Linne Woods

Flooded Out on the North Branch

Located in Morton Grove, Linne Woods is a forest preserve on the north side, bordered by Dempster Ave, Lehigh Ave, and Beckwith Road, just west of the Edens. It contains a section of the North Branch River. Activities at Linne Woods include hiking and biking along the paved and unpaved sections of the North Branch trail, as well as horseback riding. Linne Woods also features a canoe/kayak launch spot.

Linne Woods originally featured a bridge over the North Branch River built by the Civilian Conservation Corp during the Great Depression. It has since been replaced. Linne Woods and the nearby prairie was once used as a dumping site, and then later used to store a 110-ft tall limestone mountain dump for Chicago’s Deep Tunnel Project. Fortunately, through significant volunteer restoration efforts, the preserve has been significantly cleaned up. Invasive species have been kept at bay or entirely removed in many areas.

Trip Report

Linne Woods is another forest preserve that we’ve had our eyes on. While we’ve biked the North Branch Trail up to the Chicago Botanic Garden a few times, we’ve been slowly hiking our way along the unpaved sections of the North Branch Trail. We’ve been doing this a few miles at a time during our Great Chicago Quarantine Hiking Quest.

Linne Woods caught my eye for a few reasons. It’s a medium-sized preserve (for Cook County), it’s about a mile from Highway 94 (quiet!), it has several unpaved trails, is an open prairie, and has a significant portion of deep woods without any trails (aka potential off-trail fun!)

Unfortunately, we decided to visit Linne Woods during the weekend that Chicago set the record for the wettest May in city history. About a quarter of the preserve was totally flooded out and completely impassible!

Flood at Linne Woods
If there has been significant rain lately, the north west portion of Linne Woods is probably flooded!

You can view the official Forest Preserves of Cook County map for Linne Woods here.

Nonetheless, as we try to make the best of every hike, we had a swell time at Linne Woods. We’re always happy to have the privilege to be outdoors. Our original plan was to make a lollipop-loop, starting at the south end of the preserve and chaining the unpaved Brown and Yellow Trails together. I’m sure this would be a great hike when it hasn’t rained in a while. Since the vast majority of the Brown Trail was flooded, we altered our plans and hiked out-and-back along the parts of the Yellow Trail weren’t flooded. We made detours off-trail along the river as needed.

Flooded out trails at Linne Woods.

We started out on the southern end of the preserve, where the start of the Yellow Trail is a little bit hidden. You can find it about 50 ft off the south end of the parking lot, across the street from Moretti’s Pizza. As of May 2020, there is some major construction going on near the start of the trail and it’s partially blocked by caution tape. You can go around the tape, but be careful near the construction area. I’m not sure if it’s even really worth starting on the south end of the preserve—it’s an extra spot to hike, but you’re basically walking alongside the parking lot for 1/3 of a mile.

Southern part of the Yellow Trail at Linne Woods…10 feet from the parking lot.

Where the Yellow Trail meets the Brown Trail was completely flooded, so we detoured along the paved North Branch Trail until we found some side trails along the river. The side trails between the bike path and the river were pretty overgrown with invasive species, but rewarded us an up-close and personal encounter with a family of deer quietly grazing. You can hike off trail along much of the east side of the North Branch River in this section.

Off-trail wildlife along the North Branch River in Linne Woods.

Once you’re in the northern section of the preserve, you’ll find the unpaved Brown Trail branching off toward the west side of the preserve. Though we followed it up to Beckwith Road, everything from there down to the Yellow Trail was unfortunately flooded out. While the area along Beckwith Road has a lot of traffic noise, that section of the woods was open and relatively free of invasive species. We found a nice secluded spot to have our lunch.

Start of the Brown Trail at Linne Woods.

One thing we noticed while we were eating was a fellow out in the woods doing some serious foraging. I was really curious as to what he was collecting. Upon closer inspection, it turns out he was gathering massive amounts of Garlic Mustard. Later on, we noticed abundant signs in the area noting a fine of up to $500 for foraging in Cook County preserves! Duly noted, though I can hardly fault anyone for sampling nature’s bounty.

Garlic Mustard
Wild Garlic Mustard at Linne Woods.

We turned back the way we came and, tired of the mud, mostly hiked along the busier paved trail on our way back to the parking lot.

Ratings

Wildlife✶ ✶
Scenery✶ ✶
Isolation✶ ✶
Difficulty✶ ✶
Upkeep✶ ✶ ✶
Distance (from Chicago)16 miles
Linne Woods is flood prone, but well-maintained and restored, though doesn’t offer much in the way of scenery or isolation.

We saw a handful of deer along the river at Linne Woods, but not much else. It was a bit noisy, with a decent amount of folks on the trail—both in and out of the woods. The northern part of the preserve along Beckwith Road was much more scenic than the southern portion. I’d love to see the northwestern portion of the preserve sometime when it isn’t totally flooded.

Due to the standing water, we weren’t able to make it to the restored Linne Railroad Prairie (west of the river), but I’d like to check that out eventually. We were never quite alone at Linne Woods, as it’s fairly close to the city, quite accessible, and right along the North Branch Trail. Therefore, it doesn’t get many points for isolation. The official unpaved trails were relatively easy, and fairly flat. The Yellow Trail is mostly crushed gravel, while the Brown Trail is a dirt path. There were some overgrown and muddy off-trail areas, but those can be easily avoided if you’re not looking for an adventure.

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