7/1/2011 10:00:37 PM
I rode this trail roundtrip from Rockdale to Peru (61 miles) over two weekdays in late June, 2011 and pretty much had the trail to myself. You can park your car overnight at the Brandon Road trailhead. The trail is about 70% shaded so it’s comfortable on a hot day. The eastern part of the trail is much better maintained than the western segment. I saw workers applying new crushed limestone for a very smooth ride on part of the eastern segment.
Directly across from the entrance to Buffalo Rock State Park there’s a gate and a sign that the trail is closed west of that point. I kept going and found a long stretch to Utica that has not been maintained in awhile - a bumpy ride on my Raleigh hybrid. A mountain bike would have been better here. From Utica west, the trail was much better.
The worst segment of the trail starts just west of Marseilles. There, the canal and the trail are at the same level in a number of areas so there are many wet, muddy spots. I could get through but mud splattered the bike (and rider). I don’t think this would be at all passable during spring rains. The trail needs to be raised here. On the way back, I took Dee Bennett Road (which was not busy Friday morning) from Utica to the state park entrance where I rejoined the trail.
There are a lot of old locks and dams, some restored buildings and several working aqueducts (where the canal was carried over a river) which make for an interesting ride. The state publishes an excellent map, “I&M Canal Passage”, which details the entire route.