Hennepin Canal State Trail


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Hennepin Canal State Trail Facts

States: Illinois
Counties: Bureau, Henry, Whiteside
Length: 93 miles
Trail end points: Timbrook Field Boat Ramp (East Moline) and Hennepin Canal Lock #2 (Bureau Junction)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Grass, Gravel
Trail category: Canal
ID: 6015711

Hennepin Canal State Trail Description


The Hennepin Canal State Trail stretches for 93 miles in northwest Illinois along an old canal towpath. The trail is administered as a State Park by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and aside from the trail corridor itself, the entire 104-mile linear parkway offers a variety of recreational opportunities including fishing, boating, camping, and even more. 

Water is scarce along the route (found only at locks 21, and 22 and the visitor center), so be sure to bring plenty, especially during hot days.

Equestrian use is allowed along the route between April 15th and October 31st. 91 miles of the trail is open for snowmobiling when the ground has 6 inches of frost (below ground) and 4 inches of snow.

About the Route

Across the entire route, the landscape varies from forest to grasslands to marsh to farmland, all along the relatively flat towpath. The trail surface is suitable for both road and mountain bikes, although those on hybrid bikes will have the easiest time. During winter, the canal often freezes, making it suitable for ice skating. Anglers will find stocked bluegill, crappie, walleye, and bass.

The trail features two distinct corridors, one that extends west-east between East Moline and Bureau Junction, and the other that extends north-south between Sterling and 18221 County Rd 400 E (Sheffield).

Several features and amenities mark the trail and can be located by the numbered old canal locks that are featured periodically along the route. Toilets are located at locks 3, 6, 11, 17, 21, 22, 23, 24, and 26. The trail also features bridges at locks 14, 15, and 23 and the State Park Visitor Center, along the main canal. Additional toilets can be found at bridges 50, 52, and 64 on the north spur. The Hennepin Canal State Trail is also a popular spot for camping and bike-packing. Class "C" Campgrounds (those without vehicle access) can be found at locks 6, 11, 17, 21, 22, 23, and 26 and bridges 14 and 23. Several vehicle-accessible campgrounds dot the route, including the Geneseo Campground (22978 IL-82).

The Hennepin Canal State Trail is a regional destination trail, drawing many visitors from the surrounding region including the famous Hennepin Hundred, a 100-mile (or 50-mile) ultramarathon that is held on the trail each year.


At the trail's northern endpoint in Sterling, the trail connects to the Sterling Multi-Activity Recreational Trail (SMART Pathway).

The Hennepin Canal State Trail is part of the Great American Rail Trail, a 3,700-mile route from Washington to Washington D.C. 

Trail History

The Hennepin Canal State Trail, administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources as a state park, follows an old canal towpath, which opened in 1907 and was quickly abandoned due to railroad competition. The canal was originally built to link the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Most of the locks and aqueducts are still in place, and the entire canal is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Parking and Trail Access

The Hennepin Canal State Trail runs between Timbrook Field Boat Ramp (East Moline) and Hennepin Canal Lock #2 (Bureau Junction), with a spur that has a northern endpoint at Martin's Landing (Sterling).

Parking is available at:

  • 810 E 2nd St (Rock Falls)
  • Geneseo Campground, 22978 IL-82 (Geneseo)
  • Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park, 16006 E. Street (Sheffield)

There are numerous parking options along the route, please see TrailLink Map for all parking options and detailed directions.

Hennepin Canal State Trail Reviews

The description is incorrect. This trail is not fit for road bikes. It's a shame that the Great American Rail Rrail put this as a gateway trail as it is in such disrepair and neglect. What a mess.

The description is incorrect. This trail is not fit for road bikes. It's a shame that the Great American Rail Rrail put this as a gateway trail as it is in such disrepair and neglect. What a mess.

Manage expectations and try fall, winter, spring

As several reviews note some sections are in poor repair and you will feel safest on a mtb or hybrid. But the text that 1.3 million people use it seems nuts as I have often ridden sections for 2 or 3 hours and seen only a couple of folks fishing and almost no one on the trail itself. Has very good birding (eagles, owls, waterfowl, whatever is migrating), decent waterfowl, easy to let your dog off leash as the trail is usually bounded by woods of a few dozen yards that screen you from the farmland that makes up almost all of the adjacent land. The locks are nice stopping/camping spots, it crosses over a couple of rivers which is an engineering marvel and the raspberries and mulberries are abundant in season. Not every bike trail has to be smooth pavement so be prepared and enjoy.

Be Prepared

The main positive is that this corridor is preserved so that someday it can be improved into an actual usable trail for bicycles. Depending on where you are on this trail today the quality of the surface and whether it is passable by bicycle varies. It appears that it may have been nice at one point but most of the surface has been allowed to degrade. Attempts to repair in many places are with aggregate that is too large to be bicycle friendly. Washouts along the side await to wreck you into the old canal.
Large sections are barely maintained at all. Weeds and tree branches have overgrown the path and they hit you as you ride. There are long stretches with no services or water. If this is going to be part of the Great American Rail Trail there will need to be some resources allocated to make it more rider friendly (if planning to connect to the I&M Canal trail you will find similar conditions there).

Although there was a lot of loose gravel and some trees were overgrown, the river views were amazing

Although there was a lot of loose gravel and some trees were overgrown, the river views were amazing


Hennepin Canal State Park to Bridge 17A

My husband and I decided to stop on our cross country trek to take a short ride from the Hennepin Canal Parkway State Park to the Bridge 17A marker. I was apprehensive and almost didn’t stop due to so many so-so reviews. I chose this section because it leaves the noise of I-80 behind. This ride had everything I look for in a trail ride. Beautiful scenery, bird life, etc. A 10 mile out and back that should have only taken an hour or so, stretched to over 2 hours as we kept stopping to take in the scenery and snap pictures. The trail surface here is a pebbly gravel and easy enough for a hybrid bike. If you want to go far fast, this may not be for you. But if you are biking to get out and enjoy the scenery, this is a great choice. There was no water and only a toilet at the State park. Maybe if we had gone further we might have encountered services. There is little or no tree cover and since it was a beautiful 70 degree day for us, that wasn’t an issue. I imagine in the heat of summer this might not be enjoyable.

beautiful historic area but IL does not maintain the trail system

Enjoyed our ride both east and west from Sheffield from a beauty and historic standpoint but the state of IL does not maintain the trail at all. East of Sheffield there are lots of locks but the trail goes from fair to poor, to decent. Lots of branches and debris on the trail so need a mountain type bike. About 6 miles west of Sheffield the trail turns into a field with overgrown trees and then you are making your own trail. Too bad the state of IL doesn't believe in maintaining its infrastructure that could attract tourism. Didn't see hardly anyone on the trail during a June weekend.

Hennepin Trail-Rock Falls

We started out at the park on E 2nd Street in Rock Falls. Very nice park along the river....had bathrooms but they were locked (in July???). Hit the trail in Rock Falls and headed south on the trail. First 3 miles of the trail were on asphalt, very bumpy conditions. After that, it was what appeared to be packed dirt, maybe had limestone on it at one time. Had to be watchful of craters and debris on the path. Could have used some pruning as well. Some areas of the trail were very narrow. Was fairly quiet on the trail, ran across a few people fishing, some walking, and only one other set of people biking. Could only go 16.2 miles and then came upon a Trail Closed sign. If you like less traffic, this is a good trail...but could use some maintenance. We saw some snakes, rabbits, squirrels, and deer. There were a couple places along the way to stop to go to the bathroom...but no place to get water.

