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The Illinois and Michigan Canal State Trail follows the eponymous waterway alongside the Illinois River. It traverses the I&M Canal National Heritage Corridor, designated in 1984 and the first National Heritage Area in the U.S. The pathway runs along the old canal towpath from LaSalle to the historical quarry town of Lemont, with a gap in Joliet and a heavily industrial spur through Romeoville. Nearly every mile, you’ll find educational markers, so you can learn about the history of the canal and the stories of those who built and traveled the waterway.
The trail surface varies, from well-maintained crushed limestone to grass, asphalt, and gravel. In some sections, the path exists on both sides of the canal. Bicyclists should use thicker tires (hybrids or larger).
The route begins just south of the town of LaSalle at Huse Lake. The trailhead is located at a historical canal lock. Enjoy a mule-powered ride in a replica canalboat or explore Lock 14 and the steel silhouettes that help tell the stories of Abraham Lincoln and his family, “Wild Bill” Hickok, and other personalities associated with the canal.
From the trailhead, a short segment of trail heads west, while the vast majority of the trail unfurls to the east. You may find that the short jaunt to the west is worth exploring, though, as it offers a nice tree canopy and views. Begin the longer journey by traveling eastward from the trailhead (to the right, as you face the canal).
The towpath surface is primarily compacted gravel and can collect water after heavy showers. Even with some puddles, the trail is widely used on weekends, and many families and groups of riders can be found with smiling faces. The LaSalle County Historical Museum is located in North Utica just across the canal from the trail, and many riders stop for a visit there and at the local cafés.
A small section of trail shares a paved roadway and provides access to private homes as you continue from west to east, but shortly after this section it can get muddy and a water crossing is missing.
As the trail approaches Ottawa, the surface improves and there is a short rail-with-trail section. You will find some options for food or cold beverages in Ottawa. The trail intersects with the short but paved Ottawa Riverwalk—a picturesque connection to the vibrant downtown business district. Then it crosses the historic Fox River Aqueduct, which was constructed to maintain grade on the canal, well above the river below. Leaving Ottawa, the path is mostly packed gravel, but depending on seasonal rains, it can get wet in spots.
The trail passes through Marseilles, a former industrial powerhouse on the Illinois River, which once housed one of the state’s largest industrial buildings—a cardboard box plant for the National Biscuit Company (NaBisCo). On the other side of the Illinois River, you’ll find Illini State Park (take Main Street south to reach it; the park is just past the dam on the far side of the river) with plenty of recreational opportunities, including camping, fishing, and boating. For a closer rest stop, take the bridge between Main Street and Aurora Street to John C. Knudson Park with restrooms, water, and views of the town’s historical railroad depot.
The route continues through shaded forest canopy to the town of Seneca, where you’ll find the M. J. Hogan Grain Elevator (also known as Armour’s Warehouse)—the oldest structure of its kind that still stands along the canalway. This towering structure harkens back to the days when towns like Seneca loaded agricultural goods onto canalboats bound for markets in Chicago and beyond.
As the trail leaves town, it reenters forested canopy on its way to Morris. As you approach the town, you will come across several camping spots right off the trail, offering a great opportunity for a multiday trail excursion. This section of trail travels by Gebhard Woods State Park. With abundant wildlife and amenities, the 30-acre park is one of the most popular state parks in Illinois. Restrooms, water, and parking are right off the trail by way of a bridge over the canal.
The route continues along both banks of the canal, passing over Nettle Creek into the charming town of Morris. Steeped in canal history, the town has a lot to offer to trail visitors, including several small shops. The trail passes right by the Grundy County Historical Museum (on Nettle Street) and over an impressive trestle that crosses Canal Port Park. As you leave Morris, you’ll pass through the William G. Stratton State Park with access to the Illinois River.
The trail continues through Aux Sable and into McKinley Woods Forest Preserve in Channahon—a 473-acre state preserve with plenty of camping, fishing spots, and picnic areas. The trail occasionally opens up with large grassy areas along the river.
The McKinley Woods portion is one of the most beautiful parts of the route. Not only are you surrounded by green space and next to the river, but you’re also across the river from the Des Plaines State Fish and Wildlife Area. Experience great views of the water, large water birds, and small wildlife of all sorts.
Head north briefly out of the woods, then make your way east up the trail; you can feel yourself slowly getting closer to Chicago. Small towns and recreational areas pop up more frequently. The trail connects via hiking pathways to the vast Community Park in Channahon with various sports fields, forests, and open park areas. The trail comes to an end about 5 miles later in Rockdale, just outside of Joliet.
After a gap, the trail picks up again in the northern end of Joliet at the Joliet Iron Works Historic Site. Here, you can explore the remnants of what was once the second-largest steel mill in the country.
As you approach and enter the town of Lockport, the trail assumes a fun and historical flavor. A nicely paved portion runs through the center of town, where there are some interesting historical signs about the canal and a sculpture of Abraham Lincoln in a small park. As you make your way out of Lockport, the trail begins to feel industrial.
