Cycle Chicago, Sightseeing Ride, Busse Woods Trail

There are many reasons this preserve nestled near Elk Grove Village, Schaumburg and Arlington Heights is one of the most popular bike trails in Chicagoland - and all of Illinois. The trail crosses only one highway at street level; the scenery is pretty and varied; picnic shelters abound; the pavement is smooth; and there are spurs to explore. Did I mention the flush toilets just about every mile? And the 3,700-acre Busse Woods, also known as the Ned Brown Preserve, is famous for its herd of elks.

Terrain

Smooth, well-maintained but very busy paved path over flat landscape.

Traffic

Only one major street crossing, but there are several quiet, cross streets in the park.

Access

By bike, enter from the west at Winfield Road via the extensive Schaumburg Bikeways and from the north at New Wilke Road via the Arlington Heights Bikeways.

By car, exit Interstate 290 at Arlington Heights Road going south. Turn right one mile south at the first entrance to the preserve. You’ll pass the trailhead on the right as you enter the parking lot.

Food and Drink

There’s plenty of water available, but that’s it unless you leave the trail at Higgins and Arlington Heights roads, where you’ll find a variety of restaurants.

Side Trip

The huge and famous Woodfield Mall is only a stone’s throw to the west. Better yet, explore Schaumburg’s extensive bike trails that earned the city a coveted Bicycle Friendly Community award from the League of American Bicyclists.

 

More Details

The Busse Woods Trail offers a pleasant pedal through meadows and woods with sun and shade. It’s hard to imagine that the huge Woodfield Shopping Center, once the nation’s largest mall, is only a few feet to the west across Route 53. What a difference between the two attractions. Several entrances ring the preserve’s perimeter, but I chose one that’s easy to find and requires only two turns after exiting the Interstate.

Another reason I picked this entrance is that it saves the elks for the end of the ride. Elks once thrived in the area, but this herd was imported in the 1920s from Jackson Hole, Wyo. It once numbered more than 70 but is now kept at around a dozen. Veterinarians from Brookfield Zoo monitor the herd and help to keep the animals healthy. The trail winds around a lake and several pools that the Forest Preserve District of Cook County created in 1978 by damming Salt Creek to control flooding. Since there are several tight curves, watch your speed, stay on the right and don’t pass at curves.

You’ll cross several quiet park roads and parking lots where traffic will be slow, but be aware that the cars are not required to stop for bikes at most of these crossings. I included the trail’s four major spurs in this ride to help you discover the bike entry points and to introduce different aspects of the trail.

For example, at 10.8 miles into the ride, the Yellow Trail offers a short but challenging climb. No, it’s not up the side of a former landfill, as is the case with other “hills” in the region. Rather, the elevation is required to cross a highway. You might want to bike up and down the overpass several times for the novelty of it.

If you’re looking for a rugged commune with nature, this trail, with a dozen parking areas and crowds of cyclists, joggers and inline skaters on weekends, will strike you as overdeveloped. But if you’re looking for an easy ride with well-marked trails, amenities, wayside maps and plenty of company, this is just the ride for you.

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start at map near restrooms at the north end of the Elk Pasture parking lot. Bike north on the Red Trail, counterclockwise.
  • 1.3 Cross first of many quiet roads that lead to parking lots.
  • 2.3 Cross Salt Creek.
  • 3.2 Turn right onto Black Trail.
  • 3.6 Short spur to right connects with Schaumburg’s extensive, award-winning bike trail system.
  • 4.3 Stay on Black Trail. Spur to left connects to suburban trail system.
  • 5.4 Turn around at New Wilke Rd, where the path connects to a suburban bike trail.
  • 7.6 Turn right to return to main Red Trail.
  • 7.7 Cross busy Higgins Rd. Use pedestrian crossing signal. Follow Red Trail south.
  • 8.9 Pass boat center on both sides of trail.
  • 9.5 Turn right onto Purple Trail going south along quiet residential Beisner Rd. 10.6 Turn around at Biesterfield Rd.
  • 10.8 Turn left onto Yellow Trail toward Elk Grove Community Bridge. Enjoy a short but steep climb … and coast.
  • 11.5 Turn around at Rohlwing Rd.
  • 12.2 Turn left back onto Yellow Trail.
  • 13.1 Turn right at T back onto Red Trail.
  • 13.3 Good picnic spot on left with nice vista overlooking Busse Lake.
  • 14.0 Bike straight through trail intersection onto Green Trail.
  • 14.3 Turn around at end of Green Trail.
  • 14.6 Turn right to pick up Red Trail.
  • 15.8 Brown Trail leads to intersection of Arlington Heights Rd and Higgins Rd where you’ll find restaurants, a convenience store and a bike shop.
  • 16.0 Cross large bridge over Higgins Rd. As with the bridge on the Yellow Trail, this is a great way to bike across a highway!
  • 16.2 Elk Pasture behind fence. The elk are cool with having people nearby but don’t feed them.
  • 16.5 End ride back at map near parking lot.
  • Trail map

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    25.836 km / 16.054 mi

    Total Distance

    125 m / 410 ft

    Total Ascent

    125 m / 409 ft

    Total Descent

    223 m / 731 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Difficulty: Easy (Blue)
    Ride Duration: <1 hr
    Fitness Level: Low
    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: 26.0
    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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