3.5 star ride - from Bureau to Wyanet

Trail biked - I started at the east end in Bureau. The parking lot there has bathrooms and trashcans, and plenty of parking. I biked east to Wyanet, and back.

Bike used - a Specialized Sirrus hybrid.

Bike accommodations - hybrid to mountain bike mostly. Road bikes will not survive many portions of this trail. I was leery to ride my hybrid in some sections near Tiskilwa because of the mid sized gravel in spots.

The trail composition from Bureau to Wyanet varies. From Bureau to the Tiskilwa area the trail was a mix of dirt, small gravel and portions of asphalt..although those overed by cindery rocks. Some areas are nicer than others and I didn't see any areas that were unmanageable for my hybrid tires.

The trail composition greatly improved heading west of the Tiskilwa area. The trail becomes a powdery earth and can even accommodate road bikes. Until you get to this point, however, you'll need to keep both hands on the grips.

The trail follows a series of disconnected water canals that serve as nice scenery. Every so often you'll come across a lock, which are numbered, giving you an idea of how many away you are from your starting point. A river also carves the trail in many areas, offering some nice views. As for wildlife..I spotted several turtles in canals and one trailside (almost accidentally biked over him). I also saw a pair of deer and a ton of colorful birds (red, yellow, blue, orange, black, white, gray, brown). The Orioles were a rare treat.

In the stretch I took there were only a couple of places where I spotted benches. One is in the Tiskilwa area. Bridges span the lock areas which offer nice water drains to view and areas to sit on the edge for a break. During my two hour ride I saw a dozen other bikers, and this was on a 75 degree, cloudless Saturday in mid-June. Suffice it to say, there aren't many folks out here unless you count the occasional fisherman.

Other nuances, the trail offers a nice split of shade and sun, but more on the sunny side. I saw one parking lot with trail signs in my stretch.

Seeing as the trail quality greatly improved on the eastern outskirts of Wyanet, I would love to come back and continue biking west on this trail some day.


interesting to say the least

Started at the Bureau Jct TH. Walked bikes across the bridge, started out and found the trail to be a combo of slightly paved, not paved, gravelly, sandy, and deep sandy. A real challenge but not advisable for a road bike. Lots of debris (rock, branches, husks, etc). However, there was no-one else on this section so privacy over crowds is the tradeoff. Saw at least 4 snakes on the trail - prairie kingsnakes and one trapped in the canal. Rode all the way to Lock 6. Nice trail except for the beginning. On the way back we bailed the trail and rode thru Bureau Jct to get to the TH.

disappointed in condition of trail

We started at the Visitor Center, (very close to Interstate 80); headed west till we came to the feeder basin and headed north for 4 miles, turned around (due to poor conditions) and went back to the feeder basin to continue west for another 4 miles, then headed back to the visitor center. Total round trip around 27 miles.
We are not from the area and were looking to break up a long car drive, this seemed like the perfect location. I must say the scenery is beautiful, we saw many wild animals, biked thru a patch of grasshoppers (hundreds of them), saw beautiful herons, a long nosed fish and a flock of wild turkeys - stunning!
But as for the path, well I could not tell any paved stretches. Most was light soft gravel or overgrown tire tracks, but the worst part was how overgrown the side brush was, covering 1/2 to 3/4 of the path, especially in the northern section. I was hit by so many branches (we were there in late August, it didn't look like any mowing or trimming had been done all summer). Between that and having to watch for obstructions in the path, it was not very enjoyable. To me the path was very "bumpy" and trying even a pace of 10 - 12 miles an hour was tough.
If you're out for a leisurely stroll, this may be a good path, but the section we rode needs maintenance. And it was very disappointing when we arrived at the Visitor Center on a Monday afternoon, for it to be all closed up, no maps, no bathrooms. The one bathroom we stopped at on the northern section was a mess.
This path has potential, it's a shame it seemed to me no one maintains it.

From Wyanet to Quad Cities

Hi everyone-- did the trail July 31, 2021 on a Diamondback Insight Hybrid, 75 degrees and partly cloudy day.

The trail is...not bad. I wanted to give it 3 1/2 stars, so will round up here. I crossed the state --largely using I&M Canal + Hennepin along the way-- starting at Co. road 1200 E (NW of Wyanet) going all the way to Colona, near the Quad Cities. Generally, the further west you go the better in terms of trail surface. Where I started on the eastern portion it was like riding on 'crushed peat' -- grassy and narrow. The asphalt-ish surface starts around I-80 and goes northwesterly from there. There are a few spots that are 'large' gravel but I wouldn't get too worried about that.

I wish the Hennepin was more marked (mile markers, etc) like the I&M Canal. Not much you can do about the lack of services, so bring plenty of water, snacks and a fully-charged cell phone. Princeton and Geneseo are great bookend towns, so to speak, although Princeton is a bit north of the trail. Very peaceful ride, although a little monotonous after a while. The feeder basin area (where the Rock Falls spur branches off) is pleasant.

A hybrid or mountain bike is 'probably' the best way to go here...especially on a dry surface...which I had, thankfully.

Dreaming a bit here...but I think a fully-paved trail between the Quad Cities to the Indiana border, largely using the Hennpin, I&M Canal and Old Plank Road Trails would be amazing and a financial boon to towns along the way. But the cost of constructing such a thing.............

Beautiful, Just Don’t Expect Perfection

A couple buddies and I rode the Hennepin Canal trail Memorial Day weekend from approximately Wyanet to the Quads, then took the Great River Trail up to Fulton, country roads to Sterling/Rock Falls, and back down on the north branch of the Hennepin. Great two-day ride, about 130mi. We had one gravel bike, one MTB, and one roadie. Gravel was definitely best, but we all did great. About half the Hennepin is paved, the rest fine gravel or soft dirt. Maybe a couple spots with chunky gravel or potholes, but nothing too difficult. Even the sections that are supposedly in the worst disrepair (north branch between Rt 92 & I-88) are easily rideable. I’m sure it coulda been difficult on skinny tires if there had been recent rains, but the trail was totally dry and the guy on skinnies was fine. Honestly, don’t get scared by some of the reviews on this site. No, it’s not perfectly maintained pavement, but if you want to set personal speed records on your carbon roadie, go somewhere else. This path is a bit more rugged, more remote and wild, but its still Northern Illinois, it ain’t THAT hard. An experienced biker with a moderate sense of adventure can handle this on just about any bike. Just make sure you have water, some snacks and a charged cellphone. Overall, I’d say this is a great loop for anyone looking for a long but fairly easy ride. Easy trip out from the Chicago area, Quads or Central Illinois.

Oct. 27, 2020 30 year anniversary and we wanted just to get out. It was cold but endurable... We were impressed by our 2 hour round trip ride from the route 29 entrance. In better weather being the kids... Do some fishing.... Watch for animals.

Oct. 27, 2020 30 year anniversary and we wanted just to get out. It was cold but endurable... We were impressed by our 2 hour round trip ride from the route 29 entrance. In better weather being the kids... Do some fishing.... Watch for animals.

best section

19 July 2020, 80 degrees, light wind , 54 miles r/t, partly cloudy, started east to west. Last update on Hennepin. Road bikers youre on(no clinchers or sewups), trail was completely clear of debris and in good shape, full sun. Scenery is great not as good as the east but nice, saw lots of humans. This part is obviously used 99% more than the other 2 sections and is maintained. Hennepin trail is a very un-utililized trail that is so scenic, I am sad for its overall poor condition. Oh, due to covid Hickory Grove Campground cannot accept tenters,no public facilties are open. Rvers are self contained. I do recommend the trail but wish it was kept up more.


