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.
Paved blacktop trail over flat and gently rolling open land.
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.
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.
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.
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.
26.395 km / 16.401 mi
154 m / 506 ft
155 m / 507 ft
268 m / 878 ft