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The Great River Trail is a breathtaking journey along more than 60 miles of the Mississippi River in northern Illinois. In places, the paved trail follows the former spur route of the Chicago, St. Paul, Milwaukee and Pacific Railroad.
Elsewhere, it’s a mix of low-traffic rural roads, dedicated bike lanes, and riverfront trails running atop flood levees. It’s part of the 500-mile Grand Illinois Trail network in the north; in the south, it traces the American Discovery Trail, which crosses the country with a mixture of trails and on-road routes.
Starting in Savanna, you’ll head south through several small towns with traditions still steeped in river culture before reaching the industrial center of the Quad Cities, which includes Rock Island and Moline. Many opportunities exist for browsing antiques, enjoying catfish dinners, and viewing river traffic. Camping and lodging are available for overnight trips. Leaving Savanna, the secluded route rolls across the sand prairie, past nature preserves and farmland to Thomson. Watch for signs that direct you onto quiet local roads from the paved trail.
Farther south, in Fulton, an unusual sight greets you: a Dutch windmill that will make you feel as though you’ve been transported to the Netherlands. It’s no wonder; the structure was originally built there and then transported here to be reassembled by craftsmen.
About 8 miles south in Albany, take a short detour through the Albany Indian Mounds State Historic Site and view dozens of earthen burial mounds that date back more than 2,000 years.
The trail runs alongside IL 84 (Great River Road) most of the way to Cordova, where it meanders through town on local streets. After less than 2 miles, the rail-trail picks up again and closely follows Great River Road for 4 miles into Port Byron, a charming river town visible from the trail’s riverbank course. Most of the corridor here is shared with an active rail line, offering a fine example of a safe rail-with-trail relationship.
Three miles downriver is Rapids City, where blue herons, gulls, and other waterfowl are plentiful.
As the Great River Trail crests a levee 4 miles south in Hampton, you get a glimpse of Campbell’s Island, the site of the Battle of Rock Island Rapids during the War of 1812. Just ahead on the left, the John Deere manufacturing plant marks the beginning of the trail’s urban section. Traveling atop the levee affords majestic vistas of the bridges over the Mississippi River connecting the Quad Cities.
After 5.5 miles, you’ll reach Moline. Follow the bike route signs to navigate through the city. Consider stopping at the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau at Bass Street Landing Plaza on Moline’s waterfront. Looking across the slough as you return to the trail, you can see Arsenal Island, home to the historic Rock Island Arsenal, still in operation by the U.S. Army. It also was a prison camp for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.
Leaving downtown Moline, the route stays up on the riverbank and crosses under the Centennial Bridge as you enter the city of Rock Island. The industrial skyline dominates the landscape for most of the final 7.5 miles to Sunset Park, where a large marina and extensive river views provide a fitting end to this scenic path.
To reach the trailhead in Savanna from I-80, take Exit 1 for IL 84. Head north on IL 84 for 41.5 miles, and turn left onto Chicago Ave./US 52. In 1.1 miles, turn left onto Broderick Dr. at the intersection with Main St. Follow signs to "Bike Trail Access and Savanna Trail Car Museum."
The Cordova trailhead is on Main Ave. From SR 84 (Great River Road) turn west on Main Ave. and take a left on 11th St. The parking lot is in the park on the right. You will not see the trail; from the parking lot, head left (north) on 11th St., turn left again on 2nd Ave. and then look for the green bike route signs.
To reach the trailhead at Sunset Park in Rock Island: From I-280, take Exit 11B and merge onto IL 92 E/Centennial Expy. In 1.5 miles, take the 31st Ave. exit and, at the end of the ramp, turn left onto Sunset Lane. Follow the roadway 0.6 mile into the park; look for parking on the right.
I rode from the trailhead at Sunset Park in Rock Island to the Arsenal Bridge where I crossed into Iowa, so this review is only for that short section of the trail. It's urban and it moves onto and off the high levee overlooking the Mississippi with ease.
Parking at Sunset Park is easy, and routefinding isn't a challenge at all.
Just head north and follow the signs. Once you're out of the park, you'll climb onto a flood control levee overlooking Old Man River. The views are spectacular. The trail eventually comes off the levee and into a neighborhood that has an industrial urban feel to it, but I don't mean that in a bad way. It adds flavor and it just felt very safe. The pavement is as smooth as it gets and the signage is just about right. People along the trail were kind and friendly.
Bottom line, this is a really nice section of trail that overlooks an iconic American landmark. It's well worth the ride if you get the chance.