July 17,2020, 70 miles r/t, 85 degrees, 70 % humidity, partly cloudly and light west breeze, path100% flat. Feeder trail north off the henneipen to Rock Falls. SORRY, road bikers ,you're still off this trail, the debris is just too much and rough. i would love to get you out there but you would curse me if I recommended it for you.
CONFUSED: One mans trash, we have ridden alot if paths, but the scenery and greenness and desolation and QQUUUIIIEETTT of this ride is impossible to match, what a day!!! No water,no cars ,no people,no noise, no bugs,no towns,no trash,no stores,no nothing, 2 poopers,REALLY CLEAN. To the Illinois department that maintains the path, on this day CUDDOS, on the way out at least 12downed trees(massive storm), added 2 hours to north route. On the way back,mowers and tree cutters cleared the path YYYEEEEHHHAAA!! THANKS. OK,you know mr poo poo has to chime in. Talked to farmer on the path,he said they have let the path go. This path is still a gold mine, but the debris on the path is so much its hard to see anything, you better keep you eye on the road or you are going to break a foot or loose some spokes. Ok, the mowing guy went by and 300 yards behind him were branches down(cant get all of it),but the debris is years old. Path surface on this section is very good, half was tar and chip(really good), 19 miles to Rock Falls was all hard dirt. I am confused about this path because its going to be a challenge for most to complete any of the 3 legs of the path. NO SERVICES, no motels,no bed and breakfast, no water,no stores, which MAKES the path. But unless you do 35 miles one way ,you're on your own. So, the thing needs to be cleaned up so most people can do the 35 and leave all that crap in town and not on the path(get it??)OK!! We are riding modified mountain bikes and try to average 15 to 16 mph, and wrists are pretty sore from the bobbling debis, on anything else you are at 8 mph. Everyone has their oppinion and this is mine.

A different kind of trail

I have wanted to do this trail for 7 years, but logistics did not line up until this weekend. I rode the 60 miles from Bureau Junction to Colona. Started at Lock 3 at Route 26/29 because that parking lot is not as isolated as the Lock 2 parking lot. Heading West, there had been a washout at 1.2 miles, but they had filled it the day before. Apparently, this happens semi-regularly due to the Big Bureau Creek flooding.

Overall, the Eastern one-third (20 miles) of this trail is rougher but more scenic. The Western two-thirds to Colona has a more stable surface but is more exposed to the sun and has less variation in scenery. There were way more people fishing than biking, which was a nice change.

Heading out from Bureau, the first 4.5 miles are particularly rough. There's any kind of surface you can imagine -- oil & chip, gravel, sand, limestone chat, etc. You have to pay close attention in this section and count on slow going. I have a hybrid bike and was totally comfortable. Road bikes would be rough if you are doing the whole 60 miles. I really appreciate how difficult it is to keep the Eastern section maintained, due to the geography. Once you get to Lock 6, the surface becomes more stable and that is when I really started to enjoy the trail and the canal.

Different kinds of locks, gates and dams keep the engineering interesting. The locks were where most of the people were fishing.

While the Western two-thirds had a more stable surface, you still have to pay attention. Most of it was oil & chip 4 feet wide (slightly rough), but occasionally you will get a section with mostly grass and as little as a 6-inch wide strip of limestone. Very rideable, but you have to focus. There were not many parts of the trail in which it was wide enough or smooth enough to pull a trailer with kids in it (unless you don't like your kids!).

I recommend packing all the food and water you need. You can't count on water being available even at the visitor's center. The trail does not go directly through any towns, so you would be making side trips to find an open store/restaurant.

As for signage, it is limited, but I found that Google Maps (with the Bicycling layer turned on) was spot on for accuracy. Only a few very small hills to note, mostly in the Eastern section.

Lots of water scenery, plants, and animals. It's definitely a great trail to ride if you want to get away from the crowds.

All in all, I would do this trail again, but likely in the Spring or Fall, when the heat index is lower than 98F!

Trail out starting at Bureua Junction parking lot

Going west from the parking lot in Bureau Junction, Rt. 26, the trail is closed. It is in extremely poor condition, bridge out, grass growing through the VERY old asphalt, and a dangerous hole in middle of trail. Bridge is out about 1.2 miles from parking lot. Who ever is suppose to maintain this portion of the trail is NOT. Can not speak to the remainder of the trail.

good trail for autumn ride

Road from Hickory Grove Campground for about 17 miles. Almost to Anawan and back. Previous night there was a very heavy rain but trail was fine. It’s definitely not pristine but totally rideable. Saw lots of wildlife and birds. Very enjoyable and relaxing as almost no other riders. Cool fall day was nice —there’s so little shade. Would recommend. The campground is great for RVs and they have cabins too. Beautiful location with massive trees

a challenging trail if you want to

A bit confusing due to lack of signage but it’s a great path to ride your bike on. Mountain bike preferably because lots of gravel and grass. We did 27.2 miles from Sheffield ( Hennepin state park ) to Gennezeau. , had lunch in gennezeau at Barney’s a bar & grill. Good sandwiches burgers chicken sandwiches ..... Watch out for the TOE PATHs that can take you away from where you want to go. Again this is due to lack of sinages

A Slice of Wilderness in an Otherwise Developed Place

It would be easy to view this trail in a negative light. The pavement is a mixed bag. It's not fast and smooth. Maintenance appears to be non-existent. There are hazards. There are snakes (I ran over one) and loads of bugs. You won't find a lot of services, at least at the west end.

But what you also won't find is a lot of people and sometimes that's a good thing. You won't find the type of self-absorbed roadies and triatheletes who sometimes terrorize other trail users by buzzing them at 25 mph. You won't find a lot suburban dog walkers. What you will find are cyclists and runners who genuinely enjoy being out in the natural world. If you like your nature natural instead of Disneyfied, you're gonna love this trail. If you like history, there are a number of locks along the trail. This was once a working canal. A local runner I met on the trail told me that it was the model for the Panama Canal.

I rode from Colona to Geneseo and back on Saturday June 9, 2018. It's a 21 mile round trip. It was muggy but interestingly enough, there were pockets of cooler air, too. The underpass below I80 was dark and flooded...real horror movie stuff. About a mile up, a small bridge was out but someone had carved a bypass and my Salsa Fargo with 29 x 2.25 WTB Rangers handed it just fine. I was surprised at how empty it felt out here. This is a part of the country where it's really hard to get away from civilization, but on this stretch at least, you can. The miles flew by and soon enough I was back at my car.

I've read a number of comments from people who tried to tackle this on road bikes. It's probably doable if you're adept at picking a line, but there are better bikes to choose for this. I got lucky and picked the right one and that no doubt added to my enjoyment. You could ride it on just about anything though. It's just not that rugged. It is pockmarked and goes from mostly paved to mostly unpaved and back many times. Between the mud and berries, my bike was filthy when I got back to the car. Bring a rag and clean it off when you're done or you'll have a mess when you get home.

The moral of the story here is to know what it is you're getting into and plan accordingly. Bring Deet unless you want to be eaten alive. Don't go traipsing through the weeds unless you want to get up close and personal with snakes. You're traversing what is mostly a wild wetland and if my experience was any indication, you'll have it mostly to yourself. That's pretty special in this day and age. Five stars, only because I can't give it six.

