Also called Clayton Smith Flatwoods, Bunker Hill is a large open prairie amidst a mosaic of oak savanna, oak woodland, mixed hardwood forest, and flatwoods. The complex of high quality natural areas within the overall preserve and its place in a long, wide greenway of protected land along the North Branch of the Chicago River makes this a rewarding natural area to visit. In spring evenings, woodcocks take flight for mating rituals in the open spaces of Bunker Hill Prairie. Hepatica and bloodroot bloom in the surrounding oak groves. A state-endangered species, the mountain blue-eyed grass blooms a few weeks later in the savanna. In mid-summer, northern dropseed grass and thousands of plants of mountain mint bring their distinctive scents to the air along the trails of the open prairie portion.
Visitors can also enjoy access to the paved North Branch Trail. The North Branch Trail links together the many forest preserves and green spaces along the North Branch of the Chicago River from the northwest side of Chicago all the way to the Botanic Gardens in Glencoe. While it’s relatively flat, the trail is an excellent place for both walking, hiking, biking, and trail running. A 13-mile stretch of paved trails links together Caldwell Woods with Skookie Lagoons, with additional unpaved natural trails winding through the woodlands and natural areas along the trail. A 4-mile paved trail loops around Skokie Lagoons, connecting the North Branch Trail to the Chicago Botanic Garden.
The round-trip from Caldwell Woods to the Chicago Botanic Garden is a popular route for many long-distance cyclers.
Please note: there are several street crossings as you travel along the trail, but the North Branch Trail is a relatively seamless way to link together a trip with limited interruptions. You will also get a great tour of the forest preserves along the river and natural setting surrounding it.
The North Branch Trail winds along the North Branch of the Chicago River and the Skokie Lagoons, providing access to various picnic groves, forest preserves, and also the Chicago Botanic Garden. The north end of the trail connects to the Green Bay Trail, which continues into the North Suburbs and Lake County. Bike rentals are available at Skokie Lagoons, Harms Woods, Bunker Hill, Caldwell Woods, and the Chicago Botanic Garden. Dogs are welcome on the trail, but please keep them on a leash.