The Deer Grove Forest Preserve is known for offering the best mountain biking in Chicago’s northern suburbs, with 10 miles of off-road trails in addition to several miles of paved routes that have made this a popular escape. Some have even referred to this as “Palos North,” in reference to the bigger trail system in the southwest suburbs. When winter comes, those singletrack trails become the place for parallel ski grooves as cross-country skiers can take advantage of the tree-lined paths in the preserve.
What Makes It Great
Deer Grove is the oldest forest preserve in Cook County. The first 500 acres were acquired in 1916, and it has grown to encompass 1,800 acres today. The hilly terrain features mostly hickory and oak trees, and features several steep ravines as well as creeks and lakes. It's a scenic place to ski and enjoy some winter solitude. Deer Grove East is more open than the west side, with restored wetlands and prairie in addition to some wooded sections.
There are no lessons or rentals in the preserve, so you must have your own equipment. Trails aren't groomed, although someone will lay down track after a snowfall. This is a place that's better for classic skiers.
Located just north of Dundee road in Palatine, Ill., the Deer Grove Forest Preserve is bisected by Quentin Road, creating east and west sections of the park. The west side is slightly bigger, and has the longest trail, the yellow, which offers a 5.4-mile, uninterrupted loop. You can connect to black and orange trails on the west side and get in a good 10-mile ride without too much repetition. On the east side, which is connected to the west via a paved trail, there’s a 2.6 mile brown loop as well as the 2.6 mile paved trail.
Who is Going to Love It
Experienced skiers looking for a unique trail system in the Chicago area. You get beautiful wooded trails with plenty of hills that can make for a challenging outing. You won't find many park amenities in the winter. You're largely on your own.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Parking at the Deer Grove Preserve is easy. The Deer Grove West parking lot is near the corner of the Northwest Highway and Dundee Road, and from there you can access the yellow and orange trails (see the map here).
Cook County Forest Preserve Hours are from sunrise to sunset.
The forest preserve is also connected to the 16.1-mile Palatine Trail, which connects the preserve to the Paul Douglas Forest Preserve to the south.