Planned to do 60 miles roundtrip, from Rapids City to Thomson and back. Beautiful day for riding in July - temps not high, not humid, slight breeze. The small towns of Rapids City and Port Byron were quite nice to ride through; a lot of direct river access/views. Primarily flat with a few small slopes or hills here and there. Cordova also has a couple nice riverfront parks with working water fountains. However, we ended up only doing half, and turning around just before Albany. My biggest gripe - which almost had me turning around sooner - was how closely the trail follows highway 84. It's better than nothing or riding on the road, don't get me wrong, but as someone who prefers more remote trails the segments along the road just killed it for me. A lot of ugly spots, auto noise and fumes. A lot of trash and bottles tossed onto the median between the road and the trail or onto the trail itself. 84 isn't exactly high traffic but it also isn't low. The trail also soon started to angle away from the river and once north of Cordova, you barely see it again, at least through the point where we turned. There are stretches where vegetation is growing out into the trail and you frequently have to ride on the outer edge of the trail - generally not a problem as the trail was not busy, and a stretch where someone has clearly gone in to try and cut things back but ended up leaving a lot of wood debris which isn't great for bike tires. There were also some spots where a couple holes are in the trail; one marked by some orange cones that hopefully no one moves as it could cause serious damage or even injury if someone rode into it. Some nice little wooden bridges at various points but with a little too much rise, which caused some bumps for my 700x38c tires and I can't image what they do for road bike tires if you hit them wrong, so keep an eye out when approaching bridges. The 3M factory also doesn't make for a great view (sorry 3M, I buy your products, I just don't enjoy biking past you) although things did start to look a little nicer just north of the plant for a while, detouring through a nice little woods before going back to following 84. The trail comes to an abrupt end where one has to ride for about half a mile on Meredosia Road, which has no shoulder or bike lane but does seem to be low traffic. You then catch the Albany Mounds Trail (if you are riding north, there is no sign to tell you to turn left and the trail/sign is hidden; just turn left at the first road you come to and the trail head is right there). The trail does have a couple small hills, max 8% grade, and rides through a lovely field of Bluestem grass and then a short wooded section, with views of the tops of a few mounds over the grasses. At the far end of the trail is a nice rest area with a shelter, working water fountain, and pit toilets. The mounds were one of the highlights of the trip, natural and peaceful even with the nearby houses encroaching, and I highly recommend it. Unfortunately we decided not to go on so never made it into the town of Albany or beyond as the thought of more roadside trail riding was so unpalatable by this point. It may have gotten better, I don't know, and we'd really wanted to visit the sand prairie area by Thomson, the Heirloom cafe, as well as the lock and dam, but not this day. The second highlight of the day did occur after retracing our route, on one of the ugly stretches of roadside trail - I happened to look down and found wild cactus growing! So that made up for things a bit. All told, just shy of 40 miles roundtrip, with a really nice meal at Brothers restaurant in Rapids City, just a block or two away from the parking area. There were definitely several good points as mentioned above, and plenty of people would likely not mind the close proximity of the trail to the road, it just isn't my cup of tea. We may go back another day and ride Savanna south to Albany to see what we missed.
Living in Chicago, I'm spoiled: the Lake Front Trail which lead to the McClory Trail which leads to Skokie Valley Trail--all lovely smooth asphalt. The perfumed streets (thanks to the plants installed by professional landscaping)of the North Shore suburbs are paradise to any cyclst with nearly an infinite choice of routes. Then, of course, eschewing asphalt you can chose among the Fox Valley Trail (mostly but not entirely asphalt), and Illinois Prairie Path will both take you to the Wisconsin state line. The I&M Trail parallelling teh Illinois River is one of the original bicycle trails for the area.
So, now no longer in Chicago and happily living in rural NW Illinois, I feel churlish complaining about any nearby trail. All of them show admirable effort for which I am grateful and can raise their quality over time to that of the Chicago-area trails.
There is so much potential we miss! I am convinced that many trails are installed by workers who never themselves spend much time on a bike or assume bike trails are mostly for little kids. Many do not appreciate the differences and capabilities of road, trail, hybrid and other bikes and what kind of trail and routing is best adapted for these types.
