Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Biking the Great Western Trail

DuPage County built the Great Western Trail on the former Great Western right-of-way. Thought may sound strange, the trail start and ends at the Illinois Prairie Path. Specifically, it runs from the Illinois Prairie Path's Elgin Branch west of Prince Crossing Road in West Chicago and travels east to the main stem of the Illinois Prairie Path in Villa Park near Villa Street.

This photo below exemplifies the majority of the trail from the west, tall bushes and short trees on both sides of the trail and following the high-voltage power corridor. A large baseball/soccer complex breaks up the scenery out west. The surface is crushed limestone and is suitable for road bikes. An overpass carries the trail over I-355, but most other road crossings are unprotected and care must be taken on several of them, notably County Farm, Gary, and Schmale. As you approach the east terminus in Villa Park, you encounter more residences and industrial areas, but there are far fewer residential street crossings than found on the nearby Illinois Prairie Path which runs through the heart of several suburbs. Together, these two trails provide a 75 mile recreational opportunity.

Here my sons, Scott and Steve, pose at the County Farm Road crossing. A connector trail to the Illinois Prairie Path heads south from here through Timber Ridge Forest Preserve past the Klein Creek area.

The Great Western Trail is the dotted red line going left to right. It starts and ends at the Illinois Prairie path, which is the dotted orange line. Roads are black, water is blue.


There is also a west segment of the Great Western Trail starting in St. Charles (west of Randall Road on Dean Street, north of North Avenue/Route 64) and running 17.5 miles west to Sycamore, Illinois, on a predominantly crushed limestone surface. It roughly parallels Route 64 and, after leaving St. Charles, travels alongside occasional residences and numerous farm fields. Its infrequent road crossings make an otherwise uninspiring ride a good workout and a fine day out in the country.
This western segment of the Great Western regional trail is an amenity of the Kane County Forest Preserve District. Here's the map:

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