On perhaps the last hot, humid day of summer recently, I drove over to Bemis Woods South to try out the trails. Bemis Woods South is the start of the Salt Creek Trail, a class I bicycle trail located in west central Cook County, Illinois. From Bemis Woods South, it continues east 6.6 miles to Brookfield Woods, directly across from the Brookfield Zoo. But I was here for the unpaved trails, which there is a plethora of within a very small area.
For the most part, I stayed on the Orange Loop Trail, which encircles the preserve, connecting to many other trails, including a bridge over Salt Creek to Bemis Woods North. There is an endless variety of trails, from grass to dirt to gravel. While not on the official map, there are small singletrack trails branching off from the main loop, though usually they deadend. On other maps, old, overgrown singletrack are noted and of course, I had to bushwhack and see how far I could get. Not very far. When they say overgrown, they mean overgrown. The preserve is located in a suburban area and bounded on the Western edge by I-294, so the sound of traffic is a near-constant. However, the woods and trails are quite beautiful, so a respite form civilization is still attainable.
Crossing the bridge to Bemis Woods North, I spent some time running on the paved bike trail. Theoretically, by starting at Brookfield Zoo, one could connect the Salt Creek Trail to other trails, with some minor street time, to end up in Busse Woods, a preserve in Schaumburg, for a distance greater than a marathon. That's really cool!
Since many of the trails are paved, smooth dirt, and at least doubletrack wide, this is a good place to bring the jogging stroller or kids on bikes, for a little family exercise. Add a picnic basket and you've got a great morning out.