Des Plaines River Trail – Lake County In Illinois

Here is everything you need to know about the Des Plaines River Trail – Lake County:

  • Trail System: National Recreation Trail
  • State: Illinois
  • Length: 31.4 miles.
  • Type: Multi-use
  • Surface: paved
  • Managed By: Lake County Forest Preserves
  • Permit Required?: Yes.
  • Website:

The Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County, Illinois, holds a rich historical significance that dates back centuries. The trail follows the course of the Des Plaines River, which has been a vital waterway for transportation and trade since ancient times. Native American tribes, including the Potawatomi and Miami, inhabited the region and utilized the river for fishing, hunting, and travel.

During the 17th century, French explorers and fur traders ventured into the area, establishing trade routes along the Des Plaines River. The river served as a crucial link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, enabling the transportation of goods and facilitating the growth of settlements. The French influence can still be seen today in the names of various towns and landmarks along the trail, such as Des Plaines and Lake Forest.

In the 19th century, the construction of the Illinois and Michigan Canal further enhanced the importance of the Des Plaines River as a transportation route. The canal connected the Illinois River to Lake Michigan, providing a direct waterway for goods and people. The Des Plaines River Trail played a significant role in supporting the canal’s operations, serving as a towpath for horses and mules that pulled barges along the canal.

As the industrial revolution took hold, the Des Plaines River became a hub for manufacturing and commerce. Mills, factories, and warehouses were established along its banks, utilizing the river’s water for power and transportation. The trail witnessed the growth of industries such as lumber, paper, and textiles, which contributed to the economic development of Lake County.

Today, the Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County stands as a testament to the region’s rich history. It offers visitors a chance to explore the remnants of old mills, locks, and other historical sites that once thrived along the river. The trail serves as a reminder of the vital role the Des Plaines River played in shaping the area’s past and continues to be a cherished recreational resource for residents and visitors alike.

While On The Trail

Access Points

1. Russell Road Access Point
2. Wadsworth Road Access Point
3. Grand Avenue Access Point
4. Washington Street Access Point
5. Half Day Road Access Point
6. Milwaukee Avenue Access Point
7. Lake Cook Road Access Point
8. Dundee Road Access Point
9. Oakton Street Access Point
10. Dempster Street Access Point
11. Golf Road Access Point
12. Touhy Avenue Access Point
13. Devon Avenue Access Point
14. River Road Access Point
15. Willow Road Access Point
16. Lake Avenue Access Point
17. Central Avenue Access Point
18. Dempster Street Access Point
19. Oakton Street Access Point
20. Golf Road Access Point
21. Touhy Avenue Access Point
22. Devon Avenue Access Point
23. River Road Access Point
24. Willow Road Access Point
25. Lake Avenue Access Point
26. Central Avenue Access Point
27. Dempster Street Access Point
28. Oakton Street Access Point
29. Golf Road Access Point
30. Touhy Avenue Access Point
31. Devon Avenue Access Point
32. River Road Access Point
33. Willow Road Access Point
34. Lake Avenue Access Point
35. Central Avenue Access Point

Transportation Available

1. Pace Bus – Public bus service providing transportation to various destinations in Lake County.
2. Metra – Commuter train service connecting Lake County to downtown Chicago and surrounding suburbs.
3. Uber – On-demand ride-hailing service offering convenient transportation options.
4. Lyft – Ride-sharing service providing affordable and accessible transportation in the area.
5. Taxi – Traditional taxi service available for quick and reliable transportation.
6. O’Hare International Airport – Major international airport located nearby, offering air travel options.
7. Midway International Airport – Another major airport in the region, providing domestic and international flights.
8. Enterprise Rent-A-Car – Car rental service for those in need of personal transportation.
9. Zipcar – Car-sharing service allowing users to rent vehicles by the hour or day.
10. Bike Rentals – Local bike rental shops offering bicycles for exploring the Des Plaines River Trail and surrounding areas.


The amenities available at the Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County include:

1. Restrooms: There are restroom facilities available at various points along the trail, including at trailheads and parks.

2. Parking: There are designated parking areas at different access points along the trail, allowing visitors to park their vehicles and access the trail easily.

3. Camping Sites: The Des Plaines River Trail offers camping opportunities at designated campgrounds. These sites may have amenities such as fire pits, picnic tables, and access to water.

4. Picnic Areas: There are several picnic areas along the trail where visitors can stop and enjoy a meal or snack. These areas often have picnic tables, grills, and trash receptacles.

5. Drinking Water: There are water fountains or hydration stations available at certain points along the trail, providing visitors with access to clean drinking water.

6. Bike Repair Stations: Some sections of the trail may have bike repair stations equipped with tools and air pumps, allowing cyclists to make minor repairs or adjustments to their bikes.

7. Trailhead Facilities: At various trailheads, you may find additional amenities such as information kiosks, maps, benches, and bike racks.

8. Wildlife Viewing Areas: The trail passes through natural areas, and there may be designated spots where visitors can observe wildlife in their natural habitat.

