Chicago, IL: Ryerson Woods

This 4.3-mile loop follows the Des Plaines River as it winds through stunning forestland chock-full of stately hardwoods and colorful flowers.

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

Start at the end of Mill Road near the farm and welcome center and walk west. As the trail approaches the Des Plaines River, you may spot a great blue heron or two, and—if you’re hiking in spring or summer—trilliums and irises growing alongside the trail. During the 1.3-mile stretch along the river and its backwater, hike past water birds, old rustic cabins, and pristine, trickling streams. Heading away from the river, the trail weaves around small marshes and intermittent ponds and enters a grove of elms and oaks. After 3.2 miles, the trail passes the park’s farm exhibit—go inside the barn to see pigs, goats, and chickens. The final mile loops through lush forest and ends back at the trailhead.
Mapped by Ted Villaire


Trail Facts

  • Distance: 6.9



Location: 42.1824608, -87.9154129

Start the hike at the end of E. Mill Road near the farm and the welcome center. Hop on the trail and hike west toward the Des Plaines River.


Location: 42.1815414, -87.9187469

Bear right @ 3-way. As the trail approaches the main thread of the Des Plaines River, you’ll likely see a great blue heron or two, and-if you’re hiking in spring or summer-trilliums and irises growing alongside the trail.


Location: 42.1776924, -87.9207764

Bear right @ 3-way, heading away from the river. In 400 feet, the trail curves to the south.


Location: 42.1753807, -87.9174957

Situated next to a small dam in the river is a cabin that once served as the weekend retreat for the Chicago industrialist Edward Ryerson and his family.


Location: 42.1745224, -87.9115448

Bear right @ 3-way and then pass a cabin owned by a friend of Ryerson. Beyond this cabin, stay right @ next 3-way, and then cross a bridge over a twisting stream.


Location: 42.1717949, -87.9102478

Heading away from the river, the trail weaves around small marshes and intermittent ponds. Cross the stream again and then enter a grove of elms and oaks; May apples provide an attractive ground cover.


Location: 42.1777458, -87.906456

Turn right @ 4-way; trail passes through occasional marshy areas.


Location: 42.1808128, -87.9065094

Bear right @ 3-way, heading northwest.


Location: 42.1821365, -87.9109726

Cross park road. In 500 feet, turn right @ 3-way.


Location: 42.182579, -87.9128494

Cross park road and head northwest. Enter a grassy clearing where bluebirds dart between trees. At dusk watch for bats leaving the bat house. After passing between two cabins and through the grove of shagbark hickories, take a break on the bench overlooking the Des Plaines River.


Location: 42.1825905, -87.9147568

Continue straight @ 4-way, heading south. Cross the park road and pass the farm. If you have kids in tow, take them into the barn to see the pigs, goats, and chickens.


Location: 42.1778755, -87.9169006

Turn left @ 3-way, heading east.


Location: 42.1778488, -87.9128189

Turn left @ 3-way. Hike north for 0.3 mile to Waypoint 10. Turn left onto park road and walk 0.1 mile back to the trailhead.

Grassy Trail

Location: 42.1815414, -87.9186935

© Ted Villaire


Location: 42.1744995, -87.911499

© Ted Villaire

Elm and Oak Groves

Location: 42.1717682, -87.9101944

© Ted Villaire


Location: 42.1778488, -87.912796

© Ted Villaire