The signage here is ambiguous and a sometime thing. I was stunned at Albany to find myself directed onto Uther Rd: two miles of sharp, unstable gravel on top of an unyielding substrate. This a road to eat tires. This is the worst route I've seen in the many states and many thousands of miles of trails. My Schwalbs protected me from disaster and having to hitch a ride back to my car. My route is then directed into a steep hill an alternate route would easily avoid. There is a long stretch of cement trail right up against the pounding, busy highway for miles. I am sure in time a better, quieter and more scenic and enjoyable route will be found and established
The trail is in many places exposed to sun and wind on unprotected prairie trails and open streets. I'm surpised the US govt-maintained (I assume) trails are so good (smooth, lovely asphalt) and missed opportunity (straight through open prairie. A lightning storm there would be truly scary).
So, I'm writing mostly not criticize. If I seem critical, I apologize but I write hoping what I have to say will be read by administrators and designers. We have a gem now, but somewhat in the rough. I remember the 50s and 60s when the radical idea of a bicycle trail of any kind was met with derision and hopelessness. We've made a lot of progress then. We'll make progress more. Soon we'll have Interstates exclusively for bicycles! I hope I live long enough.
To all cyclists reading: Take this trail! use it from top to bottom. Every bike on this route validates and strengthens it.
We started at the Stoney Creek Hotel in Moline, which is right on the trail. After a short stretch along the road, it meanders through a park which runs along side the river's edge. In Hampton, just follow the signs on neighborhood roads. At the 13 mile mark, we came onto Port Bryan. There is a public restroom and water fountain by the large statue of a bicyclist riding an old fashion bike (Will B. Rolling). There is a convenience store (Casey's) just up the street from the Post Office, as well as a few restaurants/bars. Cordova is about 23 miles down the road. We didn't see anyplace to stop. We turned around at 25 miles. The trail is fully paved on the part we rode, flat and easy to navigate.
They have made some repairs & enhancements since I rode this trail 2 yrs ago. Not always the most scenic as you pass through Rock Island (industrial park & rail yard), but you can always look at the river. The path is in good condition; parks & rest areas are clean and well groomed. Signs and markers are intact, making the path safe and easy to negotiate. Good family activity if you have kids who bike.
perfect day. perfect ride. perfect trail.
i only had about two and a half hours between some family obligations so i was only able to squeeze in a leisurely tour - but i will come back to do a metric century loop or just straight on south to the bottom of the trail next year.
see my photos for other impressions.
My wife and I rode our single speed tandem bike from Rapid City to Sunset Park on the south west side of Rock Island, which is the end of the ride. Albeit we picked somewhat of a windy day, which was no ones fault, unless one wishes to blame God, we had a wonderful time on a nicely paved trail that afforded many nice sites, beautiful views, along with clean restrooms and plenty of drinking fountains along the way. After a 38.5 mile ride, we have done nothing but brag it up to everyone we know. We look forward to riding up the northern section sometime soon.
The short version of this review: We completed the trail over a 2-day span and really enjoyed the trip. The trail offers a little bit of everything: shade trees, backwater, open prairie, quiet residential streets, country roads, rural atmosphere, urban atmosphere, and views of the Mississippi River. It was entirely paved, and except for the routes through small towns, nearly flat. The only negative: some missing signs.
We chose to begin our ride at the trailhead in Savanna on a Thursday morning. Unfortunately, the train car was closed at the time of our arrival (~ 10 a.m.) Leaving Savanna, the trail is shaded by trees and offers some views of Mississippi River backwater. It passes through a sand prairie (where cactus grows), before continuing to Thomson on a little used country road. Just outside of Thomson, the trail passes by the soon-to-open federal prison.
In Thomson, we took a detour to the Heirloom Market and Cafe, then backtracked to the trail which leaves town on Lewis Avenue (also called the Causeway). This leads to Thomson Causeway Park, where you can take a hike through Potters Marsh...if you can figure out how to get there.
The trail to Fulton is partially prairie and partially shade trees. In Fulton, we visited the De Immigrant Windmill, which is right on the trail, and Heritage Canyon, which is not. Both are worth a visit.
The trail leaves Fulton along the water, and in Albany, leads to the Indian Mounds State Historic Site, where you can get off your bike and hike some of the self-guided trails. From Albany to Cordova, much of the trail runs along a highway on a dedicated trail (not on the highway itself).
In Cordova, we spent the night at the Leisure Harbor Inn Bed & Breakfast (highly recommended), which is right on the trail and right on the Mississippi River. We had excellent burger at Riley's Roadhouse, and then watched the sun go down from a swing on the deck of the B&B.
South of Cordova, the trail offers many more views of the Mississippi River. We didn't make any special stops in Port Byron, Rapids City or Hampton but enjoyed the trail along the way.
