Salt Creek Trail to Brookfield Zoo

Cycle Chicago, Sightseeing Ride, Salt Creek Trail to Brookfield Zoo

Beginning in Bemis Woods in Western Springs, this ride offers a whole day of outdoor fun. Ride along the pleasant, mostly wooded Salt Creek natural area and take a break in the middle of your ride to visit Brookfield Zoo, Chicagoland’s largest and most attractive zoo. Since the zoo is only 6.6 miles into the ride, even young children could easily enjoy this ride, especially when coupled with the fun of, and perhaps lunch at, the zoo.


Wide, paved path through woods with a couple of very gentle hills. Five major road crossings.


Take the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Metra line to Western Springs, bike four blocks north and enter Bemis Woods South (Groves 5-8) along Ogden Road. Bike straight past the first road on the right and find the trailhead in the first parking area.

By car, exit Interstate 294 at Route 34, going east on Ogden Avenue. After half a mile, turn left into Bemis Woods South (Groves 5-8). Drive past the first road on the right and park in the first parking area straight ahead.

Food and Drink

Water along the trail and plenty of food options at the zoo.

Side Trips

Brookfield Zoo. Also, Bemis Woods at the start and finish of this ride offers several miles of unpaved trails suitable for mountain biking. Although more rugged than the paved Salt Creek Trail, these trails are not very challenging.


More Details

The shallow, meandering Salt Creek is a mighty friend to bicyclists. Parks and woods line the creek much of the way from its source at Wilke Marsh in Palatine to where it joins the Des Plaines River near Brookfield. Many of these green ways include bike paths. Most of the creek’s watershed is developed but you wouldn’t know it from this trail, which passes through several picnic groves, meadows and shaded wooded areas. Even the parts that pass through developed areas have a quiet or small-town feel. The serene British Home at 6.3 miles is a nonprofit retirement community opened in 1924 on land donated by Samuel Insull, President of what later became Commonwealth Edison. It now serves all nationalities. This trail gets very busy on weekends in the summer and is prone to flooding, especially in the spring.

Brookfield Zoo

Opened in 1934, Brookfield Zoo became known for enclosing animals with ditches and other natural barriers rather than bars. Today it spreads over 216 acres and houses 450 species of animals. Even if you’ve been to this zoo it’s worth another visit since it changes constantly. In the past decade, the zoo constructed a wolf woods, family play zoo and butterfly tent. In 2010 it opened the Great Bear Wilderness, a sprawling habitat that fits into the zoo’s approach of placing animals in their natural ecosystems. Its other habitats include a swamp, rain forest, desert and savanna. A walk around the zoo will refresh you for the bike ride back to Bemis Woods. 


Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start at the “0.0” on the sidewalk and head east on the Purple Trail.
  • 0.4 Follow the path along left side of busy Wolf Rd and cross street to the right. Here you pick up the main Red Trail.
  • 1.6 Continue straight through T.
  • 1.9 Cross 31st St.
  • 3.0 At Cermak Rd, cross Mannheim Rd/LaGrange Rd to the right and pick up path going to the right (south) alongside LaGrange Rd.
  • 3.1 Follow path back into woods.
  • 4.3 Pass under small railroad bridge.
  • 4.5 Cross busy 25th Ave.
  • 5.3 Turn left to cross creek, turn right to cross 17th Ave and then pick up trail straight ahead.
  • 5.9 Bear right to stay on Red Trail.
  • 6.3 Continue straight at large parking area next to the British Home. (Do not explore the private grounds.)
  • 6.5 Turn right to stay on Red Trail. Or, continue straight to Brookfield Zoo’s bike entrance.
  • 6.6 Turn around at end of path.
  • 6.7 Turn left.
  • 6.9 Pick up Red Trail into the woods.
  • 7.3 Bear left to stay on Red Trail.
  • 7.9 Cross 17th Ave, turn left to cross creek. Pick up trail to the right.
  • 8.9 Pass under small railroad bridge.
  • 10.1 Turn right, following path along LaGrange Rd.
  • 10.2 Cross Mannheim Rd/LaGrange Rd and pick up trail to the left.
  • 11.3 Cross 31st St and continue straight along what looks like a road.
  • 11.6 Continue straight on Red Trail, rather than left on Brown Trail.
  • 12.8 Cross busy Wolf Rd and continue straight on Red Trail rather than left along the side of road.
  • 14.0 Pass under Interstate 294 and continue west on quiet Canterberry Ln.
  • 14.5 Turn around at York Rd.
  • 15.0 Pick up the Red Trail in forest preserve.
  • 16.2 Turn right, following path alongside Wolf Rd.
  • 16.3 Turn right onto Purple Trail.
  • 16.8 End ride at “0.0” on the sidewalk.
  • Trail map

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    25.038 km / 15.558 mi

    Total Distance

    237 m / 779 ft

    Total Ascent

    237 m / 777 ft

    Total Descent

    205 m / 671 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Difficulty: Beginner (Green)
    Ride Duration: 1/2 day
    Fitness Level: Medium
    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: 27.0
    First Aid
    Bike hire
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber
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