Monday, February 6, 2012

Hiking Spring Creek Valley Forest Preserve

Spring Creek Valley Forest Preserve, one of the lesser known preserves of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, comprises nearly 4000 acres, running from Lake Cook Road on the north to Higgins Road (Route 72) on the south, and from Old Sutton Road on the east to Bateman and Healy Roads on the west (click to enlarge images.)

Here are the hiking trails (click too enlarge) or go here.

A warren of mowed walking and horse trails dot the preserve from its southern boundary at Higgins Road north to Lake Cook Road Road, meandering through the woods and meadows and alongside ponds and wetlands and on the north, near Spring Creek.  Spring Lake Nature Preserve encompasses the northern-most section of the preserve and the lake itself has no trails leading to its shores.

For our first exploration adventure, we chose the northern segment of the preserve, parking at the Spring Lake Equestrian Center on Bateman Road between Lake Cook and Algonquin Roads.  Also, though Donlea Road through the preserve has been closed, the asphalt roadway remains, and there is room for a couple of cars to park where it meets Bateman Road.

This northern section is devoted to equestrian activities and offers training facilities for cross country equestrians.  Large meadows abound, with ramp areas and short jumping obstacles fashioned to resemble buildings scattered throughout the meadows, as seen below...

If you hike east through these meadows, enjoying the look of the various jumps on your way, you'll see numerous trails leading to the east, north, and south.  Be aware that horse manure will be encountered and in places the trail may be torn up a bit from the horses.  We chose to go east and north which resulted in a  lovely six mile hike that took us along Spring Creek on game trails as seen here...

...and through lovely woods with interspersed hills that "towered" maybe 25 feet in height, providing hilly non-Illinois-like terrain worthy of forest preserve status and a welcome change from the flat meadows from earlier in the hike.

We even discovered this former homesite, complete with remnants of a sink, plumbing, and heating system...

Parking is also available at Penny Road Pond (between Old Sutton and Healy Roads).  From the map, it appears you then cross Penny Road and will find trails on the north side of Penny Road.

The third parking lot is at Beverly Lake on Higgins Road just east of Healy Road

The map which can be downloaded below shows the warren of trails and these 3 parking areas, but be aware that once on the trails, there are no markings indicating trail names or numbers, so a compass, GPS, good memory of where you hiked from the car, or smartphone with Google map capability is a must.

I'll be hiking the southern section and will add info and photos on those trails to this post in a couple months after returning from a trip down south.

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