In East Moline, the trail climbs onto the Levee and mostly stays there for the remainder of the trip to Sunset Marina in Rock Island. We encountered rain, and therefore didn't make any further stops in the Quad Cities. The rain, however, did not dampen our enthusiasm. We were sorry to see the trip end.
Not alot of shade on this section, but riding at dusk gets a cool breeze off the river. We rode this area loop of 5 miles and really enjoyed the river scenery, for about .65 miles. The rest was ok, but we didn't go farther because the trail runs about 4 feet from a busy road.
I started out in Savanna, parking in what may or may not have been the trailhead. There were just a few parking spots in one area, with a few more near a railcar located nearby. The railcar serves as a tourist info center, but was closed at the time of my visit on the first Saturday in May.
The trail heads south over a very nicely built and maintained bridge which crosses over a set of RR tracks. Shortly thereafter, the paved trail crosses over another nice low-level bridge and continues southward.
Despite the name Great River Trail, the section that I rode, from Savanna to a point below Thomson, the river is rarely within view, except at the very beginning in Savanna. That was rather disappointing to me.
After another 'visitor' center the trail is on low traffic roads, and the surface is not as smooth. I would imagine that, with the lack of tree cover, many parts of the trail would be quite hot in summer. Load up on the sunscreen to be safe.
There is a nice restroom, that is part of a state campground, with water fountains available.
Thomson is the first town that you arrive at heading south, and there was a visitor at the train depot, which was closed that day. There is a local bike shop nearby, but not much as far as I could see in the way of food. But I did not explore all that much.
South of Thomson, it is more of the same, passing through fields, and other lackluster scenery. I am not sure if it is a shared path south of Thomson, but a car passed me by on a section that certainly was NOT wide enough for such a maneuver.
Beyond that point, halfway to Fulton I can not comment. I turned around after about 15 miles. All in all not much to see. Saw less than 10 other cyclists on a nice day in early May.
We rode the full trail from Savanna to Rock Island last weekend on our recumbent tandem and it is fabulous. 99.9% paved and in excellent condition. This is a very well conceived trail from start to finish. A nice map is available in the converted railroad passenger car / visitors center at the trail head in Savanna. Very serene and scenic from Savanna to Fulton. The road sections are on pretty much empty stretches of good condition blacktop. Signage is good throughout, but not great. The Great-River signs are pretty faded from the sun and are lacking in some areas. The numerous river towns are fun to scope-out. Lots of nice (and cheap) small town restaurants. If you want camping with trail access, there are at least 6 campgrounds along the way. We stayed at a wonderful Bed & Breakfast on the river in Cordova, which is at about the halfway point. As you get more urban toward the Quad Cities, you also get more parks and river frontage. We've ridden dozens of Midwest rail-trails and this is one of the best. Highly recommended.
1st ride started from Savannah.. loved it, took a side trip into the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge, highly recommend it for hybrid or mountain bikes, the River Trail its self is asphalt and weell cared for, the Fish and Wildlife folks have a welcome center that has air and tools for bikes. 2nd ride was in and around Rock Island and Moline..not a country ride, gives another view of the Mighty Miss.. it is actually pretty cool riding on the top of the flood berms.. all in all we will do it again
As of July 2014, large sections of the trail are flooded and impassable. Street options are not always safe (no shoulder, cars traveling fast ). Once flood waters recede, will be great trail.
This is my favorite go-to-trail! Starting at Sunset Marina and traveling through the Quad Cities, then up through Hampton, Port Byron, through small towns, until the wonderful windmill in Fulton. (You can go on to Savannah, but I haven't done that yet!) The trail is usually clear -- when the river is high, there could be flooding or drainage pipes you need to navigate. Mostly the trail runs along the river or through some parks and small towns. Occasionally routes in the smaller towns might not be clearly marked, but just keep as close to the river to pick up the trail again. It's a great ride, whether for 5, 10, 50, or 60 miles!
We enjoy trying different trails each year, but this one is one of our favorites. We ride from about a mile before Hampton to at least Moline & sometimes to Rock Island at least once a year. It is a very well kept trail & beautiful with flower gardens & trees and a lot of views of the river.
