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Opened in the Fall of 2012, Arches Rail Trail continues to be improved by an active local support group. It lies between Butler and Hillsboro, Illinois, along a section of an old 1850s route that stretched west nearly to the Mississippi River at East Alton.
Though not visible from the trail, it's named for three limestone arch bridges that span small creeks along the way. The largest of these is an especially impressive double arch bridge. There is also an archway of trees over the entire length of the trail.
Arches Rail Trail is a nature hikers dream. Because it is not paved, its dirt and grass surface is very subject to the elements of nature. Especially toward the southeast end of the trail, heavy rains can make it nearly impassable with water puddles, mud and very tall grass. Adjacent ponds of stagnant water can breed a seasonal abundance of bothersome insects, but it is a quiet and solitary trail offering pleasant views of rural landscapes and the trees, birds, and plants that are common to woodlands in Central Illinois. Its southeast trailhead connects directly to the Bremer Sanctuary, home to a chapter of the Illinois Audubon Society.
The only trailside parking is at the northwest trailend in Butler. To get there: from I-55, take Exit 52 and turn east onto State Route 16. Go 8.2 miles, through Litchfield and on to SR 127. Turn left onto SR 127 North and go 1.9 miles to the village of Butler and the sign that marks the turnoff to the Montgomery County Fairgrounds and the Arches Trail. Turn right and follow the signs and road 0.4 mile to the small parking lot on the right.
To reach the trailhead near Hillsboro, park at the barn of the Bremer Sanctuary and follow the signs, walking about 0.7 mile to access at the northeast corner of the Bluebird Trail.
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