Hennepin Canal Parkway

Trail Map

Description Suggest an Edit

The Hennepin Canal Parkway, administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources as a state park, follows an old towpath along a canal opened in 1907 and quickly abandoned due to competition from railroads. The canal was originally built to link the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Most of the various locks and aqueducts necessary to span the 105-mile distance are still in place, and the entire canal is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The path, which was built for animals towing boats along the canal but never used this way, is level and easy. However, water is scarce along the way (found only at locks 21, 22 and the Visitor Center), so be sure to bring plenty, especially during hot days. The landscape varies from forest to grasslands to marsh to farmland, and the trail is particularly pleasing during fall, when the leaves are changing colors.

The trail surface is suitable for both road and mountain bikes, although those on hybrid bikes will have the easiest time. During winter, the canal often freezes, making it suitable for ice skating. Anglers will find stocked bluegill, crappie, walleye and bass.

The east–west corridor extends from Bureau Junction, near the Illinois River, to Colona on the Rock River. A feeder canal runs just more than 29 miles from northeast of Mineral north to Rock Falls and Sterling. Toilets are located at locks 3, 6, 11, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 26, as well as at bridges 14, 15, 23 and the Visitor Center on the main canal. Additional toilets can be found at bridges 50, 52 and 64 on the feeder canal.

Parking and Trail Access

You can access the Hennepin Canal Parkway in numerous places along both the main canal and feeder canal. The Visitor Center is located off Interstate 80 just west of State Route 40 near Sheffield.


Awesome but in disrepair. Needs the funding the I&M got.

   July, 2014 by dczepiel

The head of the trail at Bureau Jct is technically "closed" for about 4 miles because the trail is 80% washed out for about 100 feet. It is passable if you walk your bike or take the horse trail on the other side of the canal to bypass this area. It ...read more

Hennepin Canal Feeder Canal Area surface roads

   June, 2014 by javb76

I picked up the Hennepin Canal on the eastern trailhead (Bureau Junction) and took it to the Visitor's center. Having recently done this section of the canal before I was getting a little bored and tired of the crushed limstone so I accessed a random ...read more

Feeder Canal South from Sterling/Rock Falls

   May, 2014 by tracydoyle

I rode about 10 miles south from Rock Falls and back. It's a beautiful trail but a little monotonous. I was on a road bike, but would have been better off with a bit wider tires. The first 3.5 miles are paved and the pavement is a bit bumpy in spots. ...read more