Somme Preserves

Includes Somme Woods, Somme Prairie Grove and Somme Prairie Nature Preserve

The work of countless volunteers has transformed Somme into an ever-changing display of wildflowers, birds and other seasonal inhabitants.

The work of countless volunteers has transformed Somme into an ever-changing display of wildflowers, birds and other seasonal inhabitants.


From east to west, the Somme Preserves in Northbrook progress from shaded woodland to sun-dappled savanna and finally to wide-open prairie. But several decades ago, this natural distribution of ecosystems wasn’t so easy to discern, having become shrouded by dense thickets of invasive buckthorn. Pioneering habitat restoration efforts started here in the 1970s and continue today. The work of countless volunteers has helped tiny remnant pockets of native species spread into an ever-changing display of wildflowers, grasses, birds and other seasonal inhabitants.


Enjoying the Somme Preserves

Two-hundred-sixty-nine-acre Somme Woods is the easternmost of the three Somme Preserves, and the most wooded. Many parts of the woods now have a much more open feel, with woodland wildflowers once again thriving under giant oaks. Somme Woods offers a picnic shelter and tables, which are busy with reserved groups on summer weekends but a peaceful place for an impromptu meal at other times.


Across Waukegan Road to the west, 90-acre Somme Prairie Grove is savanna, a kind of grassland with scattered trees. A network of roughly 3.5 miles of narrow, natural-surface footpaths meanders through the preserve. An outer loop path starts at the preserve’s southeast corner and loosely follows the perimeter. Connected by spurs to a meandering inner loop path, the effect is a lovely maze through oak woodlands, savannas, prairies and around ephemeral ponds and swales. To avoid getting turned around (and to get the most out of what you’re seeing), bring along one of the seasonal self-guided tour narratives and maps created by the site steward and other volunteers. Because of ground-nesting birds at Somme Prairie Grove, dogs are discouraged here. (Note: Visiting Somme Prairie Grove requires crossing a busy street with no crosswalk or pedestrian signals.)


West of the train tracks and Chicago River, 74-acre Somme Prairie Nature Preserve is mainly open grassland. Dedicated as a state nature preserve for its high-quality prairie community, Somme Prairie also has a network of natural-surface footpaths that allow hikers to feel a part of the prairie, observing plants and insects up close. Given Somme Prairie’s nature preserve designation, dogs are not allowed.


Nature at the Somme Preserves

Active restoration has taken place in the Somme Preserves since the 1970s. Buckthorn and other invasive species have been removed from large areas, and a diversity of plant and animal life has returned. Birders travel the trails in the Somme Preserves to look for red-tailed hawks, indigo buntings, red-headed woodpeckers, great crested flycatchers, eastern bluebirds and rose-breasted grosbeaks.


Buckeye butterflies flit among the cardinal flowers, fringed gentian, blazing star, blue flag iris and stout blue-eyed grass. Somme also hosts butterflies such as great-spangled fritillary, wood nymph, eyed-brown. Coyotes enjoy these preserves, as do the chorus frogs that sing from the ponds and marshy areas.


To find out how you can join one of the regular volunteer workdays here, visit the Forest Preserves’ volunteer page.

  • Location

  • Northbrook, Illinois

    N Cook County

    FPDCC Region 4

    410 acres

    Best for

    HikingSheltersPicnic Grove

    Top Three Tips

    1. The narrow inner and outer loop trails in Somme Prairie Grove allow visitors to lose themselves in nature, sometimes quite literally. The area is small enough, though, that it would be hard to get lost for long.
    2. The Somme Prairie Grove volunteers have created thoughtful self-guided nature tour information for six seasonally specific walks in the preserve. Download them from the Somme Prairie Grove website.
    3. Stewards at all three Somme Preserves organize regular habitat restoration workdays. Get the inside scoop on these places by joining in.


    Somme Woods
    From I-94, take Dundee Road less than two miles west. The parking lot for Somme Woods is on the north side of Dundee, just east of Waukegan Road.

    Somme Prairie Grove
    Park in the Somme Woods parking lot and follow the trail west across Waukegan Road and into Somme Prairie Grove. Please cross carefully at the intersection, as Waukegan is busy and there is no crosswalk or pedestrian signal here. The entrance to the preserve trail is marked with signs and an information box at the northwest corner of Waukegan and Dundee. The guided trails start at the Somme Woods parking lot.

    Somme Prairie Nature Preserve
    From Somme Woods, drive west on Dundee and cross the railroad tracks. Take the first right and park in the Post Office parking lot. Though there is not official parking lot for Somme Prairie Nature Preserve, the Post Office will allow a small number of cars to park in its lot. Please be considerate of post office patrons. Enter Somme Prairie at the northeast corner of the parking lot.

    By Metra
    Take the Milwaukee District North Line to Northbrook. Walk northeast on Shermer Road 1/3 block to Meadow Road. Walk north on Meadow Road about one mile to Dundee Road and east to the light where Dundee and Waukegan meet and cross Dundee to Somme Prairie Grove. Please cross carefully at the intersection, as Dundee is busy and there is no crosswalk or pedestrian signal here.

    By Bus
    Take Pace bus #422 to Dundee Road. The #422 travels north up Waukegan Road from Glenview Road, with some detours.

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