The Des Plaines River Trail has long been considered a treasure of the Lake County Forest Preserves. Now it’s officially a national treasure, too.
Last week, the trail was one of 30 designated a National Recreation Trail by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“We are honored to receive this prestigious national designation,” Angelo Kyle, president of the Lake County Forest Preserves, said in a statement. “Acquiring the land and building a continuous 31.4-mile trail along the Des Plaines River’s edge took 57 years and 133 separate land purchases to achieve. Being added to the National Trails System is a significant achievement of this work.”
The National Trails System was established in 1968 and encompasses national recreation, scenic and historic trails. Scenic and historic trails are designated by Congress, while recreation trails are chosen by the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture to recognize exemplary trails of local and regional significance. The entire system encompasses 83,000 miles.
“Your trail is a great addition to the network of trails that make up the National Recreation Trails, and we commend your efforts to provide high-quality recreation opportunities for your community,” said Peter Bonsall, National Trails program specialist, in a news release.
The Des Plaines River Trail, completed in 2015, runs the entire length of Lake County and connects to the Cook County Forest Preserve trail system. It’s open for hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding and even limited snowmobiling (only between Russell and Wadsworth roads).
In addition to recreational opportunities, the trail, which winds through 12 forest preserves, protects land along more than 75% of the river in Lake County, providing wildlife habitat and natural flood protection, according to Lake County Forest Preserve officials.
Multiple access points and parking can be found in many preserves along the trail’s length, including mile marker 0, located in Van Patten Woods in the Wadsworth and Russell roads parking lot.
A mile-by-mile hiking blog of the trail was created in 2015 by Lake County Forest Preserves in advance of the path’s completion.