Swallow Cliff Woods is best known for its dramatic “front lawn,” which leads up a steep, 100-foot-tall bluff. The bluff creates one of the best sledding hills in the county and also one of its toughest and most scenic stair workouts. On top of the bluff, trails pass through this quiet 800-acre preserve. Hikers enjoy wandering the hilly, forested terrain complete with stream crossings, grand old oaks and flocks of migratory birds around the numerous wetlands.
At 15,000 acres, the Palos Preserves in southwest Cook County are the largest concentration of preserved land in the Forest Preserves. Thanks to more than three decades of habitat restoration, they also hold some of the highest-quality natural areas in the county. These trails join many popular sites, such as the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center, Pulaski Woods, Saganashkee Slough and Maple Lake which is home to a mountain bike staging area that provides access to almost 40 miles of unpaved trails.
Hikers and trail runners can access the brown and yellow trails via a short connector trail from the top of the stairway. The full yellow loop is roughly eight miles, extending west to Cap Sauers Holding Nature Preserve and east to Palos Park Preserve. Hikers can cut the loop in half by using the white connector trail to cut back to Swallow Cliff North. These trails are part of the Sag Valley unpaved trail system, which is open to hiking, biking, horseback riding and cross-country skiing.
The Palos preserves are home to an extensive mixed-use trail system, including the paved Cal-Sag Trail which cross many of these preserve to the south and the paved Centennial Trail/John Husar I&M Canal Trail system to the north. Parking at the Palos Forest Preserve is easy. Cook County Forest Preserve Hours are from sunrise to sunset.