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Let’s hike the Des Plaines River Trail then ride the Blue Line back: 12 Miles

Let’s hike the Des Plaines River then ride the Blue Line back: 12 Miles

For those working their way up to Rainier, this will be a good long hike to prepare.

Saturday, February 15th.  We had such a good time hiking this the first time, multiple folks have asked me to schedule it again.  For all the folks always seeking a carpool ride from Chicago to the burbs for a hike, this hike is for you! 

This is a real hike through the forest, on a real unpaved forest trail, and surrounded by actual deer and squirrels and the occasional beaver but connected on either end by the CTA Blue Line. We will hike the Heritage Trail and Des Plaines River Trail from Forest Park to Catherine Chevalier Woods. A short walk from Catherine Woods, we will catch the Blue Line at the Cumberland station and ride it back to Chicago or Lake Forest, depending on where you start.

How the morning will go:

After a short walk west and north from the Blue Line station in Forest Park, we will enter the Heritage Trail just east of the river, near the corner of Madison St and Thatcher Ave, and hike about 3.5 miles literally in the footsteps of the Pottawatomi Native Americans that established the trail. At North Avenue and Thatcher we will cross the street to the north and connect with the Des Plaines River trail and hike that to Catherine Chevalier Woods.  From there it’s a short jaunt down Bryn Mawr Ave to the Cumberland Blue Line station.

This is a fun hike and I’ve had an awesome time exploring it.  If you like hiking in the woods, I think you will find it equally enjoyable.  The fact that it is so close to public transportation is an added bonus.

The hike is not all that complicated just a little longer than usual.  The first 3 miles or so are a little tricky as the trail is not that well marked and there is just a little bushwhacking involved.  It will be important that hikers be able to maintain a moderate pace (about 3 miles per hour) through that section to keep up with the group.  Once on the yellow, Des Plaines River trail it is nearly impossible to get lost.  Not the best beginner’s hike but if one can keep the pace for the first hour or so they should be fine.

There are actually two locations to meet for this hike.  The official meetup location will be at the north side of the Blue Line station at Forest Park (Near the corner of Des Plaines Ave and Van Buren St.).  We will meet there at 8:45 AM and leave out promptly at 9:00 AM.  For folks driving to the hike, there is parking available for $3 per day.  I would recommend parking on the north side of the station.

For folks taking the Blue Line out to the hike, and that would like to ride out with the group, we will meet on the Blue Line platform (where you board the train) at the Thompson Center (Clark & Lake) at 8:00 AM.  We will take the first Blue Line train to Forest Park that leaves the Thompson Center after 8:00 AM.  Look for me; I will be wearing a bright yellow Steeler’s baseball cap. Again, I’ll be on the platform between the Blue Line tracks.

In either case, whether you drive or ride the Blue Line or take a bus, we will ultimately meet at 8:45 AM on the north side of the Forest Park station and start the hike at 9:00 AM.

We will walk from the station to the northwest corner of Madison and Thatcher.  We will hike the Orange marked trail of the Heritage Trail to the corner of North Ave and Thatcher.  We will hike the Yellow marked trail of the Des Plaines River trail to Catherine Chevalier Woods. From there, we will cross East River Road and walk Bryn Mawr east to Cumberland and then north on Cumberland to the Blue Line station.

Interested in lunch?  For those that would like to grab a bite before hopping on the Blue Line to return, a group of us are going to meet at FRESH restaurant in the lobby of the Renaissance Suites hotel at 8500 W Bryn Mawr Ave.  The restaurant sits about 100 feet from the Cumberland station entrance. 

There is no fee for the hike but folks parking at the Forest Park station will need to pay $3 for parking.  Also, bring $3 for each ride on the Blue Line.

More information on the Cook County Forest Preserve:

Heritage Trail Map click here.

Des Plaines River Trail Map click here.

For history of the Blue Line click here.

Map to the Renaissance Suites hotel and FRESH restaurant click here.

I hope you can make the hike; To be as close to public transportation as it is, you will be surprised just how deep in the woods you will feel.  It will be fun!


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  • Oscar

    Great everyone, the distance was perfect!! Thanks for hosting Lyle!!!