Wyanet to Bureau Junction

Rode the Hennepin canal from Wyanet to the end of trail in Bureau Junction. Took our road bikes and that was not a mistake. We parked at the Bureau Valley Wyanet Elementary school which is about a ½ mile easy ride to the trail. The trail started out as dirt/crushed limestone which made it a bit of a slow go at first. It then changed to old asphalt type material.

7.5 miles from the end there was about a ½ mile of packed down gravel which wasn’t the best to ride on with our road bikes but it was passable. After that stretch it was a combination of old asphalt and some dirt on top of old asphalt.

There were also 2-3 parks along the way with toilets (no running water though). In fact, you should be prepared to ride the whole way with however much food and water you need as there really are no places to stop.

All of it was pretty level and the condition of the surface was decent until the last 2-3 miles. This was still ok for the road bikes but the condition of the surface was just not as good.

A Nice Ride

Road 60 miles (30 out and back) from trailhead at Rock River in Colona. We brought our road bikes (23mm tires), expecting paved trails. It was slow going, but certainly doable. The trail is definitely in need of repair and maintenance. It is flat, peaceful and quite beautiful. The canal history and artifacts (locks, etc) are a very interesting perk.
Fortunately we packed extra water. We had trouble finding water stops along the way. There was a fountain at the lock (14 miles from the trailhead) but it was not working in late September even though it was almost 90 degrees.

Nice ride along Hennepin feeder canal

We rode from the trail head at Lock 22 (where CR 300E crosses the canal) up along the feeder canal for about 14 miles. The trail was in good shape for most of the way, mostly paved, and it was enjoyable ride. North of the Rte 92 crossing the trail quality deteriorated markedly and it was single track dirt through weeds and grass. We turned around at Osage Rd because of the trail condition. We tried riding west from Lock 22 but gave up after a little over a mail. It wasn't that bad but it was single track through recently mowed but still pretty high grass.

The first thirteen mile north along the feeder canal was a beautiful fun ride with good trail conditions, nice scenery, and a herons, turtles and jumping fish. We also saw very few other people on the ride. North of that and west of Lock 22 the trail was passable but less fun.

We ride hybrids with pretty wide tires. I'm not sure any of it would be fun on a road bike.

Great Trail

Nice easygoing trail for a newbie like me. Stayed at Hickory Grove Campground (great new owners) then early morning ride. Crushed stone & asphalt a little overgrown on the edges but a great trail

Hennepin East from Tiskilwa to Bureau Junction

I was on a two day ride from Kewanee, IL to Morris, IL yesterday and today (about 90 miles). I had hoped to ride as much of the Hennepin and Illinois and Michigan Canal trails as possible (I had expected to ride about 50-60 miles on trails split between those two trails). I attempted to ride both trails and have submitted a separate review of the I&M Canal trail.

I only rode about 6 miles of the Hennepin Trail from Tiskilwa towards Bureau Junction (West to east). It was a disappointment. As others have written, it was rough, with some sections of old, failing asphalt. I was not in a hurry, so stuck it out for as long as I felt comfortable. It's just not conducive to a fun ride. Too rough, changing paths from side to side, and just not a fun trail to be on. If you're going in this direction, I would advise taking the adjacent road. I was on it for a considerable time one I got off of the trail and never felt unsafe with cars or trucks.

The trail was disappointing.

Fun, easy 20 mile loop from Bureau to Tiskilwa

I'm from Morris and have frequented the I&M for a few years now. Yesterday I went to the Hennepin for the first time ever. I started in Bureau Junction and took the canal to Tiskilwa, then transferred over to the road that follows that little river back to Bureau.

The canal was great. I have a cross bike and it handled well. I wouldn't recommend a road bike with anything less that 28c tires (and this is pushing it, better bring tubes!) There were a few holes I hit. Debris was at a minimum but there was some overgrowth on the path. Nothing I would complain about. No major trees over the path. After knowing how parts of the I&M canal are I would say the conditions in this small 10 mile section of the Hennepin are a good. Especially considering how remote it is. Large hills in the background, and there are more larger oak and sycamore trees around than the I&M.

The road surface conditions on the way back to Bureau were fair-good, but the places that the road takes you through are great. Not too sure if locals care for bike-riders, there were only 3 that passed me going the way I was going but I wasn't given much room any time.

In either case, if you want to do a quick 20 miles this was a fun easy loop. It was a hot day and 35 ounces of water worked fine as the canal is pretty cool in the shaded areas.


Dangerous and not maintained

Large put holes, weeds in middle of the trail not cut. This trail is not being maintained probably because of Illinois budget problems. Not fit for riding at any speed. Very rough and dangerous on eastern end of trail. Went 12 miles till I hit a huge pothole covered by weeds and went over the handlebars. Ouch! Unless the state or some other group addresses the issues, I won't ride it again

Quiet and lovely

What a great find. Yes there is construction in the Colona area that could be marked a bit better, but if you are a small rule breaker....well just walk under the underpass knowing you might get a little mud on your shoes.
Fish jumping, pretty good old black top, some gravel. Lots of places that are not marked legal to camp but a tent could be popped up readily.

if you want a quiet hike, or ride, this is a very cool fit, rarely the sound of a car.....perfection. We were on it for four or five hours and came across two people both walking.

Oy, what a mess...

This trail is closed at the Colona access; this is not indicated at the parking lot off 5th street, but rather about 1/4 mile up the trail at 3rd St. If there was a posting at the trailhead, we missed it. Had to turn around, re-load the bikes & gear. Drove to Geneseo and found access to the trail via the Geneseo Campground off State Hwy 82. This was not clearly marked. Biked from Geneseo Campground to Atkinson. If you are accustomed to paved, well manicured, suburban bike trails, this is NOT the trail for you. What appears to be old asphalt pavement is (as of this review) 90-100% covered with weeds and debris. Debris as in dead mice, a large muskrat carcass, two dead carp, a huge pile of horse manure and a fallen tree that completely blocked the path. Trail was flooded at one point under a bridge; had to hoist the bikes over a guardrail to get to/cross the road to continue on the trail. This was near Atkinson. On the positive: wildflowers and Baltimore Orioles abound.

Very Nice Trail

We biked the Hennepin Canal trail mid May of this year. Our plan was to ride from the feeder canal trailhead in Rock Falls, to Wyanet on the main trail. Due to an issue with transportation, we decided to reverse our route, beginning at the bike rental shop and riding west/north.

We saw a lock immediately after entering the trail. The locks are impressively built and still relatively intact except for the gates that have been permanently closed, creating a waterfall at each one. We continued on making a short stop at the visitors center near Sheffield. Just past the center, the trail crosses over the canal via an old iron bridge (very neat photo op). After passing under I-80, the trail really opens up until you reach the feeder basin. There are a few more trees once you begin on the feeder trail, and therefore we had to dodge several sticks & small limbs on the path, but nothing too bad. The next feature we came to was the canal bridge over the Green River; this is an impressive feature to see... water flowing over water. The trail has sections of asphalt and switched to crushed stone periodically, both of which made for easy riding. The path is fairly well maintained on the south end of the feeder trail. There are also many tunnels along the path that are easy to ride through.

