One of my favorites!
When I first started biking, my first trail was the Busse Woods trail. When I got tired of going around the 8 mile loop 3-4 times for distance, I discovered that the Salt Creek Trail starts at the Busse Woods and ends up at the Brookfield Zoo. I made it a personal goal of mine to make it from Busse Woods to the zoo and back again - unfortunately, I moved away from the area before I could back in 2013, but returning to Chicago, I finally worked myself up to the challenge this year! The trail is very nice, you go through a lot of diverse forest preserves as well as a little road biking. None of the roads that need to be biked on are particularly heavy traffic on the weekends, but there is the chance you'll have to stop and wait for a train to cross in a few areas. The trail itself is well maintained and elevation diverse to keep itself interesting. The only issue I really have is that the signage along the trail is an epic failure in certain parts - after reaching the Prairie Path trail, picking the Salt Creek Trail back up again requires a map because there's no sign marking it. The final few miles of trail are also difficult to keep track of as the trail isn't marked as the Salt Creek Trail, but rather simply as the 'red' trail of the final forest preserve you pass through on the way to the zoo. There are points where there are trail intersections and it's hard to figure out which is the natural direction of the trail. Once you figure it out though (and having the traillink app really helps!), it's one of the nicest trails in the area. Definitely remember to bring water though - there aren't any water fountains that I saw on this trail, and the trail rarely passes through any business areas where you can buy any. It'd be 5 stars if not for the navigation issues.
My favorite trail
On Sundays, I regularly pick up the trail on 26th Ave. in Brookfield and ride west until I join the Illinois Prairie Path in Elmhurst. The majority of this section is fantastic, paved and easy to ride with plenty of small hills and small zig-zags through the woods.
There are a few intersections that require a quick stop and careful look around before crossing. The largest road to cross is Mannheim/LaGrange Road, but once west of that the riding is fast and fun.
On one occasion, the road was flooded in several places after a rough weekend of storms. All other times it has been clean and dry. A couple of places are a bit confusing on where to go, but using the TrailLink App helps a lot. There are also Salt Creek Trail signs posted in several places of confusion.
At Oakbrook Golf Course, the road turns to gravel for a while as you ride north. It's therefore a slower section, but safe and away from cars.
There is a nice little bathroom facility in York Woods County Forest Preserve if you need a stop, and there are some tables there as well if you want to sit and rest. Watch for deer!
I'm looking forward to riding the rest of the trail north up to the end, but for now the south Salt Creek is a blast.
Nice ride, but confusing....
We rode the short 7-mile original section of the trail starting at Brookfield Zoo for the first time. Most of it is nice, winding path through forests. This was in spring, so there were plenty of flowers blooming and riding through tunnels of honeysuckle bushes smelled wonderful. There were plenty of deer, birds and other wildlife to experience as well.
We, however, are used to riding a trail system in a less urban area that follows along a river bed, so has less street crossings. I understand that having a contiguous trail in a densely populated urban area with streets on a grid will cause street crossings. This section of the Salt Creek Trail, however, has several that are poorly marked or not marked at all. At the intersection of Cermack and Mannheim, the trail seems to disappear, with no indications at all. We only were able to continue due to directions from a jogger using the trail. The crossing at 31st street is also confusing and not marked, but we were able to figure that one out with a little head scratching.
Due to it's twisty nature and many crossings, it may not be great for hard core training. The fact that it doesn't allow for great speed, does make it ideal for families.
I would recommend this trail, but one should study the route first and not trust that it will be clearly marked.
My husband and I have ridden this trail three times this year, once last year. We rode it regularly for years, but then moved away. I had heard it had deteriorated in the intervening time. Well if it did, it is ok now. It is asphalt, and some of the asphalt has buckeled, but I have seen worse. Good points: there are picnic groves where you can rest. Bad points: No water. When we rode the trail years ago, if the water pumps were not working,we would leave the trail at the Manheim Rd crossing and go buy a drink at a convience store or at the Jewel. The old outhouses have been replaced with port-a potties. The old out houses were cleaner!! The wells have been capped. You cannot even see where they were. The section we ride is from the Brookfield Zoo to Bemis Woods. There is a genuine toilet at the Bemis Woods parking area. Overall, the hill are gentle, and the trail is shady. I would submit pictures, but the photo system has a problem. It did work a month ago.