The Constitution Trail is so named because it was dedicated on the 200th birthday of the U.S. Constitution, September 17, 1987. The first and main north-south section of the trail was built along an abandoned line of the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad. The asphalt and concrete trail is a system of as-yet disconnected segments covering approximately 37 miles between Normal and Bloomington, Illinois. While this trail makes a great outing any time of year, take the locals' advice and try some cross-country skiing along the corridor in winter.
Begin your ride at the Atwood Wayside trailhead in Bloomington (the official beginning is 0.8 mile south at Croxton Avenue). This stretch of the trail is lined with trees and travels through well-kept Bloomington neighborhoods. At 1.4 miles into your journey, look for the Allers Wayside trailhead and signs for the 4.5-mile spur trail heading east. There are many places to shop and eat near the trail crossing at Veterans Parkway.
Tipton Park, at mile 3 of the spur trail, has three main trail loops of its own and features a fishing pond and a nature area with a large expanse of rare native prairie grassland. Cardinals, robins, mourning doves and golden finches flit through the treetops, while squirrels, butterflies and brightly colored wildflowers are visible closer to the ground. At the eastern end of the nature area, the trail at Tipton Park turns north along Airport Road, then back west along College Avenue, where there are basketball courts, ball fields, a playground and other park amenities. Back on the main spur along General Electric Road, you can continue east to Towanda Road before returning to the main north-south trail.
Heading north again from the Allers Wayside, the trail emerges from the trees and alters its straight line trajectory to cross active railroad tracks. At the Normal Police Station, turn right to cross the railroad, double back to the left and look for The Circle and the uptown area on the right. Home to Illinois State University, Normal is a charming college town, and this area is full of colorful storefronts and hip eateries and pubs.
Leaving The Circle and quaint uptown along Constitution Boulevard, the rail-trail resumes its straight line path through suburban neighborhoods and past larger housing complexes that appear to be rentals for the college crowd. Rosa Parks Commons sits on the east side of the trail, 4.5 miles from the start in Bloomington. A huge, open field dominates the area, which also features a playground, water fountain and parking lot.
The final mile of Constitution Trail takes you under Interstate 55 and past a few more housing developments interspersed with some farm fields. There are also two gravel-processing facilities along this stretch. On the horizon, a row of large silos signals the northern trailhead and conclusion of the Constitution Trail at Kerrick Road.
In recent years, the trail has had a number of principal expansions:
- From the Normal Police Station, there's an education spur that goes northwest through the Illinois State University campus and on to Heartland Community College.
- From near the main trail's southern endpoint, another 4.8-mile section leads west through city and rural spaces.
- From southwest Bloomington, there's another 5.4-mile section down to the community of Shirley, Illinois. This is one of the first completed stretches of the historic Route 66 Bike Trail initiative in Illinois.
- There are also numerous shorter trail segments in mostly residential areas throughout the twin cities.
To reach the Atwood Wayside trailhead in Bloomington, take Interstate 55 to the Market Street exit (#160) and head east for 1.8 miles. Turn right on Center Street, go two blocks, and then turn left onto Jefferson Street. Go 0.7 miles and turn left again on Robinson Street. Look for the trailhead on the right.
The Normal endpoint is accessed from I-55 by taking the Main Street exit (#165) and driving north for 1 mile. Turn right onto Kerrick Road and look for the trailhead on the right after a half mile.