We made another quick stop at the rest area on Highway 92. After that, the trail started to be come overgrown with weeds. The first section we travelled wasn't too bad, and we thought it would clear up within a mile or two. However, after 4 miles of overgrown trail, and having to lift our bikes over two large trees that had fallen across the path, we stopped at Hahnaman Road to re-evaluate. We decided to cut our losses and ride back towards our vehicle in Wyanet, via county roads. Though not as scenic as the canal trail, we did see some beautiful farms and countryside along the county highways.

Overall, it was a good trail to ride, and I would recommend it to others. There could be more attention paid to maintaining the northern half of the feeder canal trail. We are occasional bike riders and do these rides once every couple of years. During our day on the trail, we met a total of 4 other bikers and 2 walkers. The trail was lightly used for a Saturday (there were, however, many boaters / fishermen). We had also planned to ride the Wyanet to Bureau Junction the following day, but decided instead to hike a 4 mile portion that we really wanted to see. I would like to come back and ride this trail again.

I've ridden the Hennepin Canal numerous times, most of my trips taking place between Bureau Junction and Sheffield. In some of the more remote parts, the scenery is quite beautiful and it's nearly deserted. Unfortunately, the state has not done such a wonderful job of upkeep, and significant portions of the trail are often washed out or in disrepair. It's my understanding that this is currently being addressed, and the Army Corps of Engineers recently began (finished?) a project to preserve the most damaged parts of this trail. I'm looking forward to checking it out.

National Multi Recreational Trail/ Connecting Grand Illinois Trail & Rock River Trail

Hello fellow kayaker & Bike riders starting at the Rock River the most northern part of the feeder canal in the towns of Rock Falls & Sterling IL there are two Multi National Trail Systems that intersect. At the beginning of the Hennepin Feeder getting its water from the Rock River and flowing south 30 miles without any portages and a bike trails running adjacent to it makes for some relaxing, private secluded rustic riding and kayaking. At this intersection where the Rock River flows into the Hennepin Feeder you will find plenty of kayaking and biking and fun. These two trails are both National Trail systems. The Rock River was designated as a National Water Trail and is also a bike route and road route. (www.Rockrivertrail.com) Full maps of the Rock River see web site. The Rock River Trail connects to the Grand Illinois Trail System. The Hennepin is a National Multi Recreational Trail system of over 104 miles.(www.Friends-hennepin-canal.org At this intersection in Rock Falls IL you can cross the Sinissippi Walkway Bridge over to Dillon Home Museum and then onto Sterling Trail system of about 2.5 to 5.0 miles along the Rock River through Sinissippi Park where there is a Historic Burial Ground of the Mound Builder Indians.Bathrooms, water and shelter here. This is a beautiful trail all newly paved in 2014 coming across the walkway bridge under the railroad through a tunnel and 2.5 miles along winding curves and along the banks of the Rock River into Sinisiipi Park. One or two good hills but mostly flat coming out at Hoover Park Parking lot.back to the Hennepin Canal Trail going south from the Rock River. paddling is beginner type as the current at times is hardly noticeable and depth is about 2 to 5 ft throughout with the occasional branch or limb to maneuver around. Trees on both sides like a canopy bike trail running along side. You will never have to get out and walk as there is plenty of depth. Not many places for water of bathrooms . The banks are covered with a lot of poison Ivy so be careful. bring plenty of water and snacks for this 30 mile adventure.kayaking through culverts of about 5 ft high and about 8 to 10 ft wide are unique to the Hennepin Canal when they removed the bridges. At times these can have some spiders in them. We are working to get these cleared. No camping along this stretch of 30 miles. This trail is not perfect! But it offers a great mountain bike ride and beautiful scenery and a since of being all alone and away from the world. I think what makes this trail is that there are different surfaces and obstacles and has the since of unpredictableness which is intriguing to me and exciting. Very rideable trail for those that are not looking for a perfect paved trail but a very relaxing and peaceful and a feeling of getting away from the world. There is a stop along the way on the feeder about 1.5 miles west into Tampico IL the Birthplace of Ronald Reagan with a bar & Grill Convenience store and really cool Birthplace to see. From Rock Falls heading south Tampico is about 13 miles south on the trail. No Signage here.paved road into Tampico. At the Southern end of canal where the feeder feeds into the main canal you will find the IDNR visitor center park. Camping , shelters, bathrooms and a small Museum of all the old pictures and materials and tools used on the Hennepin Canal.
for more questions on this trail call Dave 815-716-3366 or go to my facebook at Daves Outdoor World

Hennepin Canal on a Saturday

A friend and I road the Hennepin Canal trail from Bureau Junction to the visitor center near Sheffield. It was a 42 mile round trip. This was the longest I had ever biked. The trail was a mix of older blacktop at the start. Then is was mostly crushed gravel. The grass along the trail was cut the entire length. But be prepared to work a bit and avoid some potholes. There was only one small partial washout that I remember. A larger washout area nearest the adjacent river was completely repaired. I would say the surface was pretty good over all that distance. The first underpass you come to is dark and unpaved. You are best to walk that one. The rest are concrete and can be ridden.

We started at the lower elevation which makes the trip back a bit easier. There are about 20 locks that are sealed up and act as waterfalls now. You see them pretty good heading west. The trail runs along the water the whole time. The adjacent river is visible on the other side of the trail at certain times. Please be aware that there are very few amenities on this trail. All the small towns are a mile or two off with little if any services. The Sheffield Diner near the expressway by the visitor center is closed. Bring food and drinks in a backpack to be comfortable. There are several places to stop for a picnic or even camp along the trail. We also found that the visitor center is only open Monday - Friday. The trail was not busy at all for a Saturday. We only saw four other bikers the whole day. We did see lots of Grey Herons, butterflies, some turtles, swimming snakes, muskrats and/or beavers. The adjacent farm county is visible at certain times also.

It was a fun day but go with friends and bring eats.

Not so bad.

My wife and I ride a tandem, single speed and have found that from Sheffield to Annawan the trail to be badly overgrown and rough. Have also ridden from Geneseo to Colona, the trail is 99% paved, level, smooth, and a nice ride.

Beautiful but bad surface.

We love this bike hike path. It is a national treasure with its aqueducts locks and lift bridges. We have ridden it for many years and each year it gets worse. What was once an 8 foot trail is now barely a foot in many places. It would be nice if the state would repair this beautiful trail with wonderful birds flowers and wildlife. The aqueducts themselves are something most people never see in their lifetime. They are a building marvel. I know there are grants both government and private that could be applied for to help the repairs if only an official would do it.

Feeder Canal from Rock Falls to the main Hennepin Canal.

I’ve been riding the Hennepin Canal for several years and each year it gets a bit worse. The area south of Rock Falls to Rt. 172 is not too bad. The area between Rt. 172 and Rt. 92 is becoming overgrown with grass and weeds. I’m not sure if the DNR is doing much to maintain this portion of the canal. There are about five corrugate tubes between Rt. 172 and the main canal. I spent two days clearing them all sorts of debris. Someone malicious individuals have lined the inside of these with large rocks and if you were to ride from the bright sunshine into the tubes, which are dark, you have an excellent chance and taking a major spill. So it is best to walk you bike through the tubes.

The area south of Rt. 92 to the main canal, is in a lot better shape. It is paved (tar and chip) for most of the way. There are areas of buckling and sink holes so you must pay close attention to where you go.

It would be wonderful to see a bike path/spur into the Village of Tampico IL. It would also be nice to see a fresh batch of limestone in the area between Rt. 172 and Rt. 92.

