Swallow Cliff Adventure…

It is no secret that I love to explore new to me trails!  I have been meaning to get out to run Swallow Cliff for a while but it isn’t exactly in my back yard, nor did I know much about the trails there other than the fact that they were somewhat technical in spots and there were the nasty stairs left from the old toboggan runs that people flock to daily to torture themselves get some exercise.  Hello Swallow Cliff Stairs!

I must say, I was impressed.  I was impressed in a way that only people who are in love with crazy feats of fitness could understand.  The above photo was taken a little before 9 am and the stairs were already busy but nothing like the chaos I saw when I returned at 10:30am and the parking lot was full and the stairs were packed.  Wow!  I, of course, had to make a trip up these babies or the adventure would not have been complete.

I know this is a crappy photo but the stairs are so steep I couldn’t get a full picture of “the down” because I didn’t want to fall to my death the stairs just drop off.  I only made one trip up  after my run but most people come to this spot for the stairs alone and they are there to workout and make multiple trips.  At the top of the stairs is wall and there are numerous rock piles where people pile pebbles to keep track of the number of trips they have made up.  Old fashion lap counter?  Smart!  Many of those rock piles had 10 or 12+ pebbles.   Amazing!

My plan was to run the yellow trail today.  Photo of Yellow Trail below is off one of those “You are Here” signs, which I totally love.  I like knowing my progress on the loop!

I knew the yellow loop was approximately 8 miles in length and that’s about what I like to run on Sundays.  I also don’t mind the more technical trails for a Sunday run because I really take my time, I love to stop for a billion photos and just meander along in a very unhurried fashion.

I must say that I’ve run a “few” trails in my day and this was the most unassuming trailhead I’ve ever encountered.

No sign, no movement in that direction, just a bit of disturbed and trampled grass to indicate foot traffic.  As soon as I got thru those trees though, it was obvious that I was on a trail, I just had no idea which one but I came to run so I ran.

 It didn’t take long before I saw a trail sign and knew I was on the right trail!

The trail was very easy to follow, beautiful and well shaded with lots of old growth and foliage.  This is definitely a great trail that I will return to in the future.  It is in Palos, IL and only took me about 30 minutes to get there from “the country”.  There are several access points but I went to the one by the stairs.  Next time I will access on LaGrange, south of Rt 83 at the South Swallow Cliff access point.  Closer for me.  I would highly recommend heading to Palos to run Swallow Cliff; it is absolutely worth the trip!

The yellow loop was mostly dirt or crushed gravel, a few technical spots, a few nasty hills but mostly just a nice run thru the woods.  I was concerned that I would need trail shoes, and I don’t own a pair at the moment, but I was fine in my road shoes.  My only complaint is that there was quite a bit of evidence of equestrian traffic on the trail.  Although I only saw a few horses, I saw and ran around alot of horse manure.  Not ideal but certainly not a deal breaker either.

There was only one place where I even had a question as to which way to turn.  Most intersections on the trail had a marker depicting which trails went which way and I just kept following the yellow arrow.  However, the trail had some flooding issues earlier in the year and was actually closed around Rt 45.  It is now open and has a fresh trail & grass but all of the markers haven’t been replaced.

When I went under the bridge, then up the hill on the other side, there was an intersection.  Right or left?  I went right for about 10 steps, saw a trail sign for the green trail, turned around, passed the intersection again and in another 10 steps saw a trail sign indicating the yellow trail.  Not a big deal and my confusion was quickly resolved.  I anticipate it not being an issue next time as they will soon replace the sign upon completion of the construction.  This was the only spot where I questioned my direction other than when I first entered the trail during the trip.

Here is one of the nasty hills that was straight on and I could photograph.  I tried to get a photo of one hill but it was curved, blind, very dangerous and I’m not really sure how people get down it without crashing.  If it were remotely slippery out, I don’t think I would have made it down without taking a tumble!

Thumbs up for Swallow Cliff!  If you like to explore new (or old) trails, I’d highly recommend taking the trip to Swallow Cliff.  If you just like to buzz your run as fast as possible, then go ahead and just run your normal route, this isn’t a good speed run for multiple reasons.

Have your ran any new trails lately?  Where is your favorite trail?

Happy Running,                                                                                                                          Amanda – TooTallFritz

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