Cook County Forest Preserves are a welcome oasis from the urban environment. But let’s face it, most aren’t designed with hikers or trail runners in mind. The paved or crushed limestone trails aren’t bad—in fact, they’re some of the best destinations in the area for running and cycling. But they don’t provide that rugged outdoor experience that most hikers and trail runners crave.
But in Palatine, about a 45-minute drive from Evanston in the northwest suburbs, you’ll find theDeer Grove Forest Preserve, which is the exception to the rule. It features nearly 10 miles of off-road trails in addition to several miles of paved routes that have made this a popular escape.
Located just north of Dundee Road, the Deer Grove Forest Preserve is bisected by Quentin Road, creating east and west sections of the park. The west side is slightly larger, 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 run or hike 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. See a full trail maphere.
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. Hiking is a great way to access the park, which is primarily wooded. The hilly terrain features mostly hickory and oak trees, and features several steep ravines as well as creeks and lakes.
Deer Grove East is more open than the west side, with restored wetlands and prairie in addition to some wooded sections.
You’ll find the usual park amenities—restrooms and water fountains—which help to make it a good choice for putting in some miles.
The ravines and water features on the west side of the park are unique for the Chicago area. Erosion issues have caused some problems, so stick to the designated trails. All the water means that turtles, frogs and salamanders are prevalent in the preserve, and in the spring the area is known for an abundance of wildflowers. And, as the name would suggest, you’ll likely to spot some deer, especially if you hike in the early morning or evening.
Details: Parking at the Deer Grove Preserve is easy. Cook County Forest Preserve Hours are from sunrise to sunset. 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 maphere). 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.