Daves Outdoor World** Rustic, Rugged and Peaceful

I live in the Sterling area where the Rock River feeds into the Hennepin Canal feeder. the Rock River was designated as a National Water Trail in 2013 and the Hennepin Canal is a National Multi Recreational Trail. Starting at this north end I would recommend starting at Sinnissippi Park the trail paved runs through this beautiful park down along the Rock River and by the Mound Builder Indian mounds through the Historical Dillon home and museum and old steam engine display down under the railroad tracks tunnel and up and over the Rock River on the Sinnissippi walking and biking bridge and dam.. Once across the bridge you will have restrooms and water. here you will get to see the Historical Guard Lock Gate and several lock tender buildings over 100 years old and still in good condition. On this stretch of feeder trail you have two parks one Centennial park in Rock falls with a trail running into the park. Historical school building, fountains, playgrounds for kids, a beautiful pond for paddle boat rides. A beautiful park filled with large pines. back onto the Hennepin Trail a half a mile down is Crystal lake Rv Park and Campground running adjacent to the trail with Go Cart Track, beach, lake swimming, tent camping, food and much more. A three to 4 mile stretch is paved and then to fine pea like gravel. About ten miles down to birthplace of Ronald Reagan in Tampico with museum and old bank. Here you will find water, food etc just 1.5 miles off the trail. This part of the trail is the best to bring your family and enjoy. Hotels are directly on the trail just across from the Crystal lake Recreation park...Give me a call for a guide or more information, Dave 815-716-3366

Did it on a '73 Sears for 10 miles

On the way back from helping a friend move, I was hauling an old 1973 Sears 3 speed. I happened across the canal where it crosses Rt. 92. I rode from there for about 5 miles. Rough, but real scenic. I'd ride it again.

Rustic,Hidden,Peaceful, not perfect but beautiful multi trail system

Hi fellow trail seekers and recreationalist. See my web site for videos and pictures of the Hennepin Canal Trail System at www.Davesoutdoorworld.com click on local attractions/Historical or video page and rental page.look for my you tube videos under Daves Outdoor World.I have lived in the area all my life and grew up on the Hennepin Feeder Canal in Rock Falls. This trail is not perfect paved for the first three miles from the Rock River to buell rd. After that its mowed short grass, limestone or chip rock and dirt paths.trees on both sides lined up against the path like a beautiful canopy giving you the feeling of peace and quiet away from the fast paced life and city.The bike path hugs close to the water and you get a beautiful view of the scenery as you ride going through tunnel culverts that they used to replace the over passes. The feeder is 30 miles of bike trail and kayaking trail with no portages for the kayaking.

Awesome but in disrepair. Needs the funding the I&M got.

The head of the trail at Bureau Jct is technically "closed" for about 4 miles because the trail is 80% washed out for about 100 feet.
It is passable if you walk your bike or take the horse trail on the other side of the canal to bypass this area. It looks like the creek running next to the canal will compromise not only the trail but the canal berm itself in a year or two. I'm not sure what happens to the canal water levels after that.

This first section of the path is very rough. Old, tired asphalt that is buckling, weed grown, sink holes, etc. It gets a little better past Tiskilwa to Wyanet where I turned around. Wide tires would be recommended and kids under 10 might have problems staying upright. I only saw 3 other bikers on my weekday ride and several fishermen.

As others have said, there is camping along this stretch with pit toilets but no water. Provisions have to be found in town. Though there are trees on both sides of the canal, there is no canopy to provide shade and block the wind. The bike trail is on the south side of the canal and there is a mowed grass horse trail on the north side.

There are mile markers at bridges, locks, etc.

Check out the asian carp jumping the dam at the Bureau Junction lock. It looks like they only get to the next lock since I never saw another one after that. Wildlife is abundant: orioles, indigo buntings, herons, BALD EAGLES (very cool), deer, muskrats, etc.

After riding the I&M Canal Heritage Trail the day prior from Channahon to Morris, one realizes the enormous educational and recreational potential of Hennepin. But given Illinois' political and financal morass, it will never be realized. Enjoy it while you can.

Hennepin Canal Feeder Canal Area surface roads

I picked up the Hennepin Canal on the eastern trailhead (Bureau Junction) and took it to the Visitor's center. Having recently done this section of the canal before I was getting a little bored and tired of the crushed limstone so I accessed a random north/south surface road (running east of the north branch canal) and make my way to Tampico. From what I could tell any of the secondary roads would have been good choices as they are all well paved and lightly traveled (I saw more tractors on the road than cars). From Tampico, after visiting the President's boyhood home and the Casey's for food, I headed out of town East on Tampico Road to Indian Head road, then weaving a path down to Princeton, again on secondary surface roads, which provided a great ride with very little traffic and nice farmstead type scenery. All in all, if you have a road bike and looking for low traffic, well paved roads I would highly recommend exploring the area between the visitor’s center on the Canal, Princeton and Tampico (most of these roads have been mapped on on Google streetview so this will give you some idea ahead of time).

Feeder Canal South from Sterling/Rock Falls

I rode about 10 miles south from Rock Falls and back. It's a beautiful trail but a little monotonous. I was on a road bike, but would have been better off with a bit wider tires. The first 3.5 miles are paved and the pavement is a bit bumpy in spots. Most of the rest of the trail was crushed stone, with a few sand traps (!) and mucky culvert-style underpasses. I will go back with my cyclocross bike for a longer ride.

hennepin canal on road bike

i rode the trail picking it up at bureau and ending at colona. i was on a road bike running gatorskins 700x25s. in general the trail is very doable with a road bike and people thinking about doing this ride should not be deterred. there were a few spots of the trail, particularly the first 10 or so miles that were particularly rough (washouts, rough terrain in and around tunnels, etc). another think to note is there are almost no places to stop right along the trail. i ended up stopping at hodgkinson (sp?) for a bite to eat which was about a 5 mile round trip trek back to the trail (although I ended up taking highway 6 down to geneseo (sp?), then cutting back toward the trail via chicago ave. all in all a fun trip but be warned there aren't a lot of services along the trail and a few rough parts.

From Colona to Wyanet

Rode this trail for a 2nd time and have a lil bit addational info. There is camping along the canal, if you stop at one of the many parkiling lots/locks you will find a map that tells you specificaly where you can camp. For this trip I campted at Lock 17. It will cost you $8.00 a night to tent camp if the "park ranger" comes out. Still no real reliable water source unless you stray from the trail and hit a small town. Again I rode into Wyanet and stopped at the local "Caseys" gas station. Depending on where you are the trail is decent to great; meaning there are a few sections that are slow go due to it being beaten up by horses, but for the most part it's a good trail of hard pack gravel or pavement. There is one section just out of Colona where you'll see a "Trail closed" sign; there is a huge wash out but you can easly manuever around it by dismounting your bike. There was also a HUGE downed tree about 8 miles out of Colona, again, I dismounted and climbded over it. The views are great, I saw all kinds of wildlife. Saw lots of fish in the canal at verious locations if your into fishing as well.

Great Trail

I started riding this trail in Colona and went west to east all the way to Waynet, about 47 miles. One thing to note is I didn't come across any "reliable" water sources at except for Geneseo Park (12 miles). There is a Caseys Gas station 1.4 miles off the trail in Waynet, the trail is marked with a sign telling you 1 mile to Waynet. The so called Visitors Center IS NOT open on Sat/Sun and the hours during the week are only 8am-4pm. I would think looking in the windows that they have running water inside. You'll see signs along the trail saying no overnight camping but I camped and saw many campers at the numerous parking lots along the trail. The views are pretty good and for the most part it's secluded. You'll cross over a few back roads and go under an interstate but you won't see much traffic at all. The trail itself is rideable on a road bike. Only one washed out section would require a road biker to get off and it's only maybe 50 feet long. I highly recommend this trail to anyone wanting to get out for a few miles or so the distance of the entire route. I'd give it 5 stars if there were more accessible water points.

from Geneseo (not sure of spelling) to Bureu il.

