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The Hebron Trail rolls across the northern Illinois prairie through the former corridor of the Kenosha and Rockford Railroad, known as the Kenosha Division Line at the time of its demise in 1939. Launched in 1861, the railroad boosted economies along its rural route by serving dairy farmers and carrying passengers. Though agriculture still plays a role in the local economy, the railroad closed shop after farmers began hauling their goods to market by truck and passengers turned to the automobile.
Founded 25 years before the railroad arrived, the town of Hebron served as a midpoint stop on the 72-mile-long rail line. Today, it serves as a trailhead for the 6.7-mile Hebron Trail that runs east to the North Branch Conservation Area and a junction with the Prairie Trail. The crushed-stone path is also part of the 500-mile Grand Illinois Trail that loops around northern Illinois.
To verify that you’re in the right town to start your trek, look over the rooftops for a soaring water tower. If the tank is painted to look like a giant basketball, then you’re in the right place. The water tower commemorates the state basketball championship won in 1952 by the local high school, the smallest ever to win the statewide honors.
Departing from the trail’s parking lot on Seaman Road (about 0.5 mile from the western end of the trail), visitors pass through a shady, wooded corridor that screens the trail from farm fields that border it. The trees disappear after a mile, offering views of cornfields and other crops in a landscape punctuated by red barns and silver silos. A short zag onto a country road at a railroad crossing interrupts the trail after about 2 miles.
The route continues across open farmland and occasional tree-lined corridors until it reaches the North Branch Conservation Area. The preserve is managed by the McHenry County Conservation District, which also oversees the Hebron Trail and more than 115 miles of other trails in the county.
The trail leaves the railroad corridor here and takes a curving route through the 521-acre preserve for about 1.5 miles to the Prairie Trail. Bird-watchers can identify 80 species in the grasslands and forests of the nature preserve. Many species of mussels and fish—some threatened or endangered—live in the clear waters of Nippersink Creek.
The county set aside a small primitive camping area with pit toilets and a drinking fountain in the preserve, where traveling bicyclists can pitch their tents and be lulled to sleep by the croaking of frogs. Note that a permit is required to camp; visit the McHenry County Conservation District website for more information.
To reach the western trailhead in Hebron: From I-94, take Exit 2 for IL 173/Rosecrans Road. Head west on IL 173 for 24.1 miles, then turn right onto Seaman Road. Continue 0.2 mile to a trailhead parking lot on the right. The trailhead is 0.6 mile west in Hebron.
To reach the eastern trailhead at the North Branch Conservation Area from I-94, take Exit 2 for IL 173/Rosecrans Road. Head west on IL 173 for 19.1 miles. Turn right onto Broadway Road, then go another 0.7 mile and turn right onto Keystone Road. The North Branch Conservation Area parking lot is on the right in 0.6 mile. The eastern endpoint at the junction with Prairie Trail is 1.4 miles east via the Hebron Trail.
Recently, I bought a comfort bike, and I've only been riding about a month before today's trek. I started at the western end, in Hebron. I was able to park in town without difficulty, and then walked the bike up to Church Street and rode on into the trail heading east.
In terms of the views, this is a very nice ride with plenty of trees, marsh, prairie, and farmland as the backdrop. There is a rough section with existing railroad tracks that had some confusing signage (eastbound), and riding on Lange Road a short distance to continue the trail. After crossing Keystone Rd., it is also signed as the North Branch, and at this point there are some hills that take you to its eastern end... a relatively flat portion of the Prairie Trail about a third of a mile south of the stateline.
For a starting bicyclist like me, I appreciate the width of the trail, the distance, the fairly flat terrain (excepting the North Branch concurrency), and of course the view. A weekday afternoon ride was fairly isolated, only encountering a couple of hikers and bikes on the trail. I found it to be a peaceful ride and a great way to enjoy a beautiful sunny day.
The primary negative is the trail surface. At times, it felt like I was riding in a sandbox. I had to work harder to keep momentum, which wasn't a bad thing. However, I was concerned that I could easily lose traction when I picked up speed or was taking a curve. (It felt like the bike could just slide out from under me...) Though even that was not as bad as the dirt track that runs next to railroad tracks just west of Lange Road. Fortunately, as an earlier reviewer pointed out, this goes for a short distance (100-150 yards); but even without a measurable rain in a few days there was mud and a few ruts that made this portion difficult.
I'm sure as I visit more trails and do more riding, I will have a better overview for the overall quality. I would make this trip again, so long as the weather is and has been dry for a few days.
