West Branch & Hawk Hollow Forest Preserves

Cycle Chicago, Sightseeing Ride, West Branch & Hawk Hollow Forest Preserves

Two forest preserves are better than one! Individually, each one of these preserves is not large or varied enough to warrant a ride in Where to Bike Chicago. Taken together, however, they make for a pleasant way to spend a few hours biking through flat, open and attractive meadows, marshes and prairies. Ultimately, bike trails will connect these two forest preserves with several others in the vicinity.

Terrain

Flat, crushed limestone trail in good repair.

Traffic

Not much traffic, with only three moderately busy roads to cross, two of which have pedestrian crossing signals.

Access

The ride is not convenient to transit. By car, exit Interstate 355 westbound at Army Trail Road. After 6.8 miles turn left (south) on Gerber Road.

Food and Drink

There’s water available in the West Branch Forest Preserve and several fast food restaurants along Army Trail Road east of Fair Oaks Road, the first street to the east of Gerber Road.

Side Trip

Visit the lovely, historic St. Charles and Geneva communities, just five miles west of the preserves on Army Trail Road and two miles south along the picturesque Fox River. There’s great shopping and restaurants, and lots of history to discover.

 

More Details

These two preserves are part of a large greenway along the West Branch of the DuPage River that includes more than nine protected natural areas, from Mallard Lake Forest Preserve in Roselle at the northern end to McDowell Grove in Naperville at the southern end. Once our major thoroughfares, rivers and streams are now nature’s holdout against development.

West Branch Forest Preserve

This preserve in Bartlett encompasses an attractive open area around Deep Quarry and Bass lakes. The DuPage County Forest Preserve District acquired the land in the 1970s to help control flooding in the area by using the quarry as a reservoir to collect and hold storm water.

This important role is evident along the preserve’s short path that runs alongside the West Branch of the DuPage River, which itself is sandwiched between the preserve’s two lakes. Such wetlands and surrounding marshes not only control floods but also help to filter pollutants from runoff and storm water. With all this water, it’s no surprise that this preserve hosts a large variety of amphibians and shorebirds. Meanwhile, the main path in this preserve runs through a tall-grass meadow. Both the short and long trails included in this ride, as well as a third trail on the western edge of the preserve, dead end so you have to backtrack on each one of them. The Forest Preserve District would do well to extend and connect the three trails to make a couple of nice big loops.

Hawk Hollow Forest Preserve

This ride runs along the south side of the West Branch of the DuPage River through open meadowland. At 1,155-acres, the rectangular-shaped Hawk Hollow Forest Preserve in Hanover Park is larger than it looks. It is not just a big open field. In fact, it contains one of the largest unbroken blocks of grassland habitats in the county. Although many nonnative plants thrive there, Hawk Hollow is home to 530 plant species, and most of them are native. The meadow is also home to 132 different animal species including several that are endangered or threatened and many bird species that are uncommon.

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start at the information kiosk and bike east on the crushed limestone path.
  • 1.1 Turn around at Lies Rd (honest!), but not before noticing the cornfield across Fair Oak Rd. There are not very many of these left in Chicago’s suburbs.
  • 2.2 Back at the information kiosk, keep riding past parking and restrooms.
  • 2.3 Slow down and turn right at T.
  • 2.4 Cross Army Trail Rd using pedestrian signal and follow path to left along stone wall.
  • 2.5 Follow path as it curves right into Hawk Hollow Forest Preserve.
  • 3.0 Turn left and take blacktop path along the south side of Schick Rd.
  • 3.4 Cross small bridge.
  • 3.5 Turn right and cross Schick Rd. Continue north on path along east side of Bartlett Rd.
  • 3.9 Pass under railroad bridge.
  • 4.3 Turn right and bike east on path along south side of Struckman Blvd.
  • 4.5 Cross Struckman Blvd following sign for West Branch Trail.
  • 6.5 Turn around at County Farm Rd.
  • 8.4 Cross Struckman Blvd.
  • 8.6 Turn left and continue to bike on path along east side of Bartlett Rd.
  • 9.4 Turn left and bike on path along the south side of Schick Rd.
  • 9.8 Turn right and return to West Branch Forest Preserve.
  • 10.6 Turn right at T.
  • 10.7 Bear right at Y.
  • 11.1 Turn around.
  • 11.7 End ride.
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    18.081 km / 11.235 mi

    Total Distance

    145 m / 474 ft

    Total Ascent

    145 m / 477 ft

    Total Descent

    242 m / 795 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Gravel
    Various
    Difficulty: Easy (Blue)
    Ride Duration: options
    Fitness Level: Medium
    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: 18.5
    Services:
    Water
    Food
    First Aid
    Toilets
    Bike hire
    Carparking
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber
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