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These New Dan Ryan Woods Stairs Are Made For Walking — So You Don’t Have To Trek To Swallow Cliff Anymore

County Commissioner Stanley Moore saw how walkers and runners flocked to the Palos Park stairs and pushed for a set in Dan Ryan Woods.

The new stairs at Dan Ryan Woods, left, are modeled after the popular stairs at Swallow Cliff in Palos Park.
Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago
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DAN RYAN WOODS — Attention outdoor stairclimbers: There’s a new hill to climb — and you don’t have to go to Swallow Cliff in southwest suburban Palos Park to climb it.

The Dan Ryan Woods now has a brand new set of outdoor concrete stairs made for walking.

The 63-step fitness stairs are officially open near the northeast corner of 87th and Western in the forest preserve near Auburn-Gresham and Beverly.

Workers finished them in January with little fanfare. An official ribbon cutting will be held this summer — but they’re open for business now.

The stairs are the brainchild of Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore, who saw how walkers and runners flocked to the Cook County Forest Preserve’s Swallow Cliff and pushed for a set in the Dan Ryan Woods.

In a Facebook post, Moore cited the stairwell as one of his proudest accomplishments of his five years in office.

“During a tour of other forest preserves I saw an extremely popular exercise stairwell in Palos and I saw first hand how many families enjoyed walking up and down the staircase at a place called Swallow Cliff. So much so that I decided to poll the hundreds of walkers who visit Dan Ryan every day, who demanded that our forest Preserve should be as nice as any other in the County,” Moore wrote. “I took my request to president Toni Preckwinkle and after much negotiating we now have our very on Swallow Cliff.”

Credit: Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago
The new 63-step fitness stairs are located near the northeast corner of 87th and Western in the Dan Ryan Woods.

Forest Preserve spokesman Stacina Stagner said it was largely Moore, along with Commissioner John Daley, who brought the idea of the stairs to fruition.

The stairs are part of several improvements being made to Dan Ryan Woods after a master planning process was completed in 2014. Other improvements include a visitor center and plaza, which provides space for nature education; aqueduct improvements; and the addition of a pathway connecting the visitor center to the aqueducts via the 87th Street underpass. A new nature play treehouse is also currently being completed.

Credit: Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago
Swallow Cliff is located in suburban Palos Park.

The concrete stairs can be used by exercise enthusiasts in the warm months and by sledders looking for an easier way to get to the top of the sled hill in the winter. The Dan Ryan hill is more than 600 feet above sea level, making it one of the highest points in Chicago.

Swallow Cliff, best known for its 100-foot-tall bluff, actually has two stairwells — one that contains 125 limestone stairs that lead to the top of a former toboggan run and one that was added in 2016, which contain an additional 168 stairs. For years, it’s been a popular exercise destination for fitness buffs and casual walkers, with many building pebble piles at the top of the stairs to keep track of their trips up and down. 

During the winter, the hill at Swallow Cliff is used for sledding and the stairs are used by sledders to climb back up.

Credit: Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago
The view from the top of the new Dan Ryan Woods stairs.
Credit: Bob Chiarito/Block Club Chicago
The top of the new stairs at Dan Ryan Woods.

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