I loved this trail. No its not made for a road bike, but on a fully loaded long haul trucker, pulling a bob trailer i had no problems. There are places along the trail where it becomes more single track than "trail", but with any size tire other than a road tire, you should be fine. And there are sections where a road tire would be fine.
My only complaint is that its very poorly marked. I never really knew where i was on the trail. I never knew where the towns were, and felt this is part of the reason its not used more. Which is a shame because its a beautiful ride and a great bike highway across Illinois.

East End Much Better!

If you start your ride in Bureau, IL and head west - the trail is a compacted recycled asphault for quite a few miles - at least past Tiskilwa. The state has a sign up saying Trail Closed for the first part due to a couple minor washout areas from 2013 Spring flooding but they are just a few bumps and 2 or 3 small washouts on the canal side of the trail that do not go past 1/4 of the trail. I have rode the trail from Bureau, IL to Wyanet - where the Wyanet/Walnut Road crosses the canal and it is all beautiful. At some point the trail turns from recycled asphalt to a fine white sand? It is still very easy to ride on - however I do have a wide tire bike. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a nice shorter ride.

Good in parts, but mostly bad

I started in Colona IL and headed east. In the town of Colona, the path is kept up very well. Once you get past I80, things take a turn for the worse. There is also a sign before you go in the tunnel below I80 that says that the path is closed.

The bad... The state of Illinois clearly doesn't have a budget at all for this path, as it doesn't look as if it hasn't been kept up for several years now. There are numerous washouts from the Green River and some of them are out right dangerous. It's very sad to see this, because it clearly used to be a very beautiful trail.

There is one nice spot that I did enjoy and that was the Green River bridge.

Outside of this, I'd avoid this path, unless your willing to walk your bike a few times.

NOT road bike worthy

This trail is way over rated for use as a bike trail. Especially for road bikes.
My wife and I spent half a day searching the east end to the Visitor Center. There are no sections conducive for a nice road bike ride.
Even after talking with a Ranger at the office we found the trail impassible just 4 miles west of their location.
The "surface" is choked with weeds and in several places completely blocks the path.
The final straw was nearly crashing into a sink he covered by over grown weeds. An anxiously awaited 60 mile ride ended up being barely 13 miles and part of that was spent walking the bikes.
(I only gave the trail 1 star because that's the lowest offered. )


Started in Colona at the Rock River and planned a 3 hour ride. Colona section beautiful and park like, after that older signs saying trail closed. Because we had seen the trail on this site we continued. Plenty of washouts from the Green River overflowing, I think. Walked bike3 times then left the canal and went thru the countryside.

Feeder Canal Ride

During the second weekend in October, I rode the Hennepin Feeder Canal from Sterling south about 20 miles. The landscape was beautiful: the peaceful canal was lined with large trees with delicately colored leaves--though many had already fallen. The path surface, however, presented some problems. For example, there was a significant amount of clutter on the trail, especially fallen branches--at one point a fallen tree completely obscured the path. The second problem was that for the most part, only one side of the trail was well traveled. Third, the farther south I rode, the more the canal encroached on the trail and significant erosion could be seen. In some places the erosion was so severe that a momentary lapse of concentration could easily take a rider down the bank and into the canal. There are occassional little parks along with trail with bathrooms, but no water is available. And no camping either. I chose to do a little stealth camping on the grassy tow path that runs along the eastern side of the canal and it was beautiful. It rained the whole day of my return, and rather than get bogged down on the bike path, I chose to ride on highways back to Sterling. In so doing, passed through the only town close to the trail--Tampico, IL, the birth place of Ronald Reagan. Tampico has seen better days. Although full of interesting history, many of the buildings on Main St. are closed, and even the home where Reagan was born is for sale. In the only gas station/grocery store, I heard a lady talking about how hard it was for their church to find a new pastor because they only have six families attending. Nevertheless, if you have chance, Tampico is an interesting place to stop.

A Winner

8/22/2012 I rode two sections of the trail. The 1st was from Hickory grove Campground, just a few miles west of the visitors center, to the end heading east. I must say the trail conditions were excellent. The trail is made of a combination of asphalt or hard packed screening/stone. about 50/50 on the parts of the trail I rode. A nice shady trail on this part. Camping areas looked very nice, and free! The next day I went from Genesco to the western end. Again the trail was in great shape, except for where the bridge is out. There is a sign saying the trail is closed about ~5 miles from the western end. I kept going anyways and found 1 bridge out, but a short detour (hilly) and back on the trail. A very few other parts of the asphalt trail were washed away, but at least 1/2 of the trail remained. The only part of the trail I didn't like was about 1/3 mile of occational loose sandy screening. The bike gets a little squirlly over these areas. But all in all I really like this path. I went on a Wed/Thur trip and only seen 3 bikers and a few fishermen at the locks. I had it all to myself. Very nice.


I've hiked, canoed, or biked the entire feeder canal, and most of the main canal. I have to agree, there is not much in the way of provisions and there are a few towns along the way close enough to be convenient. The most frustrating part if you decide to camp or ride on a hot day (especially in the summer), is the lack of places to get water. There are sporadic camping areas along the canal (none along the feeder) but most have no hydrants. I think there are only a couple locations that actually have a hydrant, one is the visitor's center and the other is a camping area (forget which lock) approximately 5 miles east of the visitor's center. If you get it from that one you may still want to filter it. I've taken it from there and it looked like it came right from the canal. I would not recommend taking water from the canal even if you filter it. The most scenic area for the main canal is the eastern corridor. During the Spring some spots get a little washed out and you will see maintenance crews from time to time working on it. There are signs near Bureau indicating the canal is closed in that area. Most locals just ignore them and continue to use it (probably knowing the signs were put up and simply forgotten about). Anyways, about the first 10-15 miles, it's mostly forested on either side. I have seen lots of water fowl and birds of prey along the route. Snakes, turtles, coyotes, and deer. The early morning is the best time to see the wildlife moving about. In the evening you will likely hear coyotes howling (only heard them near the east end). I've had one get within 30 feet of a campsite I was at one night, It was in the woodline, i first notices its eye glowing from my headlamp, I was able to scare it off. From what I've seen of the western end (west of the visitor's center), mostly cornfields and old farm homes. Still camping areas along the way, but the scenery does start to get interesting again on the approach to Geneseo, and if you like to fish, the smallmouth population is pretty good. My best trips on the canal have always been in the fall.

not so great

I rode this trail from the Visitor's center east to Tiskilway. Not a great trail by any means. I don't know where some of the posters get that the trail is entirely surfaced, IT IS NOT. On the day I rode It was extremely hot. There is absolutely no shade on the trail. If you don't bring supplies there are no towns along the trail unless you ride a couple of miles or more. One town is close but only the desparate would try to climb the hill to get to it. The only place I found the trail surfaced was for about 100 feet each side of the access points. I saw absolutely no wildlife except for Canada Geese. It rained the day before I rode and the trail was soft and had numereous washouts. I have ridden the I & M (Illinois)and C & O canal (Maryland) trails both are much better choices. The I & M is just east of the Hennepin trail. Save this trail for the cooler weather in the fall. Maybe the north/south section is better.