9. Interpretive Signs: Along the trail, you may come across interpretive signs that provide information about the local flora, fauna, history, or points of interest.

10. Accessibility: The trail strives to be accessible to people of all abilities, with sections that are wheelchair-friendly and have accessible parking and restrooms.

Please note that amenities may vary at different sections of the trail, so it is advisable to check specific locations or contact the Lake County Forest Preserves for more detailed information.

Nearby Services

1. Hotel Indigo Vernon Hills – Modern hotel offering comfortable accommodations near the Des Plaines River Trail.
2. Hampton Inn & Suites Chicago/Lincolnshire – Convenient hotel with complimentary breakfast and an indoor pool.
3. Courtyard by Marriott Chicago Lincolnshire – Contemporary hotel featuring a fitness center and on-site dining options.
4. Residence Inn by Marriott Chicago Lake Forest/Mettawa – Extended-stay hotel with spacious suites and complimentary breakfast.
5. Hyatt Regency Deerfield – Upscale hotel offering a variety of amenities including a fitness center and on-site dining.
6. Sunset Foods – Local grocery store providing a wide range of food options for trail-goers.
7. Portillo’s – Popular fast-food chain serving Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef, and more.
8. Chipotle Mexican Grill – Casual eatery offering customizable burritos, bowls, and tacos.
9. Subway – Well-known sandwich shop offering a variety of subs and salads.
10. Advocate Condell Medical Center – Full-service hospital providing emergency medical services to the community.

Des Plaines River Trail – Lake County Difficulty Notes

The Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County offers a moderate difficulty level for hikers and bikers. The trail spans approximately 31 miles, providing a diverse and scenic experience for outdoor enthusiasts. While the terrain is generally flat, there are some sections with gentle inclines and occasional obstacles such as fallen trees or muddy patches. The trail is well-maintained and clearly marked, making it accessible for all skill levels. However, the length of the trail may pose a challenge for beginners or those seeking a shorter outing. Overall, the Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County offers a manageable level of difficulty, allowing visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of the area at their own pace.

Features And Attractions

1. Independence Grove Forest Preserve: This scenic preserve offers beautiful views of a lake, picnic areas, hiking trails, and a beach.

2. Half Day Forest Preserve: This preserve features a variety of habitats, including wetlands, prairies, and woodlands. It offers scenic views and opportunities for birdwatching.

3. Dam No. 1 Woods East: This forest preserve is known for its diverse wildlife and offers scenic views of the Des Plaines River.

4. Van Patten Woods Forest Preserve: This preserve offers scenic views of the Des Plaines River and features hiking trails, picnic areas, and a visitor center.

5. Sedge Meadow Forest Preserve: This preserve is home to a variety of wetland plants and wildlife. It offers scenic views and opportunities for birdwatching.

6. Old School Forest Preserve: This preserve features a historic one-room schoolhouse and offers scenic views of the Des Plaines River.

7. Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve: This preserve offers scenic views of Buffalo Creek and features hiking trails, picnic areas, and a fishing pond.

8. Wadsworth Savanna Forest Preserve: This preserve offers scenic views of open grasslands and wetlands. It is home to a variety of wildlife and features hiking trails.

9. McDonald Woods Forest Preserve: This preserve offers scenic views of woodlands and features hiking trails and picnic areas.

10. Lake County Discovery Museum: Located near the Des Plaines River Trail, this museum showcases the history and culture of Lake County.

11. Des Plaines River Trail Bridge: This bridge offers scenic views of the Des Plaines River and is a popular spot for photography.

12. Wright Woods Forest Preserve: This preserve offers scenic views of woodlands and features hiking trails and picnic areas.

13. Hastings Lake Forest Preserve: This preserve offers scenic views of Hastings Lake and features hiking trails, picnic areas, and a fishing pier.

14. Cuba Marsh Forest Preserve: This preserve offers scenic views of wetlands and features hiking trails and a boardwalk.

15. Lake County Forest Preserve Headquarters: Located near the Des Plaines River Trail, this headquarters offers information about the trail and the various preserves in Lake County.

Usage Guidelines


Seasonal Information

The Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County, Illinois, offers a picturesque and diverse outdoor experience throughout the year. The best times to visit this trail depend on personal preferences and the activities you wish to engage in. Spring and fall are generally considered the most pleasant seasons to explore the trail, as the weather is mild and the scenery is vibrant. During spring, the trail is adorned with blooming wildflowers and lush greenery, making it an ideal time for hiking, birdwatching, and enjoying the tranquil surroundings. In the fall, the trail is transformed into a colorful tapestry of autumn foliage, creating a stunning backdrop for biking, fishing, and picnicking.

It is important to note that the Des Plaines River Trail may have seasonal closures due to weather conditions or maintenance work. During winter, sections of the trail may be closed or inaccessible due to snow and ice. However, if you enjoy winter activities such as cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, this can be a great time to visit. The trail offers a serene and peaceful atmosphere during the colder months, allowing you to enjoy the beauty of the snow-covered landscape.

