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My Favorite Trail Mile

two runners on the Sag Valley Trail at Swallow Cliff Woods

Staff and visitors share their favorite pathway picks.

With more than 300 miles of trails across the forest preserves, one can head in almost any direction for a fantastic hike. We asked Forest Preserves staff as well as Facebook and Twitter followers for descriptions of their “favorite trail mile.” Why not try one of these this September?

I love various stretches of the unpaved paths through Swallow Cliff and 40-Acre Woods in Palos Hills. Although you aren’t too far from Route 83, you feel secluded from the world, hidden under a tall canopy of trees. One such spot is just east of the toboggan slides and West of LaGrange (the northern underpass). There is a tree-dotted hill that rises to the south and trees hiding you on the north. I love that patch.

Mary Wilson, via Facebook

Walking the Somme footpaths in Northbrook, through head-high flowers, from prairie through woodland to savanna.

Mary Laraia, FPCC Deputy General Superintendent

I like the “Lost Beach Trail” at Sand Ridge Nature Center in South Holland. It is quiet and well-maintained, and takes you through all kinds of habitats and by unusual plants like sassafras trees, bracken ferns, sand prairie and marsh. I’ve seen hummingbirds, herons and mink along this trail.

I also love to hike along the trails at Swallow Cliff Woods, entering from the parking lot off LaGrange Rd./Rte. 45. It takes you under tall pine trees, up and down glacially-formed ridges and valleys, next to tiny ponds full of fat bullfrogs and glistening dragonflies and under huge ancient oak trees. It is always peaceful and beautiful, and the birding is phenomenal!

Irene Flebbe, FPCC Naturalist

I am partial to the far western stretch of the yellow trail over at Deer Grove West. Probably because it looks nothing like “typical flat Illinois” and it feels 300 miles away from any big city. That section of trail is heavily-forested with mature trees, even hickory, and of course old bur and white oaks. It reminds me of the Appalachians slightly (where I grew up in North Carolina). The trail’s terrain winds up and down, with memorable right angle turns, stone bridges that arch over seasonal creeks and golden light levels at dawn and dusk that make you stand still and quiet. Some days that trail is busier than a Busse Bike trail, other days you could be out there for six hours and not see a soul. On foot it is a delight.

Lindsay Ivanyi, FPCC Resource Specialist

The Purple Flower Field , on the red multi-track trail, between Spears Woods and Old Country Lane.

Nancy Fallon, via Facebook

Nancy, I like a similar place filled with blazing stars as well. It’s called Camp Pine, along the Des Plaines River.

Sam Chavez, via Facebook

The first of my favorite trails would be the Busse Woods bicycle trail, which goes toward the elk enclosure. It is beautiful just to see the elk there. The second is Grassy Ridge Meadow at Paul Douglas Forest Preserve in Hoffman Estates. Those two bicycle trails are great to have.

Estela Garcia, FPCC Maintenance Clerk

My favorite trail mile is at LaBagh Woods in Chicago, following the meandering North Branch of the Chicago River. I always see something—a Cooper’s hawk dodging through the trees, a great blue heron fishing, or a deer cooling its heels in the river.

Michelle Uting, FPCC Grants Administrator

I enjoy walking alongside the Des Plaines River in Thatcher Woods. My hike begins at the Trailside Museum and I head south towards Brookfield. I like coming back during all the seasons to see how much the foliage has changed. My favorite part of being in the preserve is sitting by the river and observing the tiny creatures that inhabit it. The photograph is from a bridge near Lake Street.

Agata Kubinska, FPCC Intern

My family and I frequently walk the 3.6 mile trail at Vollmer Rd. As we walk as a family, we often see a family of deer near or crossing the trail.

Dennis White, FPCC Attorney

The yellow unpaved trail through the Cranberry Slough Nature Preserve in Willow Springs is one of my favorites. In my opinion it’s one of the most scenic areas in the preserves, with lots of topography, mix of open fields, shaded woods, wetlands and stream corridors. Also, abundant wildlife and insects are always around.

Dave Kircher, FPCC Landscape Architect