Deer Grove Forest Preserve

Off-Trail Adventures

Deer Grove is the oldest forest preserve in Cook County and was acquired in 1916. The forest preserve has undergone significant restoration efforts and is recognized as one of the highest quality natural areas in Illinois. The 1800-acre forest preserve contains over 16 miles of paved and unpaved trails.

The park is split into two main units, East and West, with busy Quentin Road down the middle of the preserves. Activities at Deer Grove include hiking, horseback riding, biking, birding, and cross-country skiing. The Eastern portion of the preserve includes electric RV/tent camping at Camp Reinberg (reserve a campsite here!). The park is also connected to the popular Palatine Trail biking trail.

Trip Report

We first visited Deer Grove in the middle of January back in 2017 after spending just a little too long cooped up indoors. Suffice to say, visiting almost any of our local preserves mid-winter might leave a bad impression. Deer Grove felt like a muddy, barren wasteland. After a long hiatus, we returned in May 2020. It quickly became one of our favorite places that we can’t wait to come back to!

We started out parking at the “Deer Grove #5” parking lot, which situates you nice and deep in the woods, surrounded by looping trails. We could see quite a few social trails as soon as we got out of the car. We started east out of the parking lot on a clear looking dirt path, but I could tell we were off the official trail. All the better for social distancing, and there were plenty of people around for a Saturday. I don’t recommend off trail hiking if you’re uncomfortable with navigation and path-finding. Stick to well worn paths to prevent erosion.

hiking map at deer grove forest preserve
We hiked something approximating the above. Deer Grove features bountiful social paths alongside nearly every waterway.

We were pleasantly surprised by the lovely scenery and lush greenery deep in the woods at Deer Grove. We hiked through ravines, alongside bubbling creeks for most of the hike, and only saw a handful of people for the first half of our 4-mile hike. We rejoined the unpaved Black Trail after an off-trail adventure. Then we linked up with the unpaved Yellow Trail. Finally we looped around to the Orange Trail. We spotted some folks hiking off a foot-traffic only trail alongside a lovely creek and followed suit. We allowed the creek to take us for about a mile before stopping for a lunch break. After our trail snacks, we followed the creek back to the Orange Trail, taking a short detour along a social path back to the car.

We hiked alongside this creek for the first half of our hike.

Ratings

Wildlife✶ ✶ ✶
Scenery✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ ✶
Isolation✶ ✶ ✶
Difficulty✶ ✶
Upkeep✶ ✶ ✶ ✶ ✶
Distance37 miles
Deer Grove is well-maintained by tireless restoration efforts, and includes a variety of gorgeous scenery deep in the lush forests.

Though we saw many, many deer in mid-winter (when we first visited Deer Grove), there were far too many people this time to see any deer. We mostly spotted birds on this hike, including several woodpeckers.

Deer Grove was full of idyllic streams, wide ravines, and forests that were nearly clear of invasive species! There was very little trash to be found on the trails. We saw only a handful of people while we were hiking off trail, but it became much more crowded once we rejoined the marked trails. Most forest preserves are busy on Saturdays, therefore trails were starting to feel a little crowded. It was tough to find somewhere secluded for lunch. The hiking was not overly difficult at Deer Grove, and was flat for the most part. Trails were easy to follow and not muddy.

Ravines galore and lush early Summer greenery at Deer Creek.

Overall, we greatly enjoyed our hike at Deer Grove and can’t wait to come back for more adventures in the future.

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