To ensure a smooth visit, it is recommended to check the Lake County Forest Preserves website or contact their office for up-to-date information on any closures or restrictions. They provide regular updates on trail conditions, closures, and any special events or activities taking place along the Des Plaines River Trail. By planning your visit accordingly, you can make the most of your time on the trail and fully appreciate the natural beauty and recreational opportunities it offers throughout the year.


1. Wheelchair Accessible Parking: Designated parking spaces are available near trail entrances for easy access to the Des Plaines River Trail.
2. Paved Pathways: The trail features paved pathways, ensuring a smooth and accessible surface for wheelchair users.
3. Accessible Restrooms: Accessible restrooms are located along the trail, providing facilities that meet ADA standards.
4. Rest Areas with Benches: Rest areas with benches are strategically placed along the trail, offering wheelchair users a place to rest and enjoy the surroundings.
5. Accessible Picnic Areas: Picnic areas along the trail are designed to be wheelchair accessible, allowing everyone to enjoy outdoor dining experiences.
6. Accessible Fishing Piers: Fishing piers are constructed to accommodate wheelchair users, providing equal opportunities for recreational activities.
7. Accessible Trailhead Facilities: Trailhead facilities are equipped with accessible amenities, including ramps, handrails, and signage, ensuring easy access for all visitors.
8. Accessible Trail Maps: Trail maps are available in accessible formats, such as large print or braille, to assist individuals with visual impairments.
9. Accessible Interpretive Signs: Interpretive signs along the trail are designed to be accessible, featuring tactile elements or audio descriptions for individuals with visual impairments.
10. Accessible Trail Experiences: The Des Plaines River Trail offers inclusive experiences, ensuring that individuals with disabilities can fully enjoy the natural beauty and recreational opportunities it provides.

Safety Information

When visiting the Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County, it is important to keep the following safety information in mind:

1. Stay on designated trails: Stick to the marked trails and avoid venturing off into unmarked areas. This will help prevent getting lost or encountering hazardous conditions.

2. Be aware of wildlife: The Des Plaines River Trail is home to various wildlife species. While observing wildlife can be exciting, maintain a safe distance and do not approach or feed them. Some animals may be territorial or pose a threat if provoked.

3. Dress appropriately: Wear comfortable clothing and sturdy footwear suitable for hiking or walking on uneven terrain. Dress in layers to accommodate changing weather conditions and bring rain gear if necessary.

4. Carry essentials: Bring a map or guidebook of the trail, a fully charged cell phone, and a first aid kit. It is also advisable to carry water, snacks, and sunscreen. Be prepared for emergencies and inform someone about your plans and estimated return time.

5. Practice water safety: If the trail includes water bodies, such as the Des Plaines River, exercise caution near the water’s edge. Avoid swimming alone, especially in unfamiliar areas, and be aware of currents or hidden hazards.

6. Respect other trail users: The Des Plaines River Trail is popular among hikers, cyclists, and equestrians. Be considerate of others by yielding the right of way, keeping pets on a leash, and maintaining a safe distance when passing.

7. Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially during hot and humid weather. Carry an adequate supply of water and refill at designated water stations if available.

8. Be mindful of weather conditions: Check the weather forecast before heading out and be prepared for changing conditions. Avoid the trail during severe weather, such as thunderstorms or heavy snowfall, as it can pose safety risks.

9. Watch out for ticks and insects: Apply insect repellent to protect against ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects. Wear long sleeves, pants, and socks to minimize exposure to ticks, especially in wooded areas.

10. Leave no trace: Respect the environment and leave the trail as you found it. Dispose of trash properly and avoid damaging plants or wildlife habitats. Follow the principles of “Leave No Trace” to preserve the natural beauty of the trail for future visitors.

Remember, safety should always be a priority when enjoying outdoor activities. By following these guidelines, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience on the Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County.

Conservation Notes

The Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County, Illinois, is a significant natural resource that plays a crucial role in the conservation of the region’s biodiversity. The trail traverses through a diverse range of habitats, including wetlands, woodlands, prairies, and riverine ecosystems. These habitats support a wide array of plant and animal species, many of which are of conservation concern.

The conservation status of the Des Plaines River Trail is of utmost importance due to the presence of several threatened and endangered species within its vicinity. The trail provides critical habitat for species such as the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, a state-endangered snake species that relies on the wetlands and floodplain forests along the river. Additionally, the trail is home to the Hine’s emerald dragonfly, a federally endangered species that depends on the clean water and intact wetlands found in the area.

Efforts to conserve and protect the Des Plaines River Trail are ongoing. Conservation organizations, local governments, and volunteers work together to maintain the integrity of the trail and its surrounding habitats. These efforts include invasive species management, habitat restoration projects, and regular monitoring of the wildlife populations. By preserving the natural features and ecological functions of the Des Plaines River Trail, conservationists aim to ensure the long-term survival of the diverse plant and animal species that call this area home.

Leave a Comment