As a Lifelong Quad Cities Resident this is the premiere bike path on the Illinois side. There are several opportunities for bikers to enjoy a taste of the larger cities and their amenities while blending in a cohesive network of smaller towns that bring about a certain coziness. As such, the trail begins and ends in Rock Island, IL in Sunset Park which is a nice place to park your vehicle. The district of Rock Island has some nice restaurants that offer a wide variety of cuisine. Personally, Mama Comptons is my favorite. A classic old style diner that never fails to deliver a lively atmosphere with great food.Generally, musicians frequent the diner and strum a nice melody on their guitar. Patrons offer tips in the guitar case. In addition, you can also connect to Iowa via the Arsenal and Centennial bridges (the only way to Iowa by bike other than Fulton, Iowa). Be sure to bike by the Mark of the Quad Cities in Moline and the Newly built Western Illinois University- Riverfront Campus. You can view the John Deere Pavillion. The path winds along the river and your likely to encounter many Geese and Ducks along the way with their bird droppings so be aware! Venturing on to East Moline, Hampton, and Rapids City offers a blend of the city life. Recently a very nice Ice cream shopped closed so you're best bet is to venture over to Port Byron. Cordova has a nice path that goes through the small city. Albany has a beautiful Indian Mounds Burial Park where Indians reportedly captured Colonel Davenport and Killed him in this park. Fulton has some nice scenery including the windmill over the riverfront. Thomson has the empty federal prison which is worth a view to see how dysfunctional the government can be. The Thomson Sand Bluff Prairie Park is a phenomenal place to bike through and relax while taking in great scenery. Savanna the final destination conjures up memories from Wisconsin as the flat terrain turns into bluffs that overlook the Mississippi River. Surely, a fitting end to a great ride. Pros- The path is paved for most parts with the exception of a gravel road when you leave Albany city limits towards Fulton. The towns are properly distanced at around 5 miles apart so plenty of opportunities to grab refreshments. Cons- Signage needs to be replaced as they are worn or lack clarity in some areas. Simply, there are arrows that point you in the right direction but offer no mileage so this can be extremely confusing. The trail can be deserted in some areas so if you want to see people then stick to the bigger towns.
I picked the trail up in Sunset park in Rock Island and turned around in Savanna and back to Sunset park which made for a long day of riding. The trail is almost entirely dedicated trail for walkers/bikers with only a few spots where you are exposed to traffic. that said the trail does not hug the river for very many miles (although along the rock island/moline section you ride atop the levee which is cool and by far the best section of the trail in my opinion). my chief complaint with the tail is it winds a pretty bizarre path in and through many of the towns and the signage could be better. in some case i simply biked along the shoulder of Hiway 84 to avoid a zig/zag route (like through Cordova). there is also a pretty uninspiring section just west and north of the town of Thompson where you run past a federal prison along a really boring stretch (but it picks up again about 3 miles into Savanna). all in all a great trail and runs through some interesting towns with variable topography to keep things interesting. giving it 4 stars (and not 5) because of the signage, lack of river hugging sections and zig/zag sections of the trail at times.
I live along the trail and can offer some tips for those not so timid as to slightly wander off the trail to improve the experience.
My simple advise is to "hug" the river at EVERY opportunity between Albany and I-80 underpass. Simply turn towards the river at any significant paved road (not onto highway). They are all VERY low traffic, adding only a couple of miles and they RETURN to the path (going South at Rapid City you turn back to path when see dead end sign). This will get you away from along roadside for at least for a few miles and give you much nicer scenery.
I rode this bike trail this past Saturday from our campground at Fisherman's Corner north of Hampton all the way through Rock Island and turned around about 2 miles south of Rock Island to return back. On Sunday, I then rode from Fisherman's Corner to Cordova. First of all, this one of my favorite bike trails (and I ride a lot of different ones). Very scenic. Saw turtles, pelicans, black squirrels, hawks, racoons, trains, tugboats, classic cars on Il Route 84.. just to name a few. Plus, the Mighty Mississippi itself and all the different things you see in all the towns you pass through. Stopped at a very cool ice cream store on the trail in Hampton called "Remember When.. Ice Cream and Candies". Got an ice cream cone here and a Diet MT Dew and that provided the fuel I needed to get back. I liked that place so much that I brought my wife and 3 boys back later that evening and had another ice cream cone! We sat on their back deck on the stools and watched the sunset on the river. It was a perfect moment. Loved the trail through E. Moline and Moline. Hit the Moline Pantry in downtown Moline for a quick drink and snack. They are right on the trail as you enter downtown from under the I-74 bridge. Explored downtown Moline and Rock Island on my bike. The next day as I went towards Cordova, the trail passes through Rapids City and Port Byron--these are nice little river towns. I turned around at the rest area in Cordova. There they have tables, benches, water fountain, and a porta potty. This is probably one of the best views of the river here. Lots of history in this town and very scenic overlooks. Someday I would like to ride from end to end starting in Savanna. I need a better bike first though-- not a Mountain bike. Wished I lived closer to use this trail more often.