At the Romeo Road underpass, you can connect to the Centennial Trail on the west side of the canal. To continue on the I&M Canal State Trail, proceed to the left under the Romeo Road overpass. The first 0.5 mile is on a shared roadway that passes a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers facility, so be aware of heavy equipment and large vehicles. The pathway continues through an industrial area on a gravel roadway, passing a refinery and other processing plants. After crossing Cico Road, the trail returns to a more traillike condition with crushed-stone surface, but beware that this section of trail can be overgrown in the summer months.
About 1.3 miles after passing the I-355 overpass, you’ll leave the industrial refineries behind as you enter the charming town of Lemont, which traces its history to 1833 and is closely tied to the development of the canal. Here, the trail is part of a well-groomed park just off Front Street, with a bridge leading to a parking lot and providing access to restaurants and shops downtown.
The trail ends in the historical limestone quarries that helped place Lemont on the map in the mid-19th century. Stone from the quarry was of the highest quality and used for many of the town’s buildings, as well as the stunning Chicago Water Tower building—one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. The quarries were filled with water and now offer fishing and boating access in the nearly 100-acre Heritage Quarries Recreation Area.
To reach the westernmost trailhead in LaSalle: From I-39/US 51, take Exit 57 for US 6 toward LaSalle-Peru. Head southwest on US 6 W. In 1.2 miles, turn left onto Joliet St. Continue over the bridge and take the first right, which will take you to the parking lot.
To reach the easternmost access point at the Heritage Quarries Recreation Area: From I-55, take Exit 271A to Lemont Road. Head south on Lemont Road, and in 2.9 miles, turn left onto E. Illinois St. In 0.6 mile make a sharp left onto Main St., then a right onto Talcott Ave. After crossing the railroad tracks, turn right. After you cross a second set of railroad tracks, the entrance to the recreation area will be on your right. Parking is available just beyond the entrance.
Remember the big flood? Tornadoes? This trail is maintained as well as possible considering our financial state in this state. The only real problem this year is the collapsed & under repair Morris viaduct that closed the trail. You must ride on the road to Stratton Park, then back on a continuous trail through Lockport. Safe from traffic, beautiful river views, professionally repaired washed out sections plus fairly responsive fallen tree removal keeps the trail ridable. Occasional trees down may require lifting bike over. I try to break off branches to clear a temp path till they cut it up usually withing a week or two.
Some shallow flooding occurs after heavy rains between Ottawa & Marseilles that is still ridable...Appox 2-4 in deep max.
All in all a wonderful fitness ride from Morris to Buffalo Rock.
I rode Ottawa to LaSalle. Sections of the trail were very rough. Motorbike tracks, moguls and stream remnants made the trail dangerous. The history and the washed out bridge are awesome(see photo).
My husband rode his fat tire bike on the trail this morning between Chestnut St., in Ottawa, and the Buffalo Rock trail parking lot. His goal was to check out the conditions of the trail. He said that it was not fun. He came back via the street. The trail was wet, and the 1/2 mile from Chestnut west, as well as the 1/2 mile from Buffalo Rock east had many piles of dog poop. (There is a parking lot at Buffalo Rock that people use when they walk their dogs.) Seems like the dog walkers do not even bother to sweep the poop piles to the side. That is the least you can do if you are not going to pick it up.
I finally completed the trail in LaSalle last weekend, I had been completing the entire route in segments throughout the summer. Overall, I enjoyed the experience, I liked the historical placards and informative mile markers. Yes, I stopped and read every one of them! I thought it was really well done, and very interesting history of the canal and its construction and usage. Cool grande finale ending up in LaSalle where the packet boat and mule towpath was in full display with the tour.
I started in Lemont where the trail begins, through Lockport (the old canal headquarters) and got through Joliet. A must see is the old Joliet Iron Works, an interesting historical walking tour. The next segment I completed was from Joliet (Rockdale) to Channahon, with beautiful views of the Illinois River. Saw an abundance of varied wildlife as the canal here is wide with plenty of water still left in it. McKinley Woods Park is a nice diversion to take a break. Channahon to Morris was the next segment, again with nice views of barges on the river and the Dresden dam area. From Morris to Marseilles the trail begins to get more woodsy, and at some points the trail goes from crushed limestone to single track dirt. This is where the canal is hard to see, as it has dried up over the years, thus there is less wildlife to see. From Marseilles to Ottawa the trail is still woodsy, but becomes more industrial as you are riding next to train tracks and grain silos along the river for much of it. Ottawa to Utica becomes more scenic as you start to see the St Peters sandstone cliffs at certain points. Finally from Utica to LaSalle you can see much more of this, and the trail ends with a lock with all of its functioning parts, as would have existed back in the day.
