Paul Douglas Forest Preserve

Birders have been drawn to the large grasslands, wetlands and heron rookery of Paul Douglas for decades.

JohnElliott_May_Paul Douglas

At more than 1,800 acres, Paul Douglas Forest Preserve fits right in with the other big forest preserves of northwest Cook County. Birders have been drawn to the area for decades, thanks to the large open grasslands and wetlands, complete with heron rookery, that provide ample breeding grounds for important birds. A favorite of cyclists, the preserve’s 7.2-mile paved trail encircles the preserve.



Enjoying Paul Douglas

Paul Douglas offers opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts and active adults. Accessible at several points along its length and less busy than some bike trails at nearby preserves, Paul Douglas’ 7.2-mile paved trail is great for a quiet and gentle bike ride, in-line skate, hike or cross-country ski. The trail connects to Crabtree Forest Preserve, about a mile west, via the Algonquin Trail.


The forest preserve plays host to changing suites of birds year-round. A heron rookery in a large wetland close to the parking lot off of Central Road is a good place to view wetland birds, although visitors should keep a few hundred feet away during nesting season, from early spring through midsummer. There are no restrooms here, so plan accordingly.


On the eastern end of the preserve, the well-maintained Highland Woods Golf Course, complete with 18 holes and a driving range, is open to the public.

Nature at Paul Douglas


Since a large wetland was restored along Poplar Creek over a decade ago, pied-billed grebes, ruddy ducks and state-endangered yellow-headed blackbirds once again nest in the area. The heron rookery, which consists of nesting platforms along the marsh, attracts great blue heron pairs. Beavers are active here, too. Marsh marigolds and a variety of sedges populate Paul Douglas’ wetlands.


Eastern meadowlarks, Henslow’s and savannah sparrows and bobolinks nest in the larger grasslands. Red-eyed vireos and black-throated green warblers sing in the trees and sharp-eyed visitors can spot rough-legged hawks and northern harriers.

  • location

  • Hoffman Estates, Illinois

    NW Cook County

    1800 acres

    7.2 miles of trail

    Best for

    Bike RidingInline SkatingBird WatchingHikingCross Country SkiingGolfing

    Top Three Tips

    1. The heron rookery near the Grassy Ridge Meadow parking lot provides an easy introduction to marsh birds and their habitat.

    2. The seven-mile paved trail is popular among cyclists, but is not as frequently busy as some other paved trails. This can make for long, solitary, peaceful rides.

    3. There are no restrooms here, so plan accordingly.


    From I-90, exit at Roselle Road and head west along Central Road, which is the frontage road along I-90. A large red sign announcing “Grassy Ridge Meadow” about a mile down the road marks the large parking lot. To access the golf course, take Central Road west to Ela Road. The easily recognizable entrance is just north of Central on the east side.

Visit two of the treasures of the Forest Preserves of Cook County