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The Des Plaines River Trail runs alongside the Des Plaines River for just over 56 miles, protecting watershed habitat and forestland through much of Lake and Cook Counties. The trail is a natural oasis within a short drive of Chicago and its northern suburbs. Having such a long, lush trail just outside of such a densely populated urban area is truly a wonderful asset to the surrounding community.
Traveling from the north end to the south end, you will experience a variety of trail surfaces, from pavement to crushed stone to single-track forest trail. Be prepared for this terrain to change quickly and often for an exciting adventure at every turn. More novice riders and hikers might wish to start at the northern end and travel south the first 20 miles. Along this segment, users will find that the trail is well maintained and frequented by nearby residents. Keep an eye out for deer, birds, snakes, and turtles, all native to the area and abundant along the path.
Moving farther south, the corridor becomes narrow and filled with roots in certain segments. If the ground is wet, be careful when making turns. Also be cautious at the multiple instances where the trail crosses over several highly trafficked roads. Most of these intersections are well marked and have signals for cars to stop. Additionally, several crossings are by tunnel, which makes it much easier to continue along the trail at these intersections.
Just north of Golf Road in Des Plaines, the trail runs into an active railroad line and continues just on the other side of the tracks. Caution should be used here when crossing the tracks. About 3 miles of the trail parallel tracks in a rail-with-trail formation.
Restrooms, picnic areas, and water fountains are frequent throughout this system of connected forest preserves. Several parking lots are also located along the trail’s entire length, making it easy to access the route at a variety of points.
In Lake County, snowmobiles are permitted along the trail between Wadsworth Road (and in the wetlands research project area) and the northern terminus at Russell Road.
To reach the Van Patten Woods Forest Preserve at the north end of the trail: From I-94, take Exit 2 for IL 173/Rosecrans Road. Head east on IL 173 E/Rosecrans Road and follow it 1 mile before taking a left into the Van Patten Woods Forest Preserve.
To reach the Jerome Huppert Woods Forest Preserve at the trail’s southern end: From I-294, take Exit 39 for Balmoral Ave. Head east on Balmoral Ave. and follow it 0.3 mile, and then turn right onto Des Plaines River Road/N. River Road. After 1.7 miles, turn left onto W. Irving Park Road/IL 19 and travel 1.1 miles before turning right onto N. Cumberland Ave./IL 171. Cumberland turns into Thatcher Ave., which then turns into N. First Ave. Two miles from W. Irving Park Road, turn left onto W. Fullerton Ave. and then turn right at the first cross street onto Thatcher Ave. In 1 mile, you will reach Jerome Huppert Woods Forest Preserve; take a right to enter the park.
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