Des Plaines River Trail - Lake County

The Des Plaines River Trail is a scenic multi-use trail that spans nearly the entire length of Lake County, Illinois for 31.4 miles as it winds through 12 forest preserves. Meandering along the Des Plaines River, the regional gravel trail is open for hiking, biking, cross country skiing, horseback riding and snowmobiling in some sections in winter. The trail follows the river’s edge from Russell Road in Wadsworth south to Lake-Cook Road where it connects to the Cook County Forest Preserve Trail.

photo: Des Plaines River Trail - Riverwoods IL

Length: 31.40 miles
Loop Trail? No
Agency: City, Town, or County
Entry Fee? No
Parking Fee? No

Allowed Uses:

Bicycling (on pavement)
Bicycling (off pavement)
Boating, non-motorized: Canoeing
Boating, non-motorized: Kayaking
Dogs - On leash
Equestrian - Riding
Heritage and History
Pedestrian - Walking/Hiking/Running
Snow - Cross-country Skiing
Snow - Snowshoeing
Wildlife Observation

See more details.


Location: Lake County, IL
State(s): Illinois
Counties: Lake
Longitude: -87.932859
Latitude: 42.486413

Driving Directions

From Chicago take I94 North to Russel Road exit, east on Russel Road .5 miles to Mile Post 0 Trailhead on South Side of Road (Van Patten Woods Forest Preserve).


Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life to a place where the main sounds you’ll hear are the chirping of birds and the splashing of fish. No matter what time of year, the Des Plaines River Trail unveils a kaleidoscope of colors and natural beauty. The continuous uninterrupted north/south 31.4-mile path crisscrosses the Des Plaines River from the top of Lake County in Van Patten Woods Forest Preserve in Wadsworth to Lake-Cook Road where it connects to the Cook County Preserve Trail.

Stunning views are enjoyed along the multi-use path that winds through 12 forest preserves. Many of those preserves along the Des Plaines River Trail provide trail access and parking and connect with the wider preserve system and associated amenities. The regional trail is open for hiking, biking, cross country skiing, horseback riding and snowmobiling in some sections during the winter. One of the largest forest preserves that the Des Plaines River Trail runs through is Independence Grove in Libertyville, which is a reclaimed gravel quarry and provides a number of activities from fishing to outdoor concerts. Six canoe launches spaced along the Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway provide river access for a variety of water activities, including shoreline fishing, canoeing and kayaking.

The Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway protects land along more than 76 percent of the river in Lake County, providing wildlife habitat, natural flood protection and outdoor recreation opportunities. It is a key link in a regional network of trails that includes the North Shore Bike Path, the McClory Trail and the Millennium Trail.

The river and its seasonal rise and fall help determine which plants and animals live along the trail. Beavers, herons and turtles are a few of the native animals adapted to river life. Oaks, hickories and maples are some of the common trees.

As you travel through this river corridor look for changes in the landscape. In northern Lake County, the floodplain is wide and the river meanders. In southern Lake County, the river is narrow and runs a straighter course. Open areas such as prairies and oak savannas are common to the west of the river. Maple woodlands are more common on the eastern bank of the river, which blocked ancient wildfires from the west.

Preservation of the greenway surrounding the trail has been a key priority since the early years of our district with the river serving as a backbone to thousands of acres of contiguous, lush open space. In the mid-1970s, the vision for the trail along the greenway began to crystalize. Over the next three decades the Des Plaines River Trail grew, section by section. In October 2015 the trail was complete, fulfilling a vision 54 years in the making for this contiguous regional trail system.

Additional Details

Width: 120 inches.
Primary Surface: Crushed Rock
Secondary Surface: Asphalt

Maximum Grade: 7%
Elevation Low Point: 637
Elevation High Point: 721
Elevation Gain (cumulative): Not Available

Year Designated:

Supporting Webpages and Documents

Map: Des Plaines River Trail Map (north)
Map: Des Plaines River Trail Map (south)
Website: Des Plaines River Trail and Greenway
Website: LCDOT Bike Lake County App
Website: LCDOT Bikeway Map

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Public Contact:
Michael Tully
Chief Operations Officer
Lake County Forest Preserve District
1899 West Winchester Road
Libertyville, IL 60048
(847) 968-3415
[email protected]




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