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There are miles of scenic paths where you can exercise and enjoy nature
The Forest Preserve District of Will County’s expansive trail system, consisting of more than 120 miles, has many different options to choose from when planning your next outing.
Not only can the trails be a useful means to get from point A to point B while avoiding street traffic, but they also provide some incredible scenery along the way.
There's also some great variety in the types of trails, whether they are paved, crushed limestone or natural surface. Some provide historical surprises, such as stretches where you'll be traveling over an old swing bridge that used to carry vehicles, or an old railroad bridge. There is also a diversity of landscapes from woodland and wetland to prairie and savanna.
(Photo by Chad Merda)
This 891-acre preserve features several interconnecting trails including: 1.89 miles of natural surface trail, 3.15 miles of crushed limestone trail and .38 mile of paved path. Each fall, the preserve bursts into color, as a blend of tree species add to the fall palette. On the Plum Creek Greenway Trail, hikers will encounter a stunning boardwalk that stretches 40 feet above a ravine. Goodenow Grove Nature Preserve protects forest, savanna, prairie/sedge meadow and marsh.
Parking for the Crete Township-based preserve is located at 27064 S. Dutton Road in Beecher.
(Photo by Global Aerial)
The Hickory Creek Bikeway is a 5.93-mile paved path that connects eastern and western sections of Hickory Creek Preserve. Both trail sections wend their way through hilly terrain providing a scenic tour of savanna, prairie and wetlands. The western segment leads to both the 22-mile Old Plank Road Trail and the 7.56-mile Route 30 Bikeway.
Parking is available at Hickory Creek Barrens in New Lenox, and Hickory Creek Junction and LaPorte Road Access in Mokena.
The Lake Renwick Bikeway is a 3.35-mile paved path that travels through the Lake Renwick preservation system, which is home to a variety of plant species, including prairie sundrops and rattlesnake master. Trail travelers are likely to see a wide variety of bird species including the great blue heron and great egret that make their home in the nearby Lake Renwick Heron Rookery Nature Preserve.
Parking is available on Lockport Street, east of Division Street, in Plainfield.
(Photo courtesy of Tim Good)
The 441-acre preserve in Homer Glen features 1.98 miles of natural surface trail and is known throughout the region for an abundance of wildflowers that carpet the forest floor in the spring and early summer. Messenger Woods Nature Preserve also protects high-quality woodland, prairie, savanna, wetland and a portion of Spring Creek.
Parking is located on Bruce Road, east of Cedar Road, in Homer Glen.
(Photo by Chris Cheng)
The Old Plank Road Trail is a 22-mile paved trail that runs east from Washington Street in Joliet all the way to Campbell Avenue in Chicago Heights. Cruise a manageable chunk of the trail or travel the entire stretch of this former railroad route as it passes through New Lenox, Frankfort, Rich Township and Matteson. The trail connects to the District's Wauponsee Glacial Trail and the state-owned Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail.
Access and parking are located on Washington Street and Park Road in Joliet, Schoolhouse Road in New Lenox and Route 30 in Mokena.
(Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)
Bike, hike, in-line skate or cross-country ski on Prairie Bluff Preserve's 3.21 miles of paved trail. View prairie restoration efforts as you travel the loop trail, which links to the adjacent Brent Hassert Park and a Forest Preserve District picnic shelter.
Parking is located on Renwick Road, east of Weber Road, in Crest Hill.
(Photo courtesy of Amanda Olszewski)
Ride, run or skate for 9.93 miles on the Rock Run Greenway Trail, which stretches southwest from Theodore Marsh through Rock Run Preserve, Colvin Grove Preserve and Lower Rock Run Preserve where it links to the State's Illinois & Michigan Canal Trail. Continue onto the Joliet Junction Trail and the DuPage River Trail to create a 16-mile loop.
Parking is available at Lower Rock Run Preserve on Hollywood Road, south of Interstate 80, in Joliet.
The western segment of the Spring Creek Greenway Trail is a hilly, crushed limestone loop trail that travels 5.01 miles through Hadley Valley's woodland, savanna and wetland. Wildlife found at this preserve includes more than 15,000 species of insects, birds, aquatic invertebrates, fish, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. This equestrian-friendly trail connects to Pilcher Park pathways that are owned by the Joliet Park District.
A parking lot that can accommodate horse trailers is located on Gougar Road, north of Route 6, in Joliet.
The Wauponsee Glacial Trail is the District's longest trail that travels 22.29 miles from Joliet all the way to the Kankakee River. The trail was developed within two abandoned railroad corridors: Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, Pacific and the Norfolk Southern. The northern 2.8 miles are paved and the remainder is an equestrian-friendly limestone screening trail from Sugar Creek Preserve in Joliet south to Custer Park.
Equestrian parking is available at Sugar Creek and the Midewin-Wauponsee Trailhead located on Hoff Road in Elwood.
A 2.55-mile segment of the DuPage River Trail loops around Whalon Lake, a popular preserve that features an 80-acre lake. The flat, paved trail travels through prairie and wetland before it connects by boardwalk to an existing bridge over the DuPage River and leads to the Bolingbrook Park District's Hidden Lakes Historic Trout Farm in Bolingbrook.
Trail parking is available at the preserve, located at Royce Road, west of Route 53, in Naperville.
Lead image by Chris Cheng
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