Trail starts out along the river and is quite pretty. Then passes through wooded swampy area which was nice except for all the bugs. Then away from the river out through the prarie and then onto the back roads for the remainder of the ride. Didn't like riding on the road much - not a lot of traffic, but some and the view is mostly of the surrounding fields. We were disappointed that it doesn't really stay along the river much.
To get to know our home state a little better, we drove from Chicago to Galena and spent a couple days there. Then we drove to Savanna, parked the car, and rode the entire length of the GR Trail from Savanna to Rock Island (day 1) and back to Savanna (day 2). Aside from dealing with temperatures above 95 degrees on both days, here are the highlights:
There is parking at the head of the trail, next to a boxcar. It starts out up a small hill through a covered bridge. We went the first 10 miles to Thomson, the new, unoccupied prison rising up through the prairie--quite lovely (the prairie, that is); mostly trail but routed a little on country roads. When we got to Thomson, we (luckily) lost the trail and rode Main Street into town where we found the Heirloom Cafe. Delicious healthy food, some from the garden in the back. There is also a great bike shop on Main Street.
We returned to the trail and went on to Fulton after which there were 2 paths. We took one going down, the other coming back. It was a little confusing getting through Fulton, itself.
Albany has a couple nice cafes--you have to go down the hill (west) to a street that runs parallel to the bike trail. It is between South 2nd and 3rd streets(not north!).
The trail to Cordova runs next to the highway and is not that pleasant, but Cordova is very pretty. (Coming back north we found that it is possible to stay straight on the road through the town and the neigborhoods, rather than go back to the trail by IL84. Eventually it ends and you go right). Cordova has a nice park and the town is lovely with beautiful scenes of the river. A family invited us in for ice water along the way, and showed us their gorgeous view of the Mississippi.
On to Port Byron--ride not that pleasant and Port Byron is a strip of town on one street. In Rapids City we had a good breakfast at Brothers Family Restaurant (on the return trip). They also have lots of soft serve ice cream flavors.
The ice cream highlight was at Hampton--"Remember When." Fantastic flavors, cute restaurant, nice seating outside in the back. It was an oasis on a hot day.
After that, the trail continues south through an industrial area. Interesting to see John Deere tractors, 3M company, and others--the trail is between the factories and the River. It remains industrial all the way through E Moline, Moline, to Rock Island.
The only hotel, Holiday Inn Express, was full, so we rode over the River to Davenport--you can see the minor league baseball field from the bridge. We slept over at the Radisson and rode back to Savanna the next day.
Highlights: very flat (so 60 miles was fine); Remember When Ice Cream, Heirloom Cafe, ride through the prairie; great riding partner. Disappointing: too much riding by the highway, rare views of the River
I've ridden sections of this trail quite a few times. I noticed on the view map that the trail didn't make a round about trip through some pretty steep hills in Albany. So I figured I'd ride the trail as far as I could in the time I had. I rode from East Moline. Upon reaching Albany I found that the trail still goes through a park with Indian mounds and on some hilly streets. That was a disappointment. So pay attention to the trail signs near Albany since the trail route shown on the map on this website is incorrect, unless you don't mind riding on a busy state highway.
We rode this trail from Fisherman's Corner on the Illinois side near Hampton. We camped there, it was a nice facility. We stopped at the ice cream shop, Remember when, in Hampton twice while there. Good ice cream but candy is not anything homemade, it was all prepackaged, we were hoping for some fudge or something more satisfying. We rode to Rock Island Arsenal the fist day, very nice trip, we had hoped to cross the bridge at the arsenal into Davenport but it was closed for repairs the day we were there. The second day we rode north to Port Byron. Will be back again! So much more to explore. Great trail.
