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The the Fox River Trail (FRT) was built on stretches of three former railroads: Chicago, Aurora & Elgin; Aurora, Elgin, & Fox River Electric; and Chicago & North Western. Today, it hosts a multitude of different birds, trees and wildlife, including bald eagles, herons, and woodpeckers.
Starting from its southern terminus, the rail-trail originates in the charming village of Oswego, located 50 miles west of Chicago. The trail begins in Hudson Crossing Park, which faces the Fox River and has playgrounds, picnic areas, and benches, as well as a restroom and drinking fountain. At the north end of the park, there’s a fork in the trail; veer left to continue on the FRT. For a fun diversion, the right fork takes you on a short pathway along Waubonsie Creek through a small, serene park and leads to downtown.
Leaving Hudson Crossing Park, you’ll cross over Waubonsie Creek and parallel the Fox River. After going through another small park, the trail becomes an on-road route for a short distance. Make a left at North Adams Street and travel on the roadway 0.5 mile through a quiet residential area with very little car traffic. At the next bend in the road, stay to the left, and do not cross the train tracks. The off-road section of the FRT begins again after making a right onto Second Street.
Leaving Oswego, the path is sandwiched between the river and IL 25 for 4.8 miles to the Fox River crossing on the south end of Aurora. The trail initially passes through a mix of commercial districts and neighborhoods, a suburban-urban interface that the FRT weaves in and out of for the entire route.
At mile 4 is Montgomery Dam, a popular fishing spot and 1 of 13 dams along the Fox River. Here, the path traverses a narrow peninsula, then crosses the river back to its east bank. Shortly thereafter, you’ll cross to the river’s west side on a truss bridge, which is also part of the Virgil L. Gilman Trail. Immediately after crossing the bridge, turn right to head north (if you stay straight, you remain on the Virgil L. Gilman Trail) to ride the length of Hurd’s Island. Leaving the island, you’ll travel 0.5 mile along an on-road protected bike lane.
Aurora (mile 6.5) extends into four counties and features three nationally registered historic districts. The city is actively improving its downtown, including the addition of a riverfront park that the trail passes through north of West Downer Place. Beginning at East New York Street, a mile-long segment of the FRT runs up both the west and east sides of the river. The eastern leg of the trail ends at East Illinois Avenue; on the north side of East Illinois Avenue, you can pick up the Illinois Prairie Path on the far side of a parking lot. If you travel on the west side of the Fox River, you’ll cycle through North River Street Park and McCullough Park.
The FRT hugs the river’s edge as it carries on toward North Aurora and, for the most part, avoids the hustle and bustle of the city. At the North Aurora Dam, the trail once again splits to run up both sides of the river; the section on the east bank runs through Red Oak Park and Glenwood Park Forest Preserve. The trail merges back into one in Batavia. Make sure to stop in at the Batavia Depot Museum, which houses exhibits about the three railroad corridors that now make up the Fox River Trail, and the Fabyan Villa Museum, redesigned in 1907 by Frank Lloyd Wright.
You’ll continue through the communities of Geneva and Saint Charles, as well as several more parks. In South Elgin, you can ride an electric trolley at the Fox River Trolley Museum, which operates a passenger car for a 4-mile round-trip ride along the banks of the river. The FRT runs alongside the rail tracks to the museum. It then crosses the river via a bridge built on the original 1896 piers to stay on the eastern side of the river for the remainder of the ride.
From the bridge crossing, it’s 3.5 miles to downtown Elgin. Note that on your way to Elgin, you’ll travel through tranquil forest preserves but will also have a couple of short on-road segments to navigate. The FRT goes through East Dundee, a small village established in 1871, and ends at the southern end of Algonquin, where you can pick up the Prairie Trail.
This trail is not open to horseback riding or equestrian traffic.
The closest parking area to the FRT’s southern terminus is at Hudson Crossing Park at Harrison St. in downtown Oswego. To reach it from I-88, take the IL 31 exit near mile marker 117 toward Aurora/Batavia, and head south on IL 31 S/S. Lincolnway St. Stay on IL 31 S 8.4 miles, past Aurora. Immediately after the Oswego Village Hall, make a left onto Washington St. and cross the Fox River. The first street immediately after crossing the Fox River will be S. Harrison St. Make a left onto S. Harrison St. and into the parking lot for Hudson Crossing Park.
On the northern end of the trail, you can park in Algonquin’s Riverfront Park (201 N. Harrison St.). To reach the park from I-90, take the exit for IL 31 near mile marker 55. Go north 7.2 miles on IL 31, and turn right onto S. Main St. In 0.1 mile turn right onto Washington St., and then make an immediate left onto S. Harrison St. Riverfront Park is approximately 0.25 mile ahead. From the parking lot, you will need to walk or ride about 0.5 mile southwest on Harrison St. to the Prairie Trail, and then go southeast 1 mile on the pathway to reach the FRT.
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