonal challenges with breaks between each one. The nine-week Take It Outside seasonal challenges are:

  • Winter Workout: Sunday, Jan. 21, through Saturday, March 30 (join code: 6X9K34)
  • Spring Fling: Sunday, April 14, through Saturday, June 15 (join code: V813P4)
  • Summer Soiree: Sunday, June 30, through Saturday, Sept. 21 (join code: BD13J5)
  • Fall Frolic: Sunday, Oct. 6, through Saturday, Dec. 14 (join code: ED7MGP)

Each Sunday during the challenges, 10 missions will be released, and participants will complete challenges to earn points and prizes. To participate, download the free Goosechase smartphone app. Search for each seasonal challenge by name, or enter the join codes listed above and sign up for one or more of the challenges.

Then, read the online rules on the forest preserve district’s website, ReconnectWithNature.org.

Point totals will be listed on a leaderboard in the Goosechase app so you can see how you and others are doing in the competition. In 2023, many Take It Outside Challenge participants reported that the challenge got their competitive juices flowing and the experience was transformational.

Stories poured in all year about how the missions were getting people to walk more than they had in years, lose weight, discover Will County’s preserves, feel better mentally and physically, and make new friends.

“It took some real dedication from those atop the leaderboard to do every single mission last year,” said Chad Merda, the forest preserve’s digital communications manager. “But we also know it could have been overwhelming for some, especially the casual users.”

By breaking this year’s challenge into four seasonal segments, the forest preserve is hoping to get more people involved discovering nature and new preserves, and reaping the mental and physical health benefits those experiences offer.

“Even if people only do one seasonal challenge, we’re hoping that’s the start of a renewed love for nature and a new routine of using the forest preserves with more regularity,” Merda said.

Take It Outside hikes

To spur even more camaraderie for participants, the forest preserve’s Visitor Services Department will be offering five Take It Outside Challenge hikes at different locations.

Each hike will include missions that can be accomplished as a group, but missions also can be completed later by those who don’t attend the hikes.

Registration will open two months before each hike on the online Event Calendar. Space is limited.


Each seasonal challenge will feature a variety of prizes. Mastercard gift cards in the amounts of $500, $250 and $150 will be awarded for first, second and third places, respectively. But you can only win a seasonal cash prize once. Additional prizes will be awarded, including:

  • 10 Take It Outside prize packs featuring forest preserve district merchandise will be awarded randomly at the conclusion of each seasonal challenge.
  • Two special GPS missions will be released each season, and anyone who completes these missions will be entered to win a $50 forest preserve gift card, which can be used for forest preserve permits, programs or merchandise at visitors centers.
  • Each season, there will be two bird-feeding prize pack missions. Anyone completing those specific missions will be entered in a drawing to win one of two prize packs valued at $135 and $228. The prizes are furnished by Wild Birds Unlimited in Joliet, and winners will be chosen at the conclusion of each seasonal challenge.
  • At the conclusion of all four seasonal challenges, anyone who finished in first, second or third place will be entered into a drawing for one of three $250 gift cards. In addition, $50 Mastercard gift cards will be awarded randomly to 10 people who participated in the seasonal challenges.

The 2024 Take It Outside Challenge is sponsored by the Nature Foundation of Will County.