My daughter and I rode the trail from just north of Fulton to the end in Rock Island. The ride was very scenic along the river. We especially enjoyed riding through the small towns north of the Quad Cities. This was a planned century (100 miles) so after a while the scenery and aesthetics become much less interesting than completing the ride. We started in Cordova, the half way point, and road 25 miles in each direction. The city park was our staging area for our adventure. With never having ridden the trail I was relying on signage to keep us on track. As we left the park there were no signs pointing the way to the trail. We embarked on a frustrating tour of Cordova trying to find the trail. Once we understood that the trail through some towns is posted as a 'Bike Route' the navigation became much easier. But it doesn't end there. As we entered the Quad Cities, primarily Rock Island, loosing the trail at a street intersection was quite easy at times. Thank goodness for the map on our 'smart' phones. I understand that signs are vandalized or are victim to something else but the trails needs to be signed so navigation is much more simple. A coordinated effort needs to be made to standardize the signs along the whole route. If you do ride the trail take a detailed map and a fully charged 'smart' phone with a mapping app. A lot of money, planning and time has gone into bringing this trail to where it is today. This trail, and others like it, are a great asset to our state and those seeking recreation.
I rode from Savannahh to Thomson ( 20 miles round trip). The trail is complete now, so you don't have to go out on the highway. It was paved and when the trail turned into street it was very low traffic. Downtown Thomson has a combination bike shop/ embroidery shop.
I walked the Great River Trail this summer and thoroughly enjoyed it. I live in the Quad Cities so I started at Sunset Marina in Rock Island and would walk about 10 miles per session, 5 miles out then 5 back to my car. The stretch from Sunset Marina to just north of Cordova winds thru several small towns and stays pretty close to the Mississippi river, a pretty scenic and enjoyable stretch, being that it passes thru several towns there are plenty of rest areas / retaurants. The next stretch that was a challenge and not very enjoyable / scenic, fortunately it was only 5 miles long, it starts just north of Cordova at the nucular plant to just south of Albany, it runs right next to Il Route 84, which is traffic going 55 miles per hour. From there the stretch from Albany to Fulton strays from the river and takes you on a lot of back country roads, I was a little nervous at first to walk on these country roads, but they are not very heavily traveled and you are going thru the countryside seeing a lot of scenery and wildlife. The last stretch from Fulton to Savanna is mostly designated trails winding thru the woods, praries and also utilizing some country roads. My favorite stretch was the last 5 miles from a visitors center that sits on the Mississippi and onto Savanna, this section winds 100% thru woods and praries. After I walked the trail this summer I started biking it, but I got a late start so I haven't biked it all yet, but I plan on doing both next summer.
I rode this trail from Moline to East Moline and back. That part of the trail is very nice. It follows long the river and is scenic and has only a little industry along the way. North of Cordova to Fulton the trail is only a few feet away from the road with very fast traffic and trucks. Lots of noise,dirt etc. The part I rode was mainly through a town park and was paved well. There are restaurants etc. I would ride this trail again starting in Cordova and riding to Rock Island. In Moline it passes right next to a Radisson hotel it is a real nice hotel in the $140 per night range we stayed there.
We started the trail at Savanna, IL, and were very impressed for the first 2 miles. At that point a sign told us "Trail Ends Temporarily"--and nothing more. We moved out onto Hwy 84 for a few miles--lots of traffic and not much shoulder. No more signs to tell us where to go. We encountered another biker who had come up from Port Byron. We told him how to find the next leg of the trail north; he told us to follow the country (but paved) roads toward Port Byron. Roads were nice and paved with very little traffic. Lots of cornfields and houses for scenery--plenty of green. We turned around at the State Prison, because, again, there were no signs telling us which way to go and, being from out of state, were weren't sure what we might be getting in to and it was getting late.
All in all, this could have been a very enjoyable ride if we'd really had a good feeling that we knew where we were going or were on the 'trail'.
"A group of Wisconsin retirees came south in mid September to ride the Hennepin Canal Trail. On our way home we decided to ride a section of the Great River Trail. We rode from Sunset Park in Rock Island to beyond East Moline. We thought the river scenery was excellent and also enjoyed observing the “working sections” of the river towns of Rock Island and Moline. We took a detour over to the Rock Island Arsenal to see the Arsenal Museum, the Corp of Engineers Visitor Center, and the Confederate Cemetery. You must remember that the Arsenal is an active Military Base and you must check in and out. To enter you must have picture ID and if biking wear helmets. We also took another detour to the John Deere Pavilion. This was well worth the couple of blocks of city streets and was very informative. It was great fun to see all the old equipment and sit in the new equipment while learning a bit about the rich Deere heritage."
"I rode this ""trail"" from Savanna to Sunset Park in Rock Island.
It's a hodge podge of paved multi-use, rail and built crushed gravel trails, plus roads (some not really suitable for biking).
The state of Illinois has a published map showing the trail which is wrong in several instances.
