The Salt Creek Singletrack Society - Maps and More! Last Modified 01/11/2009  
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Work was undertaken in the fall of 2008 to restore and reroute a long stretch of singletrack that follows the south bank of the Salt Creek through Brookfield.

Anonymous volunteers set out to reclaim this run from 17th Avenue to 31st Street that had been cut off for at least the past 15 years by deadfall and flood deposits. Erosion had also become a major concern for much of the west end of this stretch, shown in purple on the map above .

This trail is now far from the banks of the creek, solving the erosion issue, and is quite technical in spots, with quite a few elevation changes (at least by Chicagoland forest preserve standards). The reroute also tied into some pretty ambitious BMX hills, although they appear to have not been used in a while.

The fact that few people are aware of this stretch of trail makes it an outstanding choice for a snow ride. Simply park on the street on 17th Avenue in North Riverside and cross the creek on the east side of 17th/Maple Ave.

Just a few yards after the guardrail that protects the bridge ends, you will notice a trailhead descending 10-15' into the woods. You have to be looking hard to catch it, but it is a well-developed trail from the moment you drop down into the woods. There is a sharp zig-zag to go around some large deadfall, and then the ride to the Brookfield Zoo begins.

This first stretch is as close to the creek as you will get until you meet up with the main trail network (delineated in blue above). Once it veers away from the creek, look for a deep gulley which you will have to carry over. This is where the BMX hills are located.

Continue up a rise to a short stretch that will take you past the exit to 26th Street and Park Avenue. A gallon jug hangs from a tree just a few yards west of this exit trail to act as a visual cue that it is there, which is helpful, as it is not a well-defined trail as of yet. I use this exit on my return trip to 17th/Maple Avenue to avoid the steep uphill to the street, and often take the singletrack on the west side of 17th on to the paved trail at Ostrander Avenue, where another network of singletrack trails begins.

Continuing south past the exit trail will take you to another gulley, although this one is ridable (as long as surf is down! This entire trail is a no-go when the water levels are up even moderately). This gulley intersects the old, bank-hugging trail that has all the deadfall and erosion issues with the new reroute, but it is pretty easy to see the new trail and avoid the old one. If you find yourself looking at the creek at any point past here until the intersection with the blue trail, you're on the wrong path.

The next stretch goes all the way to the Table Rock and the intersection with the main blue trails, and it does this by working its' way far from the creek, to the point where the houses on Forestview Avenue are almost visible. The deadfall situation required a lot of switchbacks and a couple of narrow passages, but this is a fun, fully ridable stretch that is mostly obvious to the eye.

After some rises and falls, you will come across another wide gulley and the Table Rock, aptly named because of its' size and shape. This gulley is rarely ridable, but getting across it puts you onto the main blue trails, so it is worth the short hike.

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After crossing the gulley, head towards the creek a short distance and you will encounter a large downfall across the main trail. Once you are across this, the trail is doubletrack wide and well-maintained, following the creek closely. There will be one big rise at the Three Tunnels, and then the descent into the home stretch towards 29th Street and Forest Avenue.

You will rise into a clearing that is a favorite of dog walkers and continue on Forest Avenue south to 31st Street. Cross the creek on the north side of 31st, and follow the narrow, rutted and nerve-racking shoulder for about 100 yards until you encounter the entrance to the woods pictured above. This inlet comes just after the guardrail ends, and slaloms through the woods until the "phone pole" trail is encountered, taking you straight back north.

Once this straight stretch is obstructed, you will be able to veer either right or left onto a nice circular trail with lots of challenges. I prefer to take this trail clockwise, passing the downed tree with the three milk crates and proceeding right back to the banks of the creek, at which point you will be 15-20' above the creek.

Turn left and you will soon descend into the flood plain, which is pretty well defined trail but subject to natural rerouting by flood deposits. Follow this to the point where the trail shoots perpindicular from the creek back into the woods and you will find the picnic bench.

The final leg of this circuit is brand-new and not too well defined, but a keen eye will keep you on track, and you will soon find yourself back at the phone pole right-of-way.


Snow Bike Comic
 

Snow riding (at least without spiked tires) is all about fresh powder, something that is very hard to find in Chicagoland for more than a few hours after a snowstorm. There are many snow-loving urbanites, and they hit the paved trail in great numbers after a good snow, making the surface hard-packed, frozen over and unpleasant to ride.

However, the area singletrack, especially the lesser-known stretches, stays ridable for days after a snow. The woods provides a natural break from the cold wind, and the snow cover allows one to ride after dark without loss of sight lines, perfect for an after-work weekday ride.

Ride from Schaumburg directly to the Brookfield Zoo!

Snow riding is a good deal more strenuous than a normal ride, and so a 1-hour ride in the powder will challenge you physically more like a 3-hour ride (uphill, into a headwind!) in more temperate conditions. It isn't the mileage in the snow that counts, it is the time in the saddle! In fact, the ride described on this page takes only 25 minutes round-trip in summer conditions, but will take an hour or so in the snow, especially if you take two laps of the British Home circuit.

I seldom get out of my first two or three gears when riding these trails in the snow, but I finsh my ride knowing that I got some excellent exercise, enjoyed some pristine winter scenery and even puzzled some passers-by when they see a rooster tail of snow coming off of my rear tire in 10 degree weather, with my coat and shirts zipped open to let the steam rise off of my chest. I can't think of a better way to spend a winter day!

 

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