Northern Illinois State Coordinator
25 E. Washington #1650
Chicago, IL 60602
Southern Illinois State Coordinator
William (Bill) Gilmour
General Overview of Trail
Illinois, the Prairie State, is mostly a land that glaciers have smoothed out and left with rich deposits of soil that produce abundant crops. Under that soil lies the largest coal reserves in the nation, but it is manufacturing that provides the most employment.
The ADT’s two routes through Illinois are quite different in character. The Northern Midwest Route is across land that is flat to slightly undulating mostly along two canals. By contrast, the Southern Midwest Route goes through very hilly country, untouched by glaciers. This area is known as the Illinois Ozarks or the Shawnee Hills and geologically remains much as it has been for eons.
Detailed Trail Description — Northern Route
This part of the trail is divided into three segments totaling 219 miles, mostly trails, sidewalks, and little used roads.
Indiana State Line to Joliet – 60 miles
The northern Illinois segment showcases a diverse sampling of interesting terrain: the great Midwestern prairie, suburban “horsy” country, nicely groomed streets, and finally the wonderful Old Plank Road Trail. Heading west on this hard-surfaced trail, which — yes — was originally a wooden planked trail — you are in for a superb urban outdoor experience. Screened on each side by woods and bushes, running through the heart of a half dozen communities that hardly reveal their presence, and buttressed by major highways close-by but never obtrusive, you understand why trails are so important. They provide transportation, but also a wealth of community physical, cultural, and historical blessings.
Joliet to Bureau Junction – 79 miles
The Illinois River is a necklace strung with sparkling jewels — canals, parks, recreational opportunities, and sheer spots of natural beauty — along this section of the ADT in northern Illinois. Just south of booming Joliet, you escape to the 60-mile-long Illinois & Michigan Canal Trail, which actually is the footpath once used by mules pulling boats through the canal. The trail has historical markers every mile along the way, usually with a real great blue heron as a natural guide. A series of cities offer support, and many state parks are available for camping. The last section, from LaSalle/Peru to Bureau, presently is along little-used roads, some gravel, but a linking trail, the Alliance Trail, is in the works.
Bureau Junction to Iowa Line (Rock Island) – 80 miles
What a way to travel — about 75 miles, from one major river to another (the Illinois and the Mississippi), all on one newly built trail. The Hennepin Parkway State Trail (a linear state park) offers relief from the flat, treeless Illinois prairie with a lock-strewn straight course of water and a green tunnel over the old tow path of a canal that was obsolete before it was completed. Quaint towns lie nearby, camping spaces (usually primitive) abound, and history is there for the dipping of your fingers in the water. At Sheffield a comprehensive trail museum more than fills the gaps in your experience of a very unique way to travel through the heart of America. The trail ends in Rock Island, just a bike/pedestrian bridge over the Mississippi River to Iowa.
- Old Plank Road Trail
- Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail
- Grand Illinois Trail
- Sauk Trail Forest Preserve Trail
- Thorn Creek Trail
- Hennepin Canal Parkway State Trail
- Great River Trail
- Indian Boundary Park, Frankfort
- Dewey Helmick Nature Preservek
- Hickory Creek Bikeway Trailhead Park, Frankfort
- Channahon State Park
- McKinley Woods State Park
- William G. Stratton State Park
- Gebhard Woods State Park
- Illini State Park
- Starved Rock State Park
- Buffalo Rock State Park
- Mathhiessen State Park
- Hennepin Canal State Park
Points of Interest
- Caboose #9951, Matteson
- Burton Breident Village Green, Frankfort
- Bicycle Bridge over US 45, Frankfort
- Historic downtown Joliet
- Hogan Grain Elevator & Visitor Center, Seneca
- Reddick Mansion, Ottawa
- Scouting Museum, Ottawa
- Illinois Waterway Visitors Center, Utica
- Split Rock
- Effigy Tumuli
- LaSalle County Museum
- Hegeler-Carus Mansion, LaSalle
- Hennepin Canal Parkway Museum
- Summit Basin on the Hennepin Canal
- Rock Island Arsenal
- The Quarter, East Moline
- John Deere Commons, Moline
- ADT Bicycle Bridge across the Mississippi River
- The District, Rock Island
Detailed Trail Description — Southern Route
This section of the trail consists of three segments, totaling 284 miles, mostly on gravel and paved roads/shoulders.
