Thorn Creek (South) Sauk Trail

Cycle Chicago, Sightseeing Ride, Thorn Creek (South) Sauk Trail 

This ride in Chicago Heights is short on miles but long on benefits. It has plenty of shade and serenity. And since it’s relatively far from Chicago, it does not attract as many bicyclists as some other popular trails. In addition, the trail was just resurfaced in the summer of 2010. Best of all, the path does not have any big street crossings, a rarity among the region’s parks and forest preserves. Check it out - again and again, around and around.


Smooth brand-new blacktop trail over gently rolling hills. 


This ride is not convenient to transit. By car, exit Interstate 57 going east or Route 394 going west at U.S. 30 (Lincoln Highway). Go south on Route 1 (Dixie Highway), west on 26th Street and then southwest on Forest Preserve Drive (also known as Ashland Avenue). After one-half mile, enter Sauk Trail Woods Grove #7 on the right.

Food and Drink

Nothing except water at two spots along the way.

Side Trip

Located near Thornton a few miles north of this ride, the Thornton Quarry is one of the largest aggregate quarries in the world: one and a half miles long and 400 feet deep. It was formed when the area was at the bottom of a warm, shallow ocean. Since 1924 when digging began, untold tons of limestone and other aggregate, as well as some fascinating fossils, have been extracted. Schools, museums and groups offer tours that can be found through the Internet.


More Details

This pleasant ride through dense, hilly woodlands in the Sauk Trail Woods is secluded, quiet and peaceful. The trail crosses Thorn Creek twice and passes near the deep Sauk Trail Lake, fed by that creek. Much of the land in this pristine preserve is marshy. Except for a couple of sections that run parallel to busy streets, the trail is removed from signs of civilization.

The forest is so thick that the ride is mostly shaded, with the trees often forming a canopy over the trail. There is a bit of traffic noise here and there, but most of the way you will hear nothing other than birds and the bees and the rustling of deer. Enjoy the greenery and scenery.

The Old Sauk Trail has a long history. For centuries, Native Americans used the Old Sauk Trail, which ran 400 miles from what is now called Rock Island on the Mississippi River to what is now called Detroit. Today the bike path along this old trail is 10 feet wide, but before Europeans arrived the trail was one foot wide. Over the years, explorers and trappers, wagon trains and armies, horses then cars have traveled the trail. Former slaves used the Old Sauk Trail, too.

Just south of and half way through the Purple Trail once stood the home of Revolutionary War veteran John McCoy that served as a station along the “Underground Railroad.” Also, this trail was used to supply Fort Dearborn from Detroit in the early 1800s. To add three miles to this bike ride, take the Purple Trail at 3.0 miles into the ride. The Thorn Creek Trail System is actually pretty vast. There are additional disconnected sections of the system two-to-five miles north near Thornton and Lansing where almost seven miles of bike trails run through Glenwood, Brownell and Jurgensen woods.


Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start at the map to get oriented. Bike north, counterclockwise.
  • 0.3 Bear left to stay on the main Black Trail.
  • 0.5 Bear left to stay on the Black Trail.
  • 0.8 Trail parallels 26th St for a short distance, but a guard rail provides protection from the traffic.
  • 0.9 Sauk Trail Lake on left.
  • 1.1 Bear left to stay on the Black Trail.
  • 1.7 The Black Trail splits for no apparent reason, but both branches reconnect within 100 feet.
  • 2.2 Bear left to stay on the Black Trail.
  • 2.4 Cross a small bridge.
  • 2.8 Cross small park entrance road.
  • 3.0 Bear left to stay on the Black Trail. Or, take the Purple Trail for an additional three miles, out and back. To do this, cross Sauk Trail Road at the light, using the pedestrian signal.
  • 3.4 Cross small park entrance road.
  • 3.5 End ride.
  • Trail map

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    5.608 km / 3.485 mi

    Total Distance

    89 m / 292 ft

    Total Ascent

    89 m / 293 ft

    Total Descent

    221 m / 724 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Difficulty: Beginner (Green)
    Ride Duration: options
    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: 5.6
    First Aid
    Bike hire
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber

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