    February 16, 2014

  • Lisa

    Great Day for a winter hike. So nice to get out in the sunshine and get active.

    1 · February 16, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member


    1 · February 15, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Wonderful! Thanks for such a great time and of course it was lovely to get out in the crisp air with such wonderful company!

    3 · February 15, 2014

  • Bobby

    Hola everyone. I really enjoyed the hike. Sorry I wasn't able to stay afterwards due to work. I made it back to the mothership safely and feeling a great sense of accomplishment. Thanks Lyle for setting this one up. I look forward to trying many new hikes with my new compadres.

    2 · February 15, 2014

  • Oscar

    I am hosting a Pink Hike Sunday. For those unable to attend Sunday's hike, I will on site accepting donations for my friends Avon Breast Cancer Walk. Thanks!!

    1 · February 13, 2014

    • Lyle W.

      I bought a pink baseball cap last night in support of this.

      2 · February 14, 2014

  • Therese R.

    Sorry I've have to change to the Sunday hike. Family b-day party.

    1 · February 11, 2014

    • Lyle W.

      Happy birthday to the whole family then.

      2 · February 11, 2014

    • Therese R.

      Can you believe it?? The whole family was born on Feb. 15. :) Walking on Sunday will make my life much simpler.

      2 · February 12, 2014

  • Soso D.

    what do you expect to be the pace for this hike? at what time do you expect to complete it?

    February 11, 2014

  • Lyle W.

    Pay no attention to Oscar. No hills to speak of. Just a longer than usual hike through the woods along a river.

    3 · February 10, 2014

    • Oscar

      Just silly banter!!! Happy trails!!

      1 · February 11, 2014

  • Lyle W.

    No, I'm afraid there is no early blue line stop. It's the whole 12 miles.

    February 10, 2014

  • Nikki

    Is there a place where you can catch the blue line earlier if you can't make the entire 12 miles?

    February 10, 2014

  • Oscar

    Is this a hilly trail and if so, do we need bring our own rope?

    1 · February 10, 2014

    • Nuni


      February 10, 2014

  • Jean

    I may be out of town but if not I'd love to join.

    February 9, 2014

  • Oscar

    I intend on hiking out and back...anyone care to join me for a 24 mile stroll?

    1 · February 3, 2014

    • Lyle W.

      Yeah, that sounds like an awesome idea. Count me in for sure.

      1 · February 4, 2014

    • Oscar

      We`ll have to pace ourselves.

      February 4, 2014

  • Regina

    Michael there is an exit on Des Plaines ave. It is the one after 1st avenue and before harlem. The ramp is on the right side of the expressway Turn left at the top of the ramp to head north. The blue line station will be immediatly to your left as you are heading north. There is parking for the CTA and you can pay to park there or on a side street in Forest Park. If you opt to park on a side street just make sure it isn't a street with a 2 hour limit.

    February 2, 2014

    • Brian D.

      That is eastbound only…just so no one coming from the city gets surbrised

      February 4, 2014

  • Michael

    Driving into the city on Eisenhower, is there an exit on Des Plains Ave? If so, heading north on Des Plains Ave, is parking lot on north of Van Buren St. or south of the street? If anyone knows the area....

    February 2, 2014

    • Lisa

      The CTA stop is south of Van Buren st. It's on the west side of Des Plaines.

      February 2, 2014

  • Lyle W.

    The trail itself is open to dogs. Given that most will be riding the blue line either to the hike, or back to the starting point, or both, I'm not sure how practical bringing Fido along will be since the blue line is not dog friendly. Also worried about the length as 12 miles can be a long hike on four legs. That said, if you can work out the logistics of getting there and back with your pup, and it's up for a 12 miler, it's welcome along but MUST stay on leash.

    January 30, 2014

    • Jennifer

      Good points. Will we be hiking back to the same forest park blue line station? If so I may just bring him. He doesnt get tired. Weve done steep and rocky 4 hour hikes before no problem.

      January 31, 2014

    • Lyle W.

      Not the same station. The two stations are on opposite ends of the blue line. Read the meetup details. We start at forest park station and end at Cumberland station.

      1 · January 31, 2014

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