2015 Photo Contest Winner Third Place- Leopard Frog underwater, Bluff Spring Fen near Elgin, Tina Onderdonk
2015 Photo Contest Winner Third Place- Leopard Frog underwater, Bluff Spring Fen near Elgin, Tina Onderdonk

Top Five Hikes

Posted: September 3rd, 2014

Deer Grove near Palatine

Trail Length:  5.6 mile loop

This 1,800-acre preserve is considered one of the best places to hike in Cook County and offers rolling hills, forests and wetland views.  The easy trail is shared by hikers, bikers and equestrian users. Paths can be muddy and sloppy after it rains as portions of the path are in low areas.  We recommend parking at the Deer Grove West parking lot located on the north side of Dundee Road just east of the intersection of Ela and Dundee Roads.  A trail head sign is available but bring a preserve map with you just in case.

Little Red School House near Palos Hills 

Trail Length:  3 mile loop

This family friendly hike starts at the Little Red School House Nature Center. Check out the nature center on your way to or from the hike (but make sure to call ahead for nature center hours 708-839-6897). The trail is an easy one that goes through woodlands and prairie areas, up and over beautiful rolling hills and has scenic views of smalls lakes and wetlands. Park in the nature center parking lot on the west side of 104th Avenue between 95th Street on the north and 107th Street on the south. Picnicking is available at nearby preserves including Maple Lake. Hikes abound in the surrounding Palos Preserves which contain the largest holdings of open space in Cook County totaling more than 14,000-acres.

Harms Woods near Glenview 

Trail Length: 2 mile Linear Trail Roundtrip

This easy trail will take you over a bridge spanning the West Fork of the North Branch of the Chicago River and in spring there is an amazing array of spring wildflowers to enjoy in this woodland. It’s also an amazing place to visit in the fall with brilliant displays of witch hazel, maples, and oaks. Park at Glenview Woods on west side of Harms Road just south of Glenview Road. Follow the linear trail south over the bridge and walk along the linear trail of crushed limestone that follows the river. The trail ends about a mile south of the parking lot and there is no circular path.

Sweet Woods near Glenwood

Trail Length: 2.5 mile Linear Trail Roundtrip

This relaxing, undulating hike takes you through beautiful woodlands that run alongside Thorn Creek. These sandy soil woodlands are dominated by different species of oaks with some openings of savanna remaining. Park at the Sweet Woods parking lot located on the west side of Cottage Grove Avenue just south of 183rd Street. The trail heads west from the parking lot. For those seeking a longer hike the trail can be extended by crossing Cottage Grove Road and picking up the same trail as it winds east through Jurgensen Woods for another 3+ miles. Hikers can return the same way they came or join up with the paved Thorn Creek trail to make a loop.

Catherine Chevalier and Robinson Woods near Franklin Park 

Trail Length: 2 to 9 miles Linear Trail Roundtrip

This hike takes you through a series of linked preserves that are nestled along the Des Plaines River. Park at the Robinson Woods parking lot located on the south side of Lawrence Avenue just west of East River Road. The path can be taken north to Catherine Chevalier Woods where picnic groves are found or taken north all the way to Camp Ground Road Woods before you have to turn around. The unpaved trail is a hotspot for birds and also includes bottomland woods, oak woodlands, and small prairie remnants. The river provides great wildlife viewing throughout the year.

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