I normally ride on much more challenging, tougher and more hilly terrain with my trail bike, so this was a change of pace for me. The trail is in decent shape, but you can tell that it has not been maintained for awhile. There are bridges out in several spots (easy to get around), and fallen trees that you need to lift your bike over. All in all, I would recommend it to the casual rider, seeking an interesting history of the canal from back in the nineteenth century. Happy riding!
I don't know how anyone could rate this anything but 5 stars. There are sections of this trail (Channahon to Ottawa) that are absolutely breathtaking - especially on a warm fall day when the leaves are turning color. There are long sections of the trail where you are riding between two bodies of water and it is absolutely spectacular. Access the train in Channahon and ride northeast toward Ottawa. You will not regret it!
I rode most of the trail below Joliet on July 28 , 2017. Except for the closures shown on the DNR website (downtown Morris, Marseilles to Ottawa, and two bridges out near Utica), the trail was in decent condition. (I was glad I was on a hybrid and not a skinny bike.)
Joliet to Morris was in good shape. Some of this section is dull, some parts are pleasant.
The closure in Morris has been there for years, and the street detour is easy and not too long.
Morris to Seneca is my new favorite section: quieter and more woodsy than the rest. No trail problems.
Seneca to Marseilles was fine. There’s a good view of the Illinois River if you go a few blocks south of the trail in downtown Marseilles.
Marseilles to Ottawa was mostly dull and pointless. I went around the barricade just west of Marseilles and had to carry my bike over downed trees, which I expected. It got old after a while, though, and since the trail was boring at that point, I wish I hadn’t bothered. There’s a nice paved road next to the trail – use that instead.
Ottawa to Utica is in decent shape, except for the bridge that’s out, and I like this section. I went about 9 miles west from the Fox River aqueduct in Ottawa and came to the bridge. I was tempted to take my shoes and socks off and wade through the two inch deep stream and continue, but turned around instead. (It’s only another mile or so to downtown Utica).
I like the section below Utica, but with the bridge out, I didn’t feel like continuing.
If you accept the closures and the dull parts, the I&M is a good Illinois trail.
rode sw from Brandon Road lock. do not ride this trail on a road bike with anything less than 700x28. I flatted on one of the sections of loose gravel. The ride itself is pleasant enough in that area...lots of tree cover...but the canal itself is overgrown, and not what I expected as far as scenery goes
I have been chunking out 5-10 miles per trip. I have so far made the trek from Seneca to the Illinois River. There is a bridge out about 2 1/2 east of Utica. The trail is pretty quiet and easy to hike. It's relatively flat with some neat little history lessons on the way.
Previously, I have ridden this trail from Channahon going west. See that review from 2016.
Today, I was on the I&M canal attempting to go east from Ottawa to Morris, IL. (25 miles +/-) I was on the trail for less than 3 miles and had to get off and ride on the adjoining road. I was riding a hybrid bike with full rear panniers. In the 2-3 miles on the trail, I went over, through, or around no less than 5 downed trees. Only one of them was a recent fallen tree. The others had to have been over the trail for some time. The "trail" is really a dirt path that looks more like a rough hiking path. I would not recommend this trail for bicycle riding. It is slow, potentially dangerous, and is likely to cause a flat tire (I did not have one today).
Avoid the trail from Ottawa going east.
Beautiful stretch of crushed gravel. All flat, no hills. 6 miles to Lock #8, great beginner ride
Tree down about 2 1/2 miles east of Utica. Blocks trail, gotta carry bikes through. A mile or so later, bridge is out gotta carry bikes across creek. Not a great trail, not much to dealing the way.
We have ridden many sections of the trail and enjoy it for its long stretches without crossings and nature/wildlife. The section between Buffalo Rock State Park (which is currently closed presumably due to Illinois' financial woes) and Utica is really rough. There is a bridge out that appears to have been out for years....the only option is to climb down an embankment and walk your bike though a muddy creek--so be prepared with the right kind of shoes (Tevas or the like). West of there you will find several spots with trees down...one section you will need lift/maneuver your bike through and climb through yourself. After that the trail is paved (welcomely) as it takes you to Utica. This one section is not enough to mar enjoyment of the trail overall as it is a long and varied trail with many cool sites to see. But be aware of this section as a little bit of preparation will save you some hassles.
My friend and I love doing the I&M canal as it is mostly shade and flat. The path is crushed stone and covered with trees. The path comes close to the river once in a while, but don't come to this path expecting a nice river view. This is a remote path with few rural towns in between. I recommend the part between Morris and Channahon as this part seems to be kept up regularly. Also check for path closures on the I&M before you go. We have had to re-plan our trip a few times finding out the part we wanted to go on was closed. Currently west of Seneca is not kept up with over run grass on the path and around it, we just found that out.
I've only ridden this trail once, near Channahon (which has great parking at the State Park), and it was very good and interesting. Not paved, but still easy to bike or walk. In the area in which I rode, you have the I and M Canal on one side and the Des Plaines River on the other. As you ride, you go past historical sites of the canal which are a great bonus. Also, you can fish in the DuPage River at Channahon.