Just to clarify some confusion, this trail is fully functional and does meet up with the Prairie Trail. I rode this today on a cross bike starting at the trailhead on Church Road in Hebron. It's a very pretty rails to trails - much of it has tree coverage and the rest is wide open - all of it through beautiful rolling farmland. Few important points to clarify some earlier posts:
1. A few miles in you will meet up with tracks that will be alongside you - their is a big no-trespassing sign but that is referring to the rails and the barley visible trail on the other side of it - just stay on the main/legal trail and follow all the other signage. As a heads up, the 100 or so yards of trail along the tracks is terrible but is short lived as...
2. You will then get to a road (Lange Rd) - take a left on the road and the trail re-starts a couple hundred feet down the road on the right. It is well marked.
The surface condition complaints you will see in other reviews are valid. I rode the trail when it was damp and It made for some slow, frustrating riding as in most places it's more sand than limestone and your bike will sink in a bit. It's rideable - but not ideal and would be much more so when its dry. There isn't much limestone left on this path. In dry conditions this would be a 5-star trail. This trail literally ends at the Prairie Path. I did an out and back and it clocked in at 13.45mi round trip.
I stated my ride just west of church street. I was surprised to see the trail was signed no trespassing make a u turn. The trail no longer links up with the Prairie Trail
I should have done my homework better. What attracted me to this trail is that it starts out in Wisconsin (I live in Milwaukee). First of all, there is no designated parking for either this trail or the Prairie Trail. I parked in the grocery store's parking lot in Genoa City.
I have used crushed-stone trails before and enjoyed them but I was not impressed with this one. The Prairie is particularly rough. When I turned off onto the Hebron I found it to be wider with a finer gravel but still loose enough to be worrisome. Cursing the hot sun as well as the trail surface, I decided to cut my ride short.
On a positive note, I may return on an overcast or spring or fall day and try again. Or perhaps start from the Hebron end, although I was looking forward to the ice cream treat upon turning around in Hebron.
Went to the Hebron trail today, if you are bringing horses the only place to park and unload is at the North Branch parking lot near Genoa City limits. Otherwise trails are well maintained and beautiful scenery.
The trail delivers everything you read in the description. Its truly breathtaking.
However, heading west, the trail has a sign, that clearly reads "Trail Ends" at Lange Rd, with no signs indicating that it zig zags to the tracks.
We wound up taking 173 to the ice cream parlor, and 173 back to praire trail. It was the most difficult part of the ride thanks to heavy wind.
Love the trail, but would love even more to see better signs for those (like myself) that are not familiar with this beautiful spacious area.
Beautiful trail. Bonus: ice cream in Hebron.
Trees down between mile marker 27 and 27.5 currently blocking the trail!
The Hebron Trail is the Rail/Trail I rode this September, 2013 Saturday morning. Just what you expect and just what you should get from a Rail/Trail. Starting on the east end of Hebron, IL (East and West are about 3 blocks apart)I headed east on a flat, well maintained former railroad right of way.
Fall colors were just starting to show and some leaves had fallen, which required bike riders to watch the trail more closely for rodent holes and small "washouts". However, the trail was in good shape and unusually wide for a Rail/Trail. Even when the trail broke out of the village tree cover the trail was flat, low and protected on both sides by tall bushes and grasses. A prevailing crosswind was mostly unnoticeable along the open portions of the trip.
The Hebron Trail jumped off the right of way for a short time about mid trip, but the change was marked and navigated with ease.
The Hebron Trail terminated as highlighted in the descriptions included with TrailLink, however one could pedal across the road and enter the North Branch park of the McHenry County Forest Conservatory and continue through the large open space (limestone trail provided) up and over the field and merge with the Northern end of the Prairie Path just south of Genoa City.
I biked up to the north end of the Prairie Path then tried some of the southbound trail, but that trip will be another story.
The Hebron Trail was 5 plus miles of well managed former railroad road bed, some parking was available at a couple of intersections and restrooms were available at both ends. It was a ride that was "Just Right".
Rode the Hebron Trail on Aug 5th, 2010 as part of the Grand Illinois Trail. In spite of recent heavy rains in northern IL, the trail was in good condition for riding a loaded mountain bike and generally well shaded. There are numerous stores in Hebron.
I friend and I plan to ride from East Dundee to Lake Geneva, WI. Up the Fox River Trail to the Prairier, over to Hebron and north to Lake Geneva. The question is once on Hebron what's the best road to take north to Lake Geneva? Steve
I rode this trail in November and found it very interesting. I am 62 years old and found it to be an easy trail to ride. Will ride the trail again. Would like to ride it again during the summer months. I began my ride in Richmond on the Prairie Trail. I did find the connecting trail between the Prairie Trail and Hebron Trail to be some what difficult. It did have a lot of loose gravel. When I do it again I will park at the Trail Head lot on Keystone Road.
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