|Distance||5 miles roundtrip|
|Terrain||A few hills|
- The Rocky Glen Waterfall
- Overlooks of the Des Plaines River and Sawmill Creek
- Shady hardwood forest
Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve is commonly cited as one of the most beautiful parks for hiking near Chicago, but generally these websites only mention doing the entire 9-mile loop -- even in the prairie flatness of Illinois, 9 miles is still a beast of a hike. As an alternative, I will describe a shorter option taking you to some of the most scenic parts of the park, including Rocky Glen Waterfall, the Sawmill Creek Overlook, and the Des Plaines River Overlook. While the entire trip is 5 miles roundtrip, you can trim that to about a mile if you turn around after visiting the Sawmill Creek Overlook.
If you started in the developed parking lot, follow the trail and turn right at the first junction -- signs will point you towards Rocky Glen Waterfall. Turn left ahead and continue until you reach the falls. Or, if you started from the parking along the road, walk through the pedestrian entrance to the west and follow the road until you find the sign pointing to the falls. Turn left onto the trail and then turn right at the intersection ahead. No matter where you start, the spur trail you eventually take follows on the south side of Sawmill Creek as it slowly curves on its journey to the falls, as pictured below.
Dogs are allowed on leash. This entire hike is too long to be family friendly; however, if you shorten the hike to include only the waterfall and Sawmill Creek Overlook, this is a great family destination. You can hike this trail in all seasons, allowing you to experience the landscape in four different ways. The dense forest makes this both a shady spot for a hot summer day and an excellent place to view fall colors. This is an extremely popular place to hike, so arrive early in the day if you want to guarantee yourself a parking spot.
From Chicago, take Interstate 55 west. Exit at Cass Ave heading southbound. Continue straight for about 2 miles. After the road curves sharply to the left, take the next right for the short road to the parking area (this turn is easy to miss since you're driving uphill).
Google Maps Directions
Parking, Fees, and Facilities
Parking is free! If the lot is full, leave the lot, turn left, and park on the south side of the road (if the lot is full you'll likely see other cars already parked there). There are pit toilets at the lot.