Began this ride in Ottawa with some concerns given earlier reviews. Well, was pleasantly surprised. My wife and I rode from Ottawa to Utica with relative ease. Some soft spots especially between Buffalo Rock and Utica. and a bridge is out in that stretch though clearly marked. Rode Dee Bennett Road back from Utica to Buffalo Rock which follows the river. All in all a great ride on a sunny February day! Might be muddier in the Spring.
I'm new to cycling but I've been doing 10-miles a day, on average, mostly on streets and paved paths. When I purchased my bike, I knew I wanted the ability to go a bit "off road" and so I got a hybrid. Researched some trails and decided on this one. We started in Ottawa where there was parking and bathroom access. We headed west and stopped between Buffalo Rock and Starved Rock state park. I'm told the path is washed out just 4-blocks from where we ended. It was a BEAUTIFUL ride! We had perfect weather. I stopped to take pics too often. Total, we rode 20 miles in just under 3-hours. Next time we plan to start in LaSalle and head east towards Starved Rock.
This trail is not one for those who are looking for smoothly paved surfaces. The trail does have some nice surfacing, but there are also areas that are crushed rock and even dirt. My husband and I enjoyed the ride, as it is exactly what I would expect from something that is considered a trial. There are a few little bridges that are in good condition and easy to cross; however, there is one area that you will have to get off of your bike to walk down a little hill and cross a creek, but other that that, the trail is simple and safe. My only warning would be that this probably isn't a good trail to ride after a downpour! We started in LaSalle and rode to Ottawa - we then turned around and came back, stopping in Utica for lunch. Very nice day!
Pardon the pun but this is "Deliverance" on a bike. Its very backcountry scenery and the trail just has too many rough patches; mud, bridge washouts, trail itself in bad shape in most parts. This would be an awesome ride if it was consistent limestone, and this would take care of the mud. IL please fix the freakin bridges. I wont be back until further notice and no way am I taking my nice trek domane on this one.
I rode this trail today and had a fun time. It was VERY windy, but being in the trees and with hills protecting me along the way, I had little trouble with the wind. I rode from Channahon to Morris and back. Lots of wildlife. I was actually chased by a goose along the way!
The trail was relatively smooth. There is grass and moss at some areas, but I never felt that the trail was rough.
I'll ride this again, when I can go for a longer ride.
Started in Ottawa and rode east just behind the Fox River. Then back west along the Fox River trail for about a mile. South along the main road, past a sign that read "Lincoln slept here" back to the I&M across from the replica Canal barge. Then rode west to the locks. Drove out to the trailhead in LaSalle. Saw the very end of the trail. Back east to Split Rock, then back to the trailhead. I have been on every section of the trail. Iron Works to Willow Springs is the best maintained. Lower Rock Run to Morris is my favorite. LaSalle to Marsailles is the most scenic. Someday I will ride the length of it.
started at Lower Rock Run and rode 8 miles west on 2 occasions this month. It was in good shape for a mostly gravel surface. I enjoyed to thelter from the wind and sun provided by the trees that line the path. It would be a great improvement for them to have an asphalt rampup to the cement bridges in the Channahon lock and dam area. the cement is a few inches above the gravel path.
Some friends and I just rode the trail 9/12/15 from the Buffalo Rock Access to Seneca and back to Buffalo Rock. The trail is in great shape and it’s wide open. It is closed Buffalo Rock to Utica and Seneca to Morris, but Buffalo Rock to Seneca is a 17 mile ride which was perfect. It gives you a little bit of everything. Only one spot had a small tree over the path that we had to stop for and lift our bikes over. There are signs just east of Ottawa that give caution about high water but there was no water to be found. It rained pretty good during the week leading up to our ride, but the trail was still in good shape.
IDNR now keeps a trail closure status page - http://www.dnr.illinois.gov/closures/Pages/CurrentClosuresOfDNRSitesAndAreas.aspx#NEIL
The trail is closed in Morris to senna a. According to a local it will not be opened for a few years. Ride on cemetery road to get to sennaca to the west Morris to the east.
Centennial to Joliet - nice trail, not much shade but an easy ride. Once in Joliet, the trail just ends with virtually no signage. Be prepared to navigate through some less than desirable neighborhoods to pick it up again south of Joliet.
Joliet to Channahon - Decent ride, no shade. Pick a dry time as this could get muddy with overflows from the canal.
Channahon to Morris - Great ride, lots of shade, plenty of wildlife along the canal.
