Illinois Detail (northern route)

Indiana State Line to Joliet

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 

Cabin on the I&M Canal, picture by Jason King

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)

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.

Adjoining Trail States: IowaIndiana