Swallow Cliff Woods

Best known for its 100-foot bluff and demanding stair workout, Swallow Cliff Woods also astounds with natural riches.

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Locations & Things to Do

Swallow Cliff Woods-North

Entrance

Calumet Sag Rd/Rte 83, west of La Grange Rd/96th Ave
Cook County, IL 60464
(near Palos Park)

Hours

Year-round: Sunrise to Sunset

Closures & Alerts


Swallow Cliff Woods-South

Entrance

S La Grange Rd, south of 119th St
Cook County, IL 60464
(near Palos Park)

Hours

Year-round: Sunrise to Sunset

Closures & Alerts


Trails

Palos Trail System

The extensive and varied Palos Trail System winds through rolling hills and deep ravines, providing beautiful views of the surrounding landscapes.

Location: Hickory Hills, Justice, Palos Hills & Willow Springs

Surface

Unpaved

Estimated Total Length

42.1 miles

Hours

Year-round: Sunrise to Sunset

Closures & Alerts

*Please be a courteous trail user: Follow posted signs and our trail rules and etiquette.

people climbing the Swallow Cliff Stairs.
The original 125-steps of the famous Swallow Cliff Stairs.

Fitness Stairs

Located at Swallow Cliff-North, the Swallow Cliff Stairs attract fitness enthusiasts from far and wide. Constructed in 1930 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, 125 limestone stairs lead to the top of a former toboggan run on Swallow Cliff’s 100-foot bluff.

In 2016, the Forest Preserves added another set of stairs with an additional 168 steps, creating a full circuit. During the winter, the bluff still serves as an active sledding hill.


Swallow Cliff Pavilion building
Swallow Cliff Pavilion.

Indoor Event Rentals

Just north of the 100-foot bluff and popular fitness stairs, the Swallow Cliff Pavilion is perfect for any occasion. Built in 2016, this LEED Silver-certified facility provides an intimate setting for birthday parties, showers, classes and meetings.

In addition to the wood-burning brick fireplace, the 40-person pavilion features a kitchen prep area, refrigerator/freezer and restrooms. The floor-to-ceiling windows on either side of the building open completely to allow a cool breeze or create an amazing indoor/outdoor experience.

*Shared patio is not part of rental space, the building does not feature air conditioning and parking is on a first-come, first-served basis.


A hooded warbler at Swallow Cliff Woods. Photo by Jim Phillips.
A hooded warbler at Swallow Cliff Woods. Photo by Jim Phillips.

Nature Notes

The “Swallow Cliff” at Swallow Cliff Woods is a 100-foot-high bluff formed 12,000 years ago when glacial meltwater carved out the Sag Valley, leaving behind steep walls and a varied landscape of morainal hills and pothole lakes. As it did across the region, fire shaped the natural communities here. More frequent fires in some areas maintained prairie openings, while woodlands developed in more protected areas. Wet marshes and sedge meadows are scattered throughout the landscape.

There are a variety of migrating and breeding songbirds active in the preserve, including woodpeckers, great crested flycatchers and summer tanagers. Other birds seen in the area include red-eyed vireos and eastern wood-pewees.


volunteers at Swallow Cliff Woods. Photo by Kris DaPra.
Photo by Kris DaPra.

Volunteer Opportunities

Swallow Cliff is a landscape of hills, ravines, lakes, and marshes created by the retreat of the last glaciers to cover the area. Volunteers strive to restore the natural biodiversity that existed prior to settlement and the proliferation of non-native plants. Restoration activities include the removal of invasive species like honeysuckle and buckthorn, and the collection and distribution of seeds of desirable native plants.