Morris to Seneca - Just...don't. Seriously. I read reviews here and still thought, eh, I can do it. Don't do that. Things get bad, then ugly here. In Morris you'll find a washed out bridge from a few years back that can't be crossed. No signage, just "Trail Closed". Head north to old stage road, follow it a mile and you'll see the next trail entrance past the closure. Then you'll find not one, but two washouts. And by washouts, I mean 20 foot wide, 15 foot deep holes where the trail should be. The first can be cross by a mudpath to the north side of the trail, though it is steep and you'll get dirty. The second washout, about a mile east of Seneca, is a monster. I'll try to post a picture later, but it is wider and deeper than the first. And there is no path to walk around - you've got canal on your right and swamp on your left. Crossing this may have been the dumbest thing I've ever done on a trail, but the alternative was to turn around and bike the 9 or so miles back to Morris and would have been the end of my trip (I intended to camp at Illini State Park). Getting across involved lowering my bike and gear into the hole, then skidding/sliding down myself (it's essentially a vertical drop), then climbing out the other side. Probably a 50% chance I could have gotten trapped in that hole (and I'm 29 in good shape). Also I was immediately set upon by a cloud of mosquitos. You'll see a "Temporarily Closed" sign about 8 miles before you get to this part. Don't ignore it (though they could be a little clearer as to just what you'll encounter if you do). Much of this section is also very cut up with deep ruts and fallen logs.
Seneca to Marseilles - Not sure how this qualifies a trail, as it's mostly some farmers driveway. No shade, questionably "crushed" limestone. Many muddy spots that were barely passable with my 28mm tires, and that's with no rain for almost a week. As soon as I could I hopped on to a nearby road that follows the trail, as I'd had enough of the I&M "trail".
From other reviews I see that west of Marseille the trail is considered even worse. I can't imagine how that's possible based on my experience east but there you go.
Overall there's a ton of potential for a great trail here, but it's in such a state of disrepair, and with the near total lack of helpful signage I would strongly urge you to consider other trails for a bike trip.
This section of trail was really bad and contained at least a dozen downed trees blocking the trail and one washout with at least an 8 foot drop into a creek bed. this part of the trail is not suitable for a roadbike right now.
We have had three different people stop at our shop in Ottawa telling us of how they almost were seriously injured at the new washout about a mile east of Seneca High School. Because each of them was riding at a rate of over 12 mi/hr, some object or incident made them look up just before they hit the ditch. In one case, it was a snake that saved a woman from falling in the ditch.
My wife Sandy and I rode this section Sunday July 5. We had a great ride. Sandy loves this trail. It's 14 plus miles from Channahon to Morris. 29 miles round trip.We had sandwiches and beers at Clayton's bar in Morris. The food is delicious. We saw a variety of wildlife including white egrets,great blue heron, turtles, snakes, muskrats. Trail was in great shape even with recent heavy rains. Stratton state park in Morris was closed, but didn't affect the trail.
The I and m canal trail is wonderful except for the run down aqueduct in Morris, il.
It is un accessible due to the bridge and aqueduct destruction by flooding. This should be addressed and fixed, it's a wonderful, peaceful trail otherwise. It is disappointing when you come to the closed sign with no alternative. We asked a man who was nearby and he directed us around to another access point about a mile away! We should have been directed from the actual trail as a detour posting.
Today my husband and I tried the trail from the parking lot at Brandon Rd west, as far as we felt like going. We only went 1 1/2 mi before we turned around. Last time we rode this east end of the trail was in the hot, dry summer of 2013. It was nice back then. Today, after the rainiest June on record, this end of the trail is muddy with large puddles. Most of the puddles are west of the viaduct under
Larkin. Fortunately, the weeds on each side of the trail are cut. Cyclists and walkers can go through the weeds to get around puddles. There were at least a half dozen other cyclists out there when we were there, some on road bikes! For us, after a mile and a half, we decided the ride was not fun.
Rode from Utica to Marseilles on 6/6/15. Trail was definitely a bit treacherous just east of Utica, widow maker dead tree branches hanging over the trail, down trees over trail, washed out crossing, and of course the signs featuring threats of prosecution from the Great State of Illinois for enjoying the trail. At the Ottawa trailhead somebody printed an article from the web and pasted it on the trailhead info marker about the lack of progress on trail repairs. That printout was dated 9/2014! We made it intact and in fact it added to the adventure. Memorable ride we won't soon forget. Riding the Katy Trail in MO frequently, I can say that Illinois has a real treasure in the I&M that could be so much more if IDNR and Springfield could see the vision. Picture bed and breakfasts and trail focuses businesses along the trail in towns like Utica, Ottawa, and Marseilles, like you would see in Rocheport, Hermann, and the like on the Katy Trail in MO. I hope the trail gets the attention it deserves. In the meantime, it's rideable, we had a great time, get out and enjoy it!
Apparently, floodwaters in 2013 took out the Nettle Creek Aqueduct in Morris and washed out the trail East of Utica - I believe this may be at the Clark Run Creek.
These are still not repaired and temporary bridges have not been put in place. These sections of the trail are officially closed.
There is no trail across Nettle Creek in Morris. Trail users have used the damaged Nettle Creek Aqueduct to cross the creek, but this requires bypassing the fencing and signage and maneuvering through some dangerous conditions.
