Growing up in Orland Park, the trails we know as children were dirt paths through the forest preserves and fields going from our town to about Oak Forest. We would saddle up bikes, strap on roller blades, or leash a dog and run for hours exploring new places in a world pre-mobile phones and where parents couldn’t find us until it was too getting dark and wander back home. My friends and my golden retriever I grew up with had the inside track as a friend of the family owned most of the land the trail by our house started at before it was sectioned off and sold to Gallagher & Henry in our teenage years. Now years later and back living in the same house that my parents’ had owned in the eighties- those same trails have been paved over in a remarkable job that Orland Park had did connecting all the paths. I’m not sure how far the paths go now but I can hop on it from about Catherine Drive and take it to just about 80th and St Francis in Frankfort, IL in the one direction.
With my current herd of furry friends and a hybrid mountain bike, I get on the path starting down at the park by Catherine Drive and start heading towards Harlem Avenue. At all times of the day the trail is packed with joggers, bike riders, parents with strollers, pet owners with dogs, kids playing. This route crosses only two major streets at 82nd and Harlem Avenues, and through minor streets 84th Avenue, and 88th Avenue. There are hills galore going towards Harlem, but few places to sit down and nowhere to stop and get water in that direction so having a water bottle or two is a great idea. The only official parking lot on the route is before crossing Harlem where the parking lot for Lake Turtle Head sits. Seasonally, the village has some portable bathrooms near the parking lot but there is no drinking fountain. Crossing Harlem there are a few path options, I normally take the one with the bridge as it ends close to the golf course on 78th Avenue in case by then you are in need of sitting down, to fill up water or use the bathrooms. The paths once in the forest preserve and going towards Bachelors Grove are not all blacktopped so be aware of wet conditions where mud and water might be on the dirt paths and make it hard to pass. Also note once in the forest preserve the police really go by the hours posted in the parking lot by Turtle Head so if you aren’t heading back to your car or on the path to get back home once it starts getting dark they do ticket, especially near Bachelors Grove graveyard due to the ghost hunters and paranormal hobbyists that tend to flock to the ‘most haunted place in the south suburbs’ and often cause troubles for the police. Also if you are parked in any of the lots on Harlem on either side you might get the car locked in or towed if you don’t move it by sun down.
Orland Park has done an amazing job preserving the old trails we used to play on as a kid. Thank you for all the work done to blacktop the bike trails and make a new generation able to explore them for the first time and the old generation that still needs the thrill recall their youth.