Great trail, but NOT flat.

My title sums up this little article. It is a great trail, pretty and lightly traveled.
But by no means is the trail "flat". According to this...


you can see that the starts at the eastern end at about 450 feet above sea level.
It then rises about 200 feet to about 650 feet above sea level (going west) and
then decends to about 550 feet above sea level at the western end.

Hennepin Rides

I have ridden the HCP twice in the last three years, which was a return to my late mother's homeland around Geneseo. Stayed with family that still lives in the area about the canal, and one of my uncles' grandmothers even cooked meals for the construction crews when the trail was initially dug!

I rode the trail in October and in May, in that order in two different years, 2007 and '08. The first time alone and the second with an old college days friend. The trail is crushed stone and a thinly bonded aggregate surface, but well maintained, in the main. Several of the old mechanical lift bridges have been restored and the locks still exist but they are no longer operative and have been converted into water falls, presumably to aereate the water for the aquatic life? Much in the way of wild life exists along the length of the trail.

In my second ride on the canal, I rode the entire main canal length of some 74 miles in two days. The primary complaint was the prevailing east wind that happened to be blowing (an anomaly with respect to usual west-to-east flow). I stopped along the way to photoshoot and hydrate. Many of the old iron bridges still exist over which, some 40 years ago, I would drive heavy farm machinery when staying for summers on my uncles farms. I shudder to think of doing that today on them!

The Visitor's Center is a jewel and has an education and information section second to none. The staff is helpful, warm and cheerful and provide willing service to all who visit. the VC is near Sheffield.

I have yet to ride the Feeder Canal, and that is a goal in the offing. It would be a good day's ride from Annawan, when my aunt and uncle live. A nice side trip, given sufficient energy, would be a visit to the Ronald Regan Presidential birthplace at Tampico, Illinois. However, that awaits another familial visit with my newest MTB. The first two bikes have traversed sections of the trail, the new one has yet to do it.

Provisions along the trail are wanting. The rider is well advised to have panniers and bike bags sufficient to carry along water, power bars, banannas and the like since there is very little in the way of ammenties along the way. The HCP misses most communities, and one has to leave it to obtain such services, but one can.

The ride is virtually flat, given that it is a canal way. It falls away from the center both ways to the Illinois River to the east and the Mississippi to the west. The main pool is near Mineral, Illinois, where the Feeder Canal intersects the Hennepin from Rock Falls. The eastern ride is the so called, "Historic Section," and has more locks on it. Unfortunately, one can not go all the way to the Illinois River and Lock #1 because it is blocked by private property (a gun club, so don't mess with it!), and the fact that Lock #1 is under the river anyway! The western end stops at the Rock River, but some segments, broken up by roads and development, are in place beyond it, but one "can't get there from here!"

This is a jewel in Illinois' crown. It's a great ride, but one that has little ammenities. Take your own and enjoy this long, long trail.

good trail

this is a good trail; usually light traffic; many county roads run near the total length of the trail; the small towns do not offer much in the way of food and drink

Western Section

"In mid September a group of Wisconsin retirees camped along the trail and rode the western section from the visitor center to Colona. We camped at the Lock #22 campground. On our first afternoon after setting up camp we rode north on the Feeder Canal from the Feeder Junction Basin to Bridge #59. The next morning we took our bikes to Colona and rode east back to our campsite. This was a great ride and very picturesque. The trail surface is in good shape and the day use and camping areas are well maintained. The locks and bridges, many have been restored, are very interesting and fun to explore. Next year we will return to ride the eastern section of the Canal."

Fully Surfaced

"I ride the canal trail once a week. Since all these reviews, the canalway has been completely resurfaced with oil&chip and/or limestone screenings --the entire stretch of the canal. It makes for smooth riding, although west of the Visitors Center, there is still a little loose chip that should've been swept away...it just ups the difficulty a little. Go and enjoy!"

A nice walk

"In September of 2004 I parked at the nice parking area at Route 29 where it crosses the Hennepin Canal. I had my Camelback Mule strapped on, and I had my iPod rocking. I had no particular mileage in mind, although it was in the back of my mind to walk to Tiskilwa and back. For my age, condition, and shoes, this turned out to be a bit more than I should have bitten off as I had very stiff legs towards the end. I can only say that it was a wonderful experience, complete with shady portions, sunny stretches, and there is always that canal.

I saw some water mammals at a distance so I cannot say if they were otters or beaver, either is possible in that region, I think. They were too big for muskrats. Some great old trees quite near the path, probably survived the years because so close to the canal, otherwis they might have gotten chopped.

So I made it to Tiskilway where I drank a real big bottle of Gatorade and went back to the car. It was maybe 18 miles of walking or so. I was wishing for my bike, but that was somewhere else.

I grew up in the area, down in Chillicothe right along the mighty Illinois, and I never knew this canal existed, although in those days it was abandoned and the revitalization effort had not yet begun."


I rode the full length of the main canal the first weekend of August. It is now fully paved. Most of it is oil and chip with some sections crushed limestone. The surface is still a little slow because it is so new (they told me in the trail office they have to wait a year to roll it smooth). I rode it with a hybrid bike with touring tires.

It's a great ride through lots of open farm country. It is a pretty sunny trail though there are places were it is shaded. From Bureau Junction to the Feeder pond is a long uphill. There are 21 locks in this section and the canal climbs nearly 200 feet. The western portion is a lot flatter. There is a lot of wildlife. I must have seen a hundred blue herons. Lots of smaller birds.

I camped at the Geneseo Campground right off the trail. Very clean and the owners were extremely helpful. There is food available in most of the towns along the way. There is a good diner just over the I-80 bridge in Anawan. Highly recommend this trail though don't try it with road tires yet. The surface will tear them up. It will probably be fine in a year or two for any kind of bike.

Annawan to Colona

"I rode 26 miles from Annawan west to Colona on Oct. 8, 2002. The trail was open and freshly surfaced with chip and seal. Work was in progress on aqueduct six which required a small detour. There were small parks at some of the locks with restrooms.

A call to the DNR trail office revealed that the trail is nearly complete but not officially turned over to the state park system. Yet it is open for riding."

Bureau Jct to Tiskilwa

This portion of the trail was fantastic. We were happy to find the trail has a new surface of tar & chip. We had to watch for loose gravel periodically but it was a very nice ride.

The trail lacks markings so our source of information came from local fishermen. We took plenty of water becuase of the heat but next time will probably take food because this stretch of trail lacks places to stop for refreshments. Hopfully there will be samll signs in the future to guide us to such facilities. We plan to make the one hour and twenty minute drive to ride this trail again soon.

trail condition

"as of early june, the condition of the trail was worse than you described. On mown grass one can bike... but the grass is gone and you'll sink to your hubs in the mud... been there and done it. not a pleasent ride."

Crushed stone now? Or still grass?

"I would appreciate an update on this trail, which is part of the Grand Illinois Trail. When I last checked, the trail wasn't crushed stone, at least in the spots where I checked it on an auto trip. It was just a grass bank, suitable for mountain bikes (as long as there weren't enough mountain bikes to wear out the grass).

The cue sheet for the Grand Illinois trail


doesn't route you on this trail at all, but on parallel roads, making me think this segment may not be finished as of August, 2001.

If you know of contrary information, please post it in a corrected review here, so visitors will get current info."

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