There is no trail across Clark Run Creek. If water is low enough, and trail users ignore "No Trespassing" signage, there were some boards laid across the creek for walking on and wheel your bike through the shallow creek.
There is also about 4-5 inches of standing water on the trail just west of Marseilles. This lasts for around 1000' and is still passable if you are willing to ride through it. The bottom of your shoes may just touch the surface of the water.
What's worse about the closures and flooded trail is that there is no indication of these trail conditions as you enter the trail. It's not until you get close to these sections of the trail that signage indicates some type of problem, although is very poor and does not indicate the exact problem.
This is a very nice trail, but be aware of these problem areas and try to avoid them.
Last week the DNR completed surface work on the canal through Ottawa west to Buffalo Rock. The trail is now as good as any trail would be if it is not paved. One inch diameter stone is now covered with fine crushed stone. That fine stone has been rolled in. Some sections of trail surface between Boyce Memorial Rd and Buffalo Rock were left as is because they were OK. Two sections that had hills caused by erosion are far from corrected, but only a bridge could fix those. So all in all, the trail is vastly improved. A recent wind storm blew some litter on the trail. Usually the trail is clean.
We own The Bike Shop in Ottawa, and This past season we have had people stop in who are riding across the country trying to use the I&M trail. There is no "official" information out there telling them that there are serious detours. First, camping sites on the trail are patches of grass that have been mowed. There are no fire rings, no wood available, and no toilet facilities. There are lots of bugs. If you are planning to camp, plan for Illini State Park, just south of the Illinois river in Marseiles. Purchase food, and sometimes wood, at D&S grocery north of the bridge, and there is also a hardware store north of the bridge. Illini has showers and flush toilets in the park, east of the bridge. West of the bridge there are nice campsites with clean outhouses. The second campground is located at Starved Rock State Park. No nearby store. You would have to ride into Utica. Lots of stores and restaurants in Utica. Starved Rock has showers. Problem: there is a washout between Utica and Ottawa. So,if the sun is setting, get to one park or the other. You cannot ride through from one to the other using the trail. You can ride on Dee Bennet Rd. between Buffalo Rock &Utica. It is a paved highway with little traffic, but the drivers usually travel at 65 mph or more. There are quiet roads north of Ottawa that can get you to Utica if you are willing to climb the hill. Use google to see which of these roads go through.
I recently rode this trail from Channahon to Morris and back. The entire trip was almost 30 miles and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The park at Channahon is a great starting point and Morris is a good place to stop and get a bite to eat. It's a charming river town and I'd like to go back and explore some of the shops. Riding along the towpath, you can enjoy the canal on one side and the Des Plaines River on the other. Be sure to watch for the herons and egrets on the canal. I enjoyed stopping to read the historic markers on the path and viewing the locks and the two lock keepers houses. I would recommend this trail for anyone interested in history and a beautiful, relaxing ride.
I just biked this trail 9/28 & 9/29. I started at LaSalle & went all the way to Brandon Dam/locks where it ends. The entire trail was ride-able (in spite of any 'closed' signs) EXCEPT just east of Gebbhard Woods, there's a fence that says "closed" but it appeared that everyone was bypassing it so I did, however the entire bridge collapsed. I supposed, if you are walking/running or you are able to carry your bike without losing your balance, you could walk across the 24 inch wall & then over a split piece of concrete. Unfortunately I didn't take pictures. I planned on camping at Gebbhard Woods but it was completely empty- no rangers, no other campers, nothing. Being female & alone it didn't seem safe as I felt that I could easily be the target of some kids looking for trouble. I would have felt safer camping at one of the trail side camping sites but the mosquitoes were also crazy & I only brought my rainfly & footprint. No running water to wash up either (in the bathrooms). There's one trip of trail between Morris & LaSalle that is literally a single path going thru & overgrown. You see the 1 mile markers so I knew I was on the right path. Also, I was searching everywhere to find out where these "designated" camping sites are. They are sporadic on the trail. However there were also large grassy patches that look like it was meant for camping but no fire pit or garbage on the site. The trail east of Morris all the way to Channahon state park, I barely saw any places to stop & rest, find a place to buy food, etc.
We started the trail at northern Utica & rode west to the end of the trail (Lasalle). (I didn't realize the trail ended there :< ).
The following day we rode east on the trail. We barely rode 1 mile and found the trail gated and "CLOSED", with a warning to violators. We turned back because we didn't know WHY it was closed. flooded? repair? WHY? Very aggravating.
Too bad, we were looking forward to more riding!
I have ridden the northern portion of this trail and like it quite a bit. The other day, I tried to get through Joliet. What a terrible experience. Look, I am not expecting you guys to change the community, but can't you at least provide some signage??? You come out of the Old Joliet Iron Works Park and there is no signage at all. I ended up riding down Broadway into the downtown Joliet. I'm glad I didn't end up in Statesville.
I actually wanted to connect to the Wauponsee Glacial Trail. I guess I need to develop my own map. Rather sad that the the US Park Service can't provide some funding to get through Joliet. It might actually increase business for the local merchants.
