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.
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.