If taking in beautiful scenery is on your weekend to-do list, you might be surprised to find a sampling of Illinois’ natural diversity practically in your own backyard.
Native prairie? Check. Woods? Check. Wetlands? Check. Tall pines? Check. Lakes? Check. Hills? Check. Wildlife? Check.
The Cuba Marsh Forest Preserve offers a sampling of "all of the above" at its convenient northwest suburban location. Parking for the trailhead is easy to find just west of the intersection of Ela and Cuba Roads.
When you include the paved extension into Barrington’s Citizens Park, Cuba Marsh offers nearly six miles of continuous bike trails for exceptional recreational riding.
The best word to describe Cuba Marsh is diverse. In a matter of minutes, a bike ride down the crushed limestone multi-use path will take you past a lake, through the woods, along a stand of tall pines, into its namesake marsh, and out onto an open prairie. At the end of this southwesterly jaunt is a beautiful park with plenty of open space to relax in. It's ideal for a picnic or a place for the kids to play.
If you choose to veer off on the southeasterly branch, you’ll climb some short hills en route to a wide open prairie with a panoramic view of the lake. Keep your eyes open for waterfowl and various little (and not so little) creatures. A den of coyotes is rumored to reside in this quadrant.
I’m fine-tuning a rating system for all trails. While it should be self-explanatory, explanations for the ratings appear below.
Here’s my overall review of the Cuba Marsh Forest Preserve Trail:
Easy on the Eyes: Extremely
Easy on the Bike: Very
Easy on the Nerves: Very
Easy on the Legs and Lungs: Very (southwestern portion) / Fairly (southeastern portion)
Easy to Find: Extremely
Easy to Park: Extremely
Overall Easiness: Very
The "Easy" Scale for Bike Trails:
Easy on the Eyes: Overall enjoyment of the scenery and natural surroundings.
Easy on the Bike: Suitability for comfort and hybrid bikes. Road bikes will be noted separately, as they are not recommended for crushed limestone surfaces.
Easy on the Nerves: Presence of street crossings, curves, obstructions, other trail users, trail markings, and continuity of path.
Easy on the Legs and Lungs: Overall challenge presented by trail surface and steepness and frequency of hills.
Degree of "Easiness":
Extremely – Beginner and kid-friendly, no challenges, ideal for comfort and hybrid bikes.
Very – Beginner and kid-friendly, a challenge or two, ideal for comfort and hybrid bikes.
Fairly – May have portions that pose challenges to beginners, children, comfort and hybrid bikes, but still recommended.
Not Very – Acceptable for accomplished and experienced riders, mountain or cyclocross bikes recommended, strongly caution against attempt by beginners and children.
Not At All – Expert riders and mountain bikes only.