We entered the trail at Utica and rode the 5 miles west to the end in Lasalle and then back to Utica. We loved it and wanted to continue on toward Ottawa. After a mile or so heading east, we got stopped by a gate across the trail and a sign that said "Trail closed. Violators will be prosecuted." There was a path around the signs so we could have continued on, but my husband wanted to turn back so we wouldn't risk getting prosecuted. I was livid that the trail was closed and that there was no warning about this closure in Utica! It is a beautiful trail. Shame on whoever is responsible for maintenance and doesn't do their job!!! Please correct the problems on the trail and get it open! Or change the sign to read "Ride at your own risk." I would have.
There are many historical stories to learn from all the signs that are posted along the way. Much of the trail is shaded and beckons you to continue onward...if only we could have without the fear of being prosecuted.
We would definitely do this section again, but not until we can read a review that tells us the trail is completely open. Until there is notice that the trail is completely open, we suggest you start your ride at Buffalo Rock State Park and head east from there. Enjoy!
Rode between LaSalle and Marseilles. On the "closed" section between Buffalo Rock and Utica, found only one large tree across trail - and that was gone on the return trip the same day - thanks to three men we passed toting chain saws! On that section, in addition to the washout with its clearly defined detour and wooden planks across the stream, there were spots where the trail narrowed to a single path with encroaching vegetation. Otherwise, this section is fine.
The highlight of this trail is its historic nature, with locks, replica canal boats (one at Ottawa on dry land next to the old Toll Collector's Office and a floating one at LaSalle which gives short rides), and museums such as the one in Utica that is housed in an old stone granary. There are closely spaced towns en route that offer convenient places to eat - we enjoyed our stop at the Cheese Shop and Café that is located right on the trail in Ottawa.
But shame on Illinois for its neglect of this asset! The DNR website is useless and never updated - there is no information on the "closed" section and there is no way of telling how serious they are in keeping people off that portion - a sign that you encounter a few hundred feet after you leave Buffalo Rock Access heading west simply states "Trail Temporarily Closed" while the one at the Utica end adds "Violators will be Prosecuted". I know money is tight (for some things!)but minimal effort would be required to "reopen" the closed section.
Good riding between Joliet and Buffalo Rock. As of July 2014, trail is officially closed between Buffalo Rock and Utica. In that segment, there are about 5-6 downed trees and one large washout that you must get off of your bike to get part.
The trail is still closed from Utica, north. We rode south to the end of the trail near LaSalle. In most places the gravel/limestone is fairly smooth, but some areas have quite a few potholes and weed growth. Some neat sites along the way, and would recommend it - we'd love to go north and see some more.
Trail is closed. We tried to bike from Utica to Ottawa. Big sign up, that said we will prosecute
Though The I & M Canal Trail is sadly neglected, and cannot be compared to the Great Miami Trail in Ohio, or the Paint Creek Trail in Michigan, examples of new and old trails. Nor does it compare to the Lincoln Prairie Trail in Illinois. Yet many people are brave enough to ride it. The East end is far better than the west end. In the future will send a photo of the washout in Utica. For those who ride the west end, we own The Bike Shop in Ottawa. We are approximately 50 ft from the trail, located on Chestnut St. We have a public bike rack, restroom, and cool drinks. We stock most sizes of tubes and tires, have free air outside, and sell CO2 cartridges.
Road the whole trail today from west end to rock dale only had to get off bike once by Utica and had to ride city roads in Morris. It's nice that you can ride the whole trail again after last years spring washouts. Great trail very little traffic almost felt like it was our very own.
Did a ride on 5/18/2014 from Rock Run Access in Joliet to Seneca and back on a mountain bike.
The trail is closed in Morris for some sort of construction, but you can work around it on surface streets. Headed west on the trail, where the trail forks in Morris is at Calhoun street.
Take that north to Jefferson and turn west. Take that until the next stop sign (Old Stage road) and turn left. Gebhard State Park will be on the left side about a half mile down the road. Enter the park and head to the back of the lot and you will be able to rejoin the trail.
Trail is in good condition, there are some spots that hare rough gravel from last year's floods but passable. These sections could be an issue on a road bike, so be careful. Trail is shaded and wildlife is abundant (saw deer, a snake and a river otter).
This review covers a ride i did in the early fall of 2012. I picked the trail up in Joliet and took it the end at Peru. I was running 700x25 gatorskin tires on a fairly forgiving aluminum frame/carbon seatpost/forks and found the trail to be very passable with only a few trouble spots, mostly around the starved rock area of the trail. there are many towns along the way (and very close to the trail). when compared to the hennepin canal trail (which I gave 4 stars), I would have to say this trail is overall a better ride as it seems to be in better shape, better signage and more services along the way. i would agree with some of the other posts it makes sense to read up on the canal's history before riding. you will appreciate things like the near even spacing of towns along the canal (distance between towns was approximately 1 days travel on the canal). all in, this is a very fun ride on a road bike but recommend running at least 25mm tires with some heft (like gatorskins, etc).
