Traveling along the Wauponsee Glacial Trail, you'll be surprised just how quickly you can move from an urban environment into the rolling fields of the Midwest. Starting in Joliet, within shouting distance of Interstate 80 overhead ramps, you might think you're in for a busy urban trail experience. But after just 1.5 miles, the trail takes you through a sparse forest with only an occasional train passing by on the active tracks a few hundred yards away.
A few large warehouses signal the end of the forest, as you enter a subdivision and travel along the backyards of nearby homes. Over the next 1.5 miles, you make multiple small stream crossings, where you'll find excellent birding opportunities.
The Sugar Creek Administrative Center of the Will County Forest Preserve serves as this trail's northern trailhead. If you are driving to the trail, this is where you will park and start your trip. (The Joliet access point does not have parking.) The preserve building offers information on its trails, permits for picnicking, camping, programs and dog parks, as well as workshops on gardening and green building techniques.
As you head south from the Sugar Creek Administrative Center, the trail surface changes from asphalt to crushed stone. Horses are permitted on this section. You may begin to feel small along this stretch: vast farm fields stretch out farther than the eye can see. The farmland gives way for a short time when you enter the town of Manhattan, which has a trailhead with restrooms and drinking water.
Leaving Manhattan, the trail parallels another short section of railroad tracks that dead-end at a maintenance facility. South of Manhattan you'll see some of the largest cornfields around. To the west you'll see 19,000-acre Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, which was federally designated as tallgrass prairie in 1996the only such area to receive that status. (For information about visiting the prairie, which is only partially open to the public due to restoration activities, see www.fs.fed.us/mntp.)
The southernmost trailhead, but not the end of the trail, is near mile 15 in the quaint town of Symerton. The trail currently extends to the Kankakee River bridge, about 6.5 miles southwest of town.
Parking and Trail Access
To reach the Sugar Creek Administrative Center from Interstate 80, take South Briggs Street south for 2.7 miles and turn right onto East Laraway Road After 0.7 mile, look for the center on the right, before the Chicagoland Speedway.
To reach the Symerton trailhead from Interstate 57, take West Wilmington Road west 12.25 miles and turn right onto South Symerton Road After 0.5 mile, turn right on West Commercial Street and continue for just over 0.1 mile. The trailhead facilities are on the left.
To reach the endpoint in Joliet (remember, no parking available) take I-80 to Richards Street Exit North. Take a right onto Richards Street, go one block and take a right onto 4th Avenue. After 0.6 mile, take a right onto Rowell Avenue. The Trail endpoint is on the right just 0.3 mile from 4th Avenue and just past the I-80 overpass.
Not So Much
I ride a Giant FCR Flat bar road bike with 28mm Continenetal Gator Back tires. I had high hopes for this trail. It was part of a plan for a marathon ride. I planned to ride the Old Plank from Park Forest, then pick up Waubonsee trail down to the Kanakakee ...
I rode this trail on probably the nicest day this fall. If you begin in Joliet and travel to Custer Park you enter from urban to country in about three miles. Most of the trail is crushed limestone and there are some areas with loose gravel but for the ...
Quiet and scenic
My wife and I rode the Wauponsee Trail last Saturday. We started in Custer Park and rode north. This was our first time riding from that point north; we previously rode from the Nature center north into Joliet. The southern tip of this trail is quiet ...