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Six Trails to Explore in the Forest Preserves of Cook County

two people walking on the Salt Creek Trail System

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the Forest Preserves’ most popular trails have experienced increased use from Cook County residents looking for a place to safely enjoy sunshine and fresh air.

If you’ve been enjoying riding, walking, hiking or running our trails and looking for a new one to check out, or have been thinking about planning an outing for the first time, consider exploring one of the recommended trails below:

  • Plum Creek Meadow is tucked into the southeast corner of Cook County. Its 1.8-mile unpaved loop trail will take visitors through woods, picnic areas and open fields. The north side of the trail features open grassland, while the south end takes trail users past forested areas home to towering oak trees.
  • The Tinley Creek Trail System in the southwest suburbs boasts more than 27 miles of paved and unpaved trails, including three paved loop trails through gently rolling hills, prairies and forests, and alongside wetlands and ravines. The system can be accessed at several locations, including Midlothian Meadows, Rubio Woods and Arrowhead Lake.
  • The Arie Crown Trails offer nearly 3.5 miles of unpaved trails in Countryside and Hodgkins. Trail users are treated to a natural setting of gently rolling hills and breathtaking beauty as it winds through the woods. Parking lots are available at Sundown Meadow and Arie Crown Forest.
  • The Salt Creek Trail System’s 16.4 miles of paved and unpaved trails run along the Des Plaines River, Salt Creek and Brookfield Zoo, offering trail users views of a glacial valley, gravelly moraine and Salt Creek’s unique pool and riffle environment. One great option is starting at Brookfield Woods and head west on the 7.2-mile, meandering paved trail.
  • The North Branch Trail System is one of the Forest Preserves’ best-known and used trails, providing opportunities to explore plenty of different preserves, with habitats ranging from open woodlands and flatwoods to prairie and marsh. From start to finish, the North Branch Trail offers a 16-mile paved linear trail before reaching the Skokie Lagoons’ 4.4-mile paved loop trail. On the northern end, trail users have access to the Chicago Botanic Garden.
  • Nearly 21 miles of paved and unpaved trails can be enjoyed in the northwestern suburbs on the Poplar Creek Trail System. The system’s 8.8-mile paved loop trail circles the massive—at nearly 4,500 acres—Arthur L. Janura Forest Preserve complex and offers trail users boundless opportunities to explore prairies and remnant woodlands with 300-year-old oaks.

Looking for more to explore? Check out our interactive web map.