Cycle Chicago, Sightseeing Ride, Algonquin Trail & Douglas Forest Preserve

Starting in Palatine, this trail links Harper College, the Algonquin Road Trail, the Paul Douglas Forest Preserve, the Crabtree Forest Preserve and a local park. Thus, it offers a lot of variety and shows how you can make rides longer and more interesting by cobbling together bike trails, parks, local landmarks and forest preserves. In the process, you’ll familiarize yourself with new areas and connect many pieces of that puzzle that is Chicago’s vast bicycle infrastructure.

Terrain

Paved blacktop trail over flat and gently rolling open land.

Traffic

There is a lot of traffic, with several busy parallel and cross streets, near the beginning and end of the ride. There is little or no traffic, however, in the two forest preserves this ride visits.

Access

Pace #696 bus goes along Roselle and Algonquin roads to Harper College. By car, exit Highway 53 going west on Euclid Avenue. After two miles, turn left at North Drive to enter Harper College’s campus. Park in Parking Lot P. 

Food and Drink

There’s plenty of water available in the Paul Douglas Forest Preserve and even more fast food available along Algonquin Road.

Side Trip

Visit the Crabtree Nature Center at 3 Stover Road in Barrington just a few steps north of the turnaround point of this ride. The spacious exhibit building and several miles of self-guided, educational trails will improve your appreciation of the area’s wildlife and native plants.

 

More Details

Harper College

Harper College is not the region’s most attractive campus but it has pretty spots including a natural area and a small lake. In any event, it has a nice bike trail running along its eastern edge.

Harper College describes itself as “the area’s bestkept secret” providing affordable degrees, career training and certification in nursing, computer technology, business, marketing, e-commerce, law enforcement and more. Meanwhile, the college’s ample visitors parking provides a good place to start this ride.

Paul Douglas Forest Preserve

The highlight of the ride is the Paul Douglas Forest Preserve, a 1,800-acre tract of former cropland named after Douglas, a former U.S. senator from Illinois, conservationist and preservationist renowned for helping to preserve the Indiana Dunes. The loop around the edge of this preserve that many bicyclists go around and around is large and enjoyable, with only a few road crossings. Wooded areas surround born-again wetlands. Scattered about are remnants of the area’s old farming days including fence posts and barbed wire, overgrown vegetation and even some old farm equipment.

The preserve is a bird haven, in part because the Forest Preserve District can raise and lower water levels as needed to mimic the optimal conditions to grow native plants and attract birds.

Crabtree Forest Preserve

To the northwest, the 1,000-acre Crabtree Forest Preserve is even more popular with birders. More than 263 bird species have been observed here, and at least 89 species have been recorded to breed on the property. You will access this preserve via a short ride on paved bike paths along busy streets about midway through your loop around the Paul Douglas Forest Preserve. Alas, the bike trail ends only 1.1 miles into the Crabtree Forest Preserve but it will give you a another sample of the area’s natural beauty.

The landscape of both these neighboring forest preserves was formed by massive glaciers that left behind forests and prairies, streams and marshes. But then the forests were chopped down, the prairies plowed and the marshes drained. Now forest preserves tend to hug the remaining streams, where they allow the land and wetlands to gradually return to their natural states.

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start at the campus map just to the east of Harper College’s north entrance at Euclid Ave and North Dr. Bike east on the blacktop trail that runs close to the campus, not the one that runs along Euclid Ave.
  • 0.8 Bear right where the trail meets up with and parallels Algonquin Rd.
  • 1.0 Cross Harper College Dr.
  • 1.3 Cross Roselle Rd.
  • 2.2 Cross Algonquin Rd, then cross Ela Rd to pick up Red Trail in forest preserve.
  • 3.9 Turn right at T to pick up Black Trail.
  • 4.0 Cross Huntington Blvd going west along south side of Algonquin Rd.
  • 4.7 Cross Algonquin Rd at Willow Creek Church Dr and continue west on the Black Trail.
  • 5.0 Cross Barrington Rd.
  • 5.5 Follow Black Trail into Crabtree Forest Preserve.
  • 6.6 Turn around at Palatine Rd.
  • 8.2 Cross Barrington Rd. Then cross Algonquin Rd.
  • 9.2 Cross Huntington Blvd and turn right into Paul Douglas Forest Preserve.
  • 9.3 Rejoin Red Trail.
  • 11.3 Grassy Ridge Meadow marks 0.0 on Red Trail. Consult map for orientation.
  • 12.6 Cross Ela Rd.
  • 14.1 Cross Algonquin Rd. Then cross Roselle Rd and bike east along Algonquin Rd.
  • 14.4 Cross Harper College Dr.
  • 14.6 Bike straight through T on the blacktop trail and head toward the play lot.
  • 15.4 End ride back in Parking Lot P or take a nice extra 1.2-mile spin by crossing Euclid Ave and North Dr to pick up the path briefly going west, then curving north. Note the array of solar panels on left.
  • 16.0 Turn around at pretty Peregrine Park, which ends at Skylark Dr and Peregrine Dr, and return to Harper College.
  • 16.6 Cross North Dr and Euclid Ave and end ride.
  • Trail map

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    26.395 km / 16.401 mi

    Total Distance

    154 m / 506 ft

    Total Ascent

    155 m / 507 ft

    Total Descent

    268 m / 878 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Difficulty: Beginner (Green)
    Ride Duration: 1-2 hrs
    Fitness Level: Medium
    Terrain:
    Shared Bike Path - Paved
    Shared Bike Path - Dirt
    On-Road Bike Lane
    On-Road
    Off-Road - Fire Trail
    Off-Road - Rail Trail
    Off-Road - Single Track
    Off-Road - Downhill
    Mobile Coverage: Excellent
    Estimated Distance: 16.6
    Services:
    Water
    Food
    First Aid
    Toilets
    Bike hire facilities
    Carparking
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber

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