Spring Lake

Also known as Spring Creek

Spring Lake offers the opportunity to stretch one's legs--whether human or equestrian-- and do some real trekking over hills and valleys.

Spring Creek 6


Spring Lake offers the opportunity to stretch one’s legs—whether human or equestrian—and do some real trekking over hills and valleys.

Tucked amidst the semi-rural rolling hills in the northwest corner of Cook County, almost 4,000 acres of wilderness are waiting to be explored. Spring Lake Forest Preserve offers the opportunity to stretch out one’s legs—whether human or equestrian—and do some real trekking over hills and across valleys. Whether you’re fishing the lakes or wandering the trails, almost anywhere within the sprawling Spring Lake Forest Preserve feels like a secret spot.

Enjoying Spring Lake

Exploring the trails in Spring Lake requires slightly more advanced navigation skills than at many other forest preserves. None of the trails are marked, so a compass, navigation app or GPS is recommended. While not for the novice explorer, this remoteness adds a layer of adventure to afternoon hikes.


Hikers and horseback riders can follow the twisting network of footpaths and horse trails through meadows and woods. Great flat expanses flow into hills that feel, in comparison, like mountains. Although there are currently no formal parking areas in the northern section of the preserve, visitors can park at the Penny Road Pond parking lot and cross Dundee Road to access this more remote section. As horseback riders from the surrounding equestrian centers frequently enjoy these trails, keep an eye out for manure and uneven surfaces.


The southern section of the preserve, between Dundee and Higgins Roads, is more accessible, with small, serene lakes, picnic tables, and a port-o-john at the Penny Road Pond parking area. Local dog walkers and families frequent this area of the preserve.


With adequate snow cover, many of these trails make for exhilarating cross-country skiing. The parking lot at Beverly Lake is a popular trailhead.


In the far northern tip of the preserve, Spring Lake Nature Preserve (a small part of the entire Spring Lake Forest Preserve) features two glacial lakes and a matrix of peaty wetlands and remnant prairie. Fishing in these lakes is not allowed, and hikers are asked to stay on the trails to avoid damaging sensitive areas in this wildlife viewing area.


Nature at Spring Lake


Because of its large size and variety of landforms (everything from wetlands to woodlands), Spring Lake sustains large and diverse animal populations. Bring binoculars to see sandhill cranes, belted kingfishers, blue-winged warblers and orchard orioles. Observant hikers may also see butterflies (including the Baltimore checkerspot), dragonflies, frogs, tiger salamanders, red fox, coyotes, beaver, muskrat, hawks, owls and white-tailed deer.


Spring Lake is recognized as an Important Bird Area by Audubon, its open expanses providing vital breeding habitat to grassland birds, including meadowlarks, Henslow’s sparrows and bobolinks. Bobolinks that nest here in June have migrated from the grasslands of Argentina. A hilltop north of Penny Road Pond offers vistas of one restoration area that attracts these species each year. Spring Lake is just one in a global network of Important Bird Areas.


Nearby marshes and fens flower with wild iris and Joe Pye weed. A restored savanna near Beverly Lake paints a picture of how the rolling countryside would have looked before settlers.


At the far northwest end of the county, the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission has dedicated Spring Lake Nature Preserve as a preserve worthy of special protection. This is a place of glacial pools, remnant prairie, sedge meadow and fen. Here a gravel-bottomed creek meanders through a glacial valley featuring two glacial lakes.  Buffered from intense urban development, the waters and landscape can ‘breathe’ naturally, relatively free of ditching and pollution.  A rich diversity of butterflies, dragonflies, frogs, birds, otter, beaver, rare shrews, owls, cranes, fish, mussels, insects and other living things call Spring Lake Nature Preserve home.

  • Location

  • Barrington Hills, Illinois

    NW Cook County

    4,000 acres

    Best for

    Ecological Management SiteHikingHorseback riding Picnic GroveCross Country Skiing

    Top Three Tips

    1. Spring Lake offers miles of unpaved trails for hiking, cross-country skiing and horseback riding. Bring a compass or GPS to explore the unmarked trails.
    2. Volunteers work year-round restoring habitat at Spring Lake. All are welcome to join in.
    3. Gravel parking lots are in the southern half of the preserve at Penny Road Pond and Beverly Lake.


    Penny Road Pond Parking Area

    From I-90, take Route 59 (Sutton Road/New Sutton Road) north past Higgins Road to Penny Road. Go west on Penny Road through the forest preserve and look for the parking lot on the south side.

    Beverly Lake Parking Area

    From I-90, take Route 59 (Sutton Road/New Sutton Road) north to Higgins Road/Route 72. Turn left/west onto Higgins Road. The parking lot for Beverly Lake Forest Preserve is on the north side of the street.

    Spring Lake Equestrian Parking

    Park in the Spring Lake Equestrian parking lot to access the northern reaches of Spring Lake. It’s on the east side of Bateman Road north of Algonquin Road, accessed by the Barrington Hills Park District Riding Center driveway. There is no sign indicating the parking lot.

    Volunteer in the Forest Preserves

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