Indiana State Line to Intersection with the River to River Trail – 41 miles
The Southern Illinois Route of the ADT crosses the Wabash River into Illinois on Illinois 141. Following back roads along lots of farms, the trail passes New Haven then turns south to Shawneetown and joins the River to River Trail on Karbers Ridge Road. Weather in the summer will be tropical with high humidity, but winter travel is generally pleasant although it can approach freezing temperatures at times.
River to River Trail to Grand Tower – 127 miles
The ADT follows the River to River Trail for some 127 miles. Proceeding west on the River to River Trail, the ADT is now in rugged hills and mixed hardwoods. The trail passes High Knob and is soon in the Garden of the Gods, an area of steep cliffs and huge eroded rocks that afford outstanding vistas of the surrounding hills. The trail passes through the community of Herod, then on to One Horse Gap and on to Lusk Creek Canyon National Natural Landmark before reaching the town of Eddyville. The trail passes Double Branch Hole, Jackson Hole, Crow Knob, and Sand Cave. Sand Cave is the largest sandstone cave in North America, which may have been occupied by humans for about 12,000 years. The trail then passes Millstone Bluff which is a National Register site that was a Mississipian Indian village and a quarry from which pioneers dug rock for their millstones. The trail then passes through the Cedar and Max Creek areas of which Max Creek is considered by many to be a “Vortex” similar to those in Sedona, AZ.
At Cache River Lake, the River to River Trail crosses the 60 mile long Tunnel Hill Rail-Trail which is utilized for the bicycle alternative around the River to River hiking and equestrian trail. The trail passes Dutchman Lake before it enters Ferne Clyffe State Park, which has many unique rock formations, including Hawks’ Cave (a 250-foot-long shelter bluff) and several waterfalls. Ferne Clyffe is adjacent to Goreville, IL. The trail then passes through Panther Den which has a maze of building size rock boulders and then moves through Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge before entering Giant City State Park which offers an extensive trail system. The trail then passes through the small town of Makanda, IL before moving on to the Cedar Lake area and on to the small town of Alto Pass which is locally famous for the Bald Knob Cross of Peace. The River to River Trail then goes through Bald Knob and Clear Springs Wildernesses; LaRue Pine Hills and then descends to pass Winters Pond which is famous for being the northern terminus of Snake Road. Finally the trail concludes with an 11 mile levee walk to the termination at Grand Tower.
Since bicycles are not allowed on the majority of the River to River Trail, an alternative bicycle route is available. The bicycle alternative route leaves the official ADT route midway between New Haven and Shawneetown and heads west on country roads to Eldorado, IL. In Eldorado it picks up a local bike trail to Harrisburg, IL where it picks up the Official Tunnel Hill State Rail Trail. Along the Tunnel Hill 60 mile rail trail it passes the namesake 800’ tunnel and numerous bridges and through the cities of Carrier Mills, Stonefort, New Burnside, Tunnel Hill, Vienna, Belknap and Karnak before terminating at Barkhausen Cache River Wetlands Center. After leaving the Tunnel Hill trail the route continues on 35 miles of country roads to Wolf Lake, IL where it then takes IL Hwy 3 five miles north rejoin the River to River / ADT Trail to continue on to Grand Tower.
Grand Tower to East St. Louis (Missouri State Line) – 116 miles
The ADT continues north on a combination of back roads and maintenance roads on the top of the levees along the Mississippi River to south of East St. Louis. There are several historic sites along this portion of the ADT, including Fort Kaskaskia, founded by Jesuit priests in 1703 at the site of an Indian village; Fort de Chartres, built by the French in 1750; Modoc, where a rock shelter is said to be the site of the longest continuous habitation in North America; Prairie du Rocher, first settled in 1722 as a French trading post; and Cahokia, the oldest town in Illinois settled in 1699 by French priests who established a mission here. A statue of Popeye stands in Chester, home of the creator of the cartoon character. The ADT crosses the Mississippi River into Missouri from south of East St. Louis on the Eads Bridge, using Metro-link, a pedestrian walkway.
- River to River Trail
- Metro-East Levee Trail
- Tunnel Hill Rails Trail
- Shawnee National Forest
- Devil’s Backbone Park
- Ferne Clyffe State Park
- Giant City State Park
- Cave In Rock State Park
Points of Interest
- Lusk Creek Canyon National Natural Landmark
- Clear Spring Wilderness
- Garden of the Gods Wilderness
- Lusk Creek Wilderness
- Bald Knob Wilderness
- Crab Orchard Wilderness
- Panther Den Wilderness
- Bald Knob
- Cedar Lake
- LaRue Pine Hills
- Grand Tower
- Fort Kaskaskia
- Modoc Rock Shelter
- Fort de Chartres
- Prairie du Rocher