Poplar Creek Trail

Cycle Chicago, Sightseeing Ride, Poplar Creek Trail 

This trail through the Poplar Creek Forest Preserve in Hoffman Estates is easy, pleasant and diverse. It crosses several major roads, but that is to be expected because the preserve is so large at 4,200 acres. Like many other suburban forest preserves, this one includes a good example of former farmland that conservationists are gradually restoring to its natural state.


Smooth, well-maintained paved path through gently rolling hills.


There are several busy crossroads, and the path parallels major roads in three places.


This ride is not convenient to transit. By car, exit Interstate 90 at Highway 59 (Sutton Road) going south. Less than one mile south, turn right into Shoe Factory Road Woods. You will cross the trail as you enter the park.

Food and Drink

Water at several sites along the trail.


More Details

It’s easy to see why the Poplar Creek Forest Preserve is popular. Biking the multiuse trail is straightforward and effortless. The distance is short; the path is smooth and well marked; the scenery is varied and the setting attractive. There is a constant din of traffic due to the proximity of major roads, but for long stretches at a time you will be able to forget that you are surrounded by urban development and suburban sprawl.

Most of the ride is through open prairie, but you will also see patches of trees and a few small wooded areas that provide welcomed albeit occasional shade. The preserve has a few unusual features, including an equestrian bridge near the beginning of the ride that is decorated with two handsome lions cast in concrete and a parking lot inexplicably labeled “Bicycle Lot”. Hey, we’ll take it! The northern section of the preserve is too hilly and rocky to ever have been farmed.

Other areas of the preserve, however, were intensively farmed, and they are benefitting from very active restoration efforts. Since it was formed in 1989, the Poplar Creek Prairie Stewards has been working to restore a 600-acre prairie in the preserve. In conjunction with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and The Nature Conservancy, it holds workdays every weekend all year long. The Prairie Stewards is always looking for volunteers. Perhaps a bike ride through this handsome preserve will motivate you to lend a hand. A note of caution. This and several other rides along rivers and streams in flat Chicagoland are prone to flooding.

You can check the Forest Preserve District of Cook County’s website for reports on the status of the trail, but those reports are not always up-to-date. As a general rule, do not ride this trail for two days after it rains and even more if it rains heavily.


Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start at the map near the entrance to the parking lot. Bike south in a counterclockwise direction.
  • 0.6 Cross Gulf Rd and then Sutton Rd. Note equestrian bridge on the left, decorated with two lions cast into the concrete.
  • 0.7 Parking and toilet on the left after crossing small road.
  • 1.8 Bike straight through T to stay on the Red Trail.
  • 2.0 Cross Bode Rd. Then cross Bartlett Rd.
  • 2.7 Parking, toilet, picnic table and water on the right as well as a big open field.
  • 3.8 Bike straight through T to stay on Red Trail.
  • 4.3 South of Gulf Rd, west of Barrington, chance of flooding.
  • 5.1 Cross Barrington Pond Rd. Toilet and parking on left.
  • 5.5 Cross Shoe Factory Rd. The parking on the left happens to be called the “Bicycle Lot.”
  • 5.6 Path merges in from the left.
  • 7.5 Cross Bartlett Rd at Shoe Factory Rd.
  • 8.3 Parking, water, picnic table and toilet on left.
  • 8.4 Cross Route 59 at Shoe Factory Rd. Then Cross Shoe Factory Rd to follow the Red Trail going south.
  • 8.9 End ride.
  • Trail map

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    14.299 km / 8.885 mi

    Total Distance

    142 m / 466 ft

    Total Ascent

    142 m / 465 ft

    Total Descent

    263 m / 864 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Difficulty: Easy (Blue)
    Ride Duration: <1 hr
    Fitness Level: Low
    Shared Bike Path - Paved
    Shared Bike Path - Dirt
    On-Road Bike Lane
    Off-Road - Fire Trail
    Off-Road - Rail Trail
    Off-Road - Single Track
    Off-Road - Downhill
    Mobile Coverage: Excellent
    Estimated Distance: 14.0
    First Aid
    Bike hire
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber

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