Starting in Savanna, the trail starts across the tracks from the chamber of commerce railroad car on the south end of main street. It's a nice rail trail at this point which goes a couple of miles until it abruptly ends. The state map has the trail continuing at this point, but it actually doesn't. At this point there is no directional signs telling you what to do. You must proceed on Ill. 84. A high traffic highway with no shoulders. After a couple of miles on 84 I headed west on a county road to the big slough recreational area. From there I headed south still on county roads until I hit the trail head. If you ride a bit west the trail takes you to an Army corp of Engineers built camp ground and a very nice view of the Mississippi. The trail in this area is on the park's road.
Heading on south the trail becomes a crushed gravel trail through an unusual area of sand and very tall grass. This trail ends and again you find yourself on a county road. This road ends at a T and there the rail-trail starts again for several miles until you come to Fulton. There seems to be two ways to go through Fulton, at least that's what the directional sign indicated. In Fulton you are directed down a couple of streets to the trail again which ends and you ride a couple of city streets until you come to a dike which you ride on for a while until you come to a narrow gravel road, which you ride for a mile or so which becomes paved. You are directed across 84 and down a paved county road and onto a gravel road. This gravel road has pretty loose gravel and was difficult to ride. You ride through Albany side streets and then on a paved trail past some Hopewell Indian mounds. At which point you wind up on a paved county road before crossing back over 84 again onto a multi use trail right next to the highway for several miles before reaching Cordova.
Going through Cordova is on city streets, but there's a nice rest area in the middle of town on the Mississippi. From there on your on a multi use trail usually next to scenic (NOT) 84. In Port Byron you get the first of many chances to be right next to the Mississippi, at least for brief periods of time.
Once you get to East Moline you're on top of a dike or just on a regular multi-use trail right until the end. You are almost always right next to the Mississippi and occasionally on some rail-trail sections.
Because of the lack of signage in the northern part of my trip I added a few extra miles on when I became lost. But my total miles were almost 67, but the ""trail"" is advertised as 62.
If you ride rail-trails, be warned that not very much of this ""trail"" is rail-trail.
Be sure to get a map and brochure (for places to eat and rest). The map has a few mistakes on it, but it's better than nothing.
I considered the first few miles south of Savanna and the section through East Moline and Moline the most scenic."
"With the Mississippi River on one side and skid row warehouses on the other, this is a great trail as far as scenery goes as long as you keep your head turned. There are also all the John Deere factories, etc., that anyone would care to see.
But other than that, I liked this trail. It is asphalt, not very populated, and has some nice winding curves and hills. What I didn't like was the fact that you had to negotiate through all of these little towns via roadway. The stretch around the town of Cordova is particularly annoying, as you are on city streets for a couple miles or so. And the street north of the watertower is fairly busy.
All in all, it's a nice trail that pretty much parallels the highway (84) all of the way to Savannah, Illinois, which is kind of annoying since big rigs frequent that highway. We roadtripped to this trail, and it was a good experience, kids and all.
*trail surface: A
*scenery: B (the river outweighs the factories)"
"The section from Savanna south has been paved and is scheduled for grand opening sometime in June. Though not officially open, I have used it. It is 8-feet-wide at the south end and 10-feet-wide from the Big Slough Recreation Area. It is paved and smooth. The total length is around 3.5 miles.
It passes under trees and passes ponds. It has two bridges, one of which crosses the Plum River. The other crosses the railroad tracks at Savanna. The north end of the trail exits near the police station on Main Street in Savanna. The south end of the trail does not go all the way to Riverview Road, which is how you get to the rest of the trail.
There is still a mile that you must travel on busy IL Route 84. On this stretch there are soft, gravel shoulders and not much pavement to share with cars and trucks."
"The path is not complete from The lock and dam 13 (4 miles north of Fulton) From that point north you must take a paved road north sharing with occasional traffic until you get past Michlesons landing after which point you should be alone for a mile or so of good pavement. at that point you switch to a crushed lime stone path that is smooth enough for road bikes. this path takes you to the west end of main street in Thomson. from there you must take River View Road north past the new prison. Riverview road is paved, but must be shared with moderate traffic. not much of a problem. Riverview road ends at Illinois Rt. 84 about 4 miles south of Savanna near Savanna's airport. Rt. 84 is fairly heavily traveled and there is not much room if you want to stay on the road. there is a wide loose gravel shoulder which is fairly friendly for fat tire bikes, but the last few miles to Savanna will be tense for skinny tire guys if it is a high traffic time."
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