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.
Flat, crushed limestone trail in good repair.
Not much traffic, with only three moderately busy roads to cross, two of which have pedestrian crossing signals.
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.
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.
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.
18.081 km / 11.235 mi
145 m / 474 ft
145 m / 477 ft
242 m / 795 ft