The Long Prairie Trail began life as a section of the Kenosha Division Rail Line in the 1850s, when most small communities in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin were serviced by the crisscrossing tracks of the "KD" Line as it traveled from Kenosha to Rockford, Illinois. The line offered passenger service as well as hauling an enormous amount of milk and ice from the dairies and lakes along the route.
The 14.5-mile trail today is pure prairie, and legend has it the railroad gets all the credit. For years, rail cars sparked periodic blazes along the grasslands adjacent to the right-of-way. Woody species could not tolerate the frequent burns, but the native swaths of prairie grassland along the corridor adapted easily and ensured their preservation.
The small villages of Capron, Poplar Grove and Caledonia are anchored by the beautiful paved rail-trail. Starting near the town of Capron at the McHenry/Boone County Line trailhead on County Line Road, you are immediately met with an interpretive sign detailing the Potawatomi Indians' history in the area. This is a pleasant sign of things to come, as there is great signage throughout the trail, with information ranging from area history to flora and fauna identification.
Traveling west you will parallel Illinois Route 173 for close to 2.5 miles. The immaculate and large farm fields of Illinois farm country are a constant neighbor. The trail is located in one of the most rural areas of Boone County and that is apparent in the quiet nature of the ride. The countryside is broken up by stands of trees that create a tunnel of growth around the corridor. On sunny days you will be thankful for the shade.
The woods break into grasslands across which are gently rolling hills and small farms. Caledonia is a quaint Illinois village, with well kept streets and a Norman Rockwell-like feel to it. Leaving the village brings another 3.75 miles of quiet riding among the forest and fields before the trail ends at Wyman School Road. The trail's end is unceremonious: there are no facilities, including parking, here. For that you'll have to head back to Caledonia those same 3.75 miles through the countryside.
Parking and Trail Access
Each village has trail parking and access. To reach the County Line Road trailhead near Capron from Interstate 90, take US Highway 20 (Grant Highway) north for approximately 10 miles to Marengo. Turn right onto State Street (County Road 23) and go north for 10 miles. Turn left onto S. Division Street (US Highway 14) and drive for just over a mile. Turn left on Brink Street (County Road 173), go 5 miles and turn right on County Line Road. The trailhead is 0.5 mile ahead on the left.
To reach the Randolph Street trailhead (3.75 miles before the trail's end at Wyman School Road) in Caledonia, take Interstate 90 to Riverside Boulevard and go east for 1.25 miles. Turn left onto Argyle Road and go north for 2.8 miles. Turn left onto Belvidere Road. After 0.75 mile, turn right onto W. Lane Road (County Road 173) and continue for 2.4 miles. Turn right onto Caledonia Road and go 0.4 mile. Turn left on Randolph Street and look for the trailhead in two blocks.
Nice trail, but needs some repair and upkeep
Yesterday I traveled to Capron, IL, to do a long run (20 miles) on the Long Prairie Trail. The trail head is located in Capron, but when I arrived, the parking area was gated and a sign that said that the area was temporarily closed due to temporary budget ...
METRA Connection Harvard to Trailhead
I like to take the METRA commuter train from Chicago to Harvard. There is a short hellish stretch to get to the eastern trail head on State Road 173 where I have to walk for about a mile because of heavy traffic and no shoulder. As awful as it is, the ...
Scenic but not maintained well enough for a road bike
Today was the first time I've ridden this trail. I felt that the scenery was absolutely beautiful. Riding through both wooded areas, farmland and prairie. But the trail isn't well maintained, and very bumpy in some places. Most of the trail was alright, ...