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.
Smooth, well-maintained but very busy paved path over flat landscape.
Only one major street crossing, but there are several quiet, cross streets in the park.
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.
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.
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.
25.836 km / 16.054 mi
125 m / 410 ft
125 m / 409 ft
223 m / 731 ft