OverviewThe Des Plaines River Trail is a 31 mile crushed-gravel trail running from the length of Lake County in northeast Illinois. It parallels the Des Plaines River for much of its length. Called simply the DPR by locals, it is a multi-use trail that connects twelve of Lake County's forest preserves.
The DPR is graded and vehicle-wide for its entire length. The southern terminus is at the border of Lake and Cook counties. There, it connects to Potawatomi Woods Forest Preserve, one of the northernmost Cook County preserves. To the north, the DPR ends at Russell Road in Van Patten Woods, just a half mile from the Wisconsin border. There are parking lots and access points all along the trail.
The DPR travels through a variety of ecosystems. Southern Daniel Wright Woods is a restored savanna, managed by prescribed burns. The northern portion of Daniel Wright Woods, MacArthur Woods, and Gowe Park, are largely deciduous hardwood forest. Gurnee Woods and Des Plaines River Trail FP (north of Gowe Park) are mostly prairie. South of Van Patten Woods has sections of pine forest and savanna.
The Cook County section of the DPR is not nearly as well maintained or scenic as the Lake County section. Also, it is not contiguous. Most users remain in Lake County while riding the DPR.
Getting ThereYou can access the DPR almost anywhere. Here are a few of the better starting points.
Daniel Wright Woods-
From the intersection of Milwauke Ave/IL Rte 21 and IL Route 60, go east on Rte. 60 to St. Mary's Road. Go south on St. Mary's to the intersection of St. Mary's and Everett Road. There, go straight onto the poorly paved forest preserve road and into the parking lot.
Old School Forest Preserve-
From the intersection of Milwauke Ave/IL Rte 21 and IL Route 60, go east on Rte. 60 to St. Mary's Road. Then go [i]north[/i] on St. Mary's for about 2 miles. The park entrance is on your right, past Old School Road.
Riverhill Forest Preserve (Independence Grove)-
Riverhill is located at the northeast corner of the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue/IL Rte 21 and IL Route 137/Buckley Road. From the intersection, go east on Route 137 for .4 miles. The main park entrance is on the left. The second entrance is off of River Road. To get there, go another .4 past the main entrance and make a left onto River Road. The park entrance is a quarter mile up and on the left.
From the intersection of Milwaukee Ave and IL Route 120/Belvidere Road, go east on Belvidere Road to Oplaine Road. Make a left on Oplaine and go .7 miles to Russell Ave. Make a left on Russell and park in the parking lot. To actually get to the trail, you will need to go north and west across some football fields. You will pick up the DPR by the playground.
Van Patten Woods-
From the intersection of IL Route 173/Rosecrans Road and Skokie Highway/Old Highway 41/Highway 41, go east on Route 173 for a quarter mile and the park entrance will be on your left.
These are just a few of the places to access the DPR. Any of the forest preserves along the way will have parking and trail access.
Red TapeTrail use is free. The Lake County Forest Preserve District owns and maintains the trails. Forest Preserve Rangers do occasionally patrol parking lots and trails, please be respectful.
All Lake County forest preserves open around 6 AM and [b]close at sunset[/b]. If you are not camping and your car is still in the parking lot when the gates get locked, you will have problems.
External LinksLake County Forest Preserve District Homepage
DPR Trail and Greenway page
Downloadable Maps of the North and South sections in Cook County.
CampingThere is no general camping along the DPR. Youth groups (i.e. Boy Scouts) can get permits to camp at Van Patten Woods. The site there can accommodate 100 people.
However, there are shelters and picnic sites with bathrooms, running water, and grills at many of the preserves.