Mountain Biking the Windy City

Deer Grove
Deer Grove

If you're north of Chicago, Deer Grove is where you should go to get some mountain bike action. While there is a paved bicycle trail in the forest preserve, the real excitement is on the cross-country ski trail. Even though this wide, 8.5-mile multiple-loop trail has paved sections, the majority of it is dirt. If you want even more exhilaration, you might explore the various dirt single-track spurs you'll find off the main trail. The single-track is narrower and hillier than the main trail. Your ride goes through dense woods full of rocks and fallen trees. Even though the Chicago area is notoriously flat, you'll be surprised by the elevation of this area. It's not uncommon to ride down a steep ravine, come to a creek crossing at the bottom, and hit a steep climb on the way back up. You'll also get to test your technical abilities in areas where you'll find jumps across streams. (The best riding of this type is found along the creek.)

With its variety of riding options, Deer Grove is good for the intermediate mountain biker looking for the moderate riding found along the ski trails or the expert mountain biker who wants to test his or her mettle on the single-track. As local area mountain biker Bart Dahlstrom puts it,"It's long enough to work up a good sweat without going around in circles."

General location: In Palatine, off Dundee Road.

Elevation change: The variation here is almost 100 feet.

Season: It's drier in the summer, so ride then if you don't mind the mosquitoes. The spring and fall can be wet and muddy.

Services: Water is available at Deer Grove. All services are available in Palatine.

Hazards: You will find hikers on the main trail, so be cautious. The areas with the steep climbs are rocky and muddy.

Rescue index: The preserve gets a lot of use. The area is bounded by several busy roads as well.

Land status: Forest Preserve District of Cook County.

Maps: You can write the Forest Preserve District of Cook County at the address below for a map. There are also trail signs posted at the various parking areas. The USGS 7.5 minute quad for Deer Grove is Lake Zurich.

Finding the trail: From Interstate 90 and IL 53, go north on IL 53 for 5.5 miles to Dundee Road (IL 68). Turn left (west) on Dundee Road and go for 3 miles to Quentin Road. Turn right on Quentin Road and you'll see the entrance for Deer Grove half a mile on your left.

Sources of additional information:
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
536 North Harlem
River Forest, IL 60305
(312) 261-8400 (city)
(708) 366-9420 (suburbs)

Notes on the trail: You can park at any lot you come to, but you might wish to park at the first parking area and ride back a few yards to pick up the main trail where the trail map sign is.

The map does not show any of the spurs. As you ride the main trail, if a single-track spur looks inviting, get that exploring spirit. Most of the single-track spurs will connect back to the main trail.

The last I heard, the Cook County Forest Preserve District still had not formulated a policy on riding the single-track trails. You might wish to check their availability if you intend to depart from the main trail.

© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press. All rights reserved.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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