Trail Running Project: Churchill Woods Forest Preserve

Taking advantage of my daughter’s soccer tournament on Sunday, Tazer and I ran along the Great Western Trail to a nearby forest preserve, Churchill Woods, for trail run #3 of the Trail Running Project. Although it’s one of the county’s smaller forest preserves, the 263-acre Churchill Woods Forest Preserve in Glen Ellyn is home to an impressive range of habitats.

Great Western Trail

Babcock Grove, a savanna, surrounds visitors with bur oak, white oak and black maple trees. Some of the grove’s white oaks date back to the 1830s, a time when settlers left seedlings untouched as they logged mature oaks for new plank roads.

Woods trail

Within Babcock Grove, wildflower enthusiasts can look for a variety of interesting species, including Dutchman’s breeches, wild strawberry, yellow touch-me-not, with its long-seeded pods that spring open when touched, and hairy hog peanut, a legume with peanut-like nodules that grows in a former grazing area for hogs.

Prairie trail

Churchill Prairie Nature Preserve contains one of the county’s few remaining native prairies. Home to several state-endangered and threatened species, the prairie is located in a sand and gravel outwash plain swale of the DuPage River Valley that is embedded in the surrounding Valparaiso moraine. It is the second largest native prairie in the county, with West Chicago Prairie Nature Preserve being the largest. The Sundrop Trail leads visitors on a 0.7-mile trek through a combination of sedge meadow and wet prairie, where surface water is usually present during the early part of the year. Colorful wildflowers such as New England aster, bottle gentian, wild mint, prairie sundrops and marsh phlox bloom from spring through fall.

This is a relatively flat trail, with only a slight hill near the end of the grassy loop. As this is a short loop, it is not a good destination trail, but a nice sidespur if one happens to be running on the Great Western Trail.

Tazer’s thoughts:

My dad and I went on a run at Churchill Woods. The way we got there was by running on the Great Western Trail. It is a long, wide open, crushed gravel trail. There are about two miles worth of marked trails. Churchill Woods has good, clean, mown trails and crushed gravel trails. It was not much of a hilly run which is nice. They also have a beautiful prairie. It was a very nice run on a brisk fall day which made it almost ideal for running if you are dressed well. I enjoyed it a lot, although I struggled a little bit. I would definitely suggest it for trail running.

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