My wife and I have been riding spring, summer and fall over the last several years the different sections between Joliet and Morris. Love the locks, dam, bridges,and such. Best wild life we have seen is the stretch East of Morris, Blue herron, eagles, hawks, turtles, fish, beaver sign, and the occasional otter and muskrat. Wonderfull
Its worth the the time and effort into doing some research on the significance of the canal before the ride.
Our ride began at the Brandon street trail head in Rockdale and continued to Morris before turning back around.
The trail was in great shape (late August) and well marked with placards stating the distance to the next park or area of interest. This stretch of the trail has a nice combination of dense wooded areas that create a "tunnel" effect, and clear park areas along the Illinois, Des Plaines, and Kankakee rivers.
Be sure to stop and take the time to read the historical markers along the trial such as the mule barn, lock keepers house, etc..
Channahon State Park makes a good place to stop and fill your water bottles. Morris has plenty of places to eat and drink before the return trip.
Overall, I really enjoyed this trip and I'm looking forward to going back for a longer ride.
I have rode the north leg (Willow Springs to Joliet) many times and enjoyed it this time I decided to go to the other side of Joliet in Channahon and go southwest from there.
This trail was great. A lot to see. The canal is interesting along with the Des Plaines River. Very interesting and unusual plant life. Lots of different birds.
The only thing missing is signage telling you where you are.There are mile markers, but no signs when you go under a street, or go through a town.
Also, be careful of low bridges.
This was a great ride. Hybrid or mountain bike recommend.
Just started riding this trail from Channahon State Park; beautiful and well maintained up until I reached Morris; barricade stating that the trail was temporarily closed so I had to turn around; 30 miles round trip from Channahon to Morris. Very quiet trail with not a lot of people; nice views of the Illinois River for about half of my trip. Saw a few frogs and a snake on the trail. Nice mix of sun and shade. Only had to cross one road for my whole trip and that was a rural road so no big deal.
Have ridden this before and loved it, but with all of the rains and flooding this spring the trail is in bad shape. Totally washed out trail between LaSalle and Utica and again between Utica and Buffalo State Park. There are ways around the wash outs, but not easy. Other areas are quite rough and it needs mowed.
Rode the trail round trip from Channahon to Morris. The trail is in good shape, mostly crushed gravel and about a mile or so of pavement. Good parking at Channahon and ample parking in Morris at Stratton state park. The trail is flat and tree lined most of the route which screens the wind and sun fairly well in both directions. Some excellent river views, a good view of the Dresden nuclear plant, and a few historical markings that explain the history of the IM Canal. There are a few water fountains and benches along the way. There are restrooms at Stratton. Round trip is just shy of 30 miles, and can be done in about 2 hours at a reasonable pace. If you are looking for a nice fall bike trip and have a few hours to spare, this is a good round trip.
When my husband & I discovered the Joliet Junction Trail did not exist at the I & M end, we decided to ride the I & M Trail west as far as we could that day. (We had plans for the evening.) The first five miles west are in the sun, but after that the Trail is shaded. There are many benches. This is nice because we are both over aged 65 and like to take breaks. We had never ridden that section before. We like it. It had rained, and there were bicycle ruts, so the Trail there needs more finely crushed limestone. But my husband rides a road bike here, ( a mountain bike at our home downstate) and he was happy inspite of the ruts. Sometimes we both rode in the grass to go artound the mud ruts.. We rode 7.5 miles west, and had to turn around because of our plans later in the day. The underpasses (viaducts) are in great shape. We never had to cross the bike on a busyroad.
Overall we enjoyed the ride even though we rode mid-afternoon on an east-west trail.
As I said earlier, the section of the Trail going through Marseilles is forgotten. If you were disappointd in Seneca, you will be more so in Mareilles. The section passing the sheep farm ( the lone farm mentioned by someone else) has been much improved since last year. If you head west past the farm, there is partial shade. There is a bench in the shade. When you get to Marseilles it appears as if the Trail disappears, but it actually jogs north a few hundred feet. Then it becomes grass and mud. It is shaded untill you arrive in downtown Marseilles. Then it is open and grass and mud. Then when you leave Marseilles for Ottawa, there is shade again, but the Trail does not improve until you get to the Ottawa/Naplate Trailhead.
My husband & I like the Seneca section of the trail now that it has been repaired. Most of it is in the shade. It depends what time of day you ride it, after all, because it is an east-west trail.
I just bought a new bike so my wife I rode this trail yesterday to break it in. We went from McKinley Woods to Marseilles and back. It was a scorcher but fortunately most of the trail is shaded, well at least to Seneca. We probably should have stopped and turned around there. It's much more open for the 5 miles or so between Seneca and Marseilles. More than that though is the trail is in much rougher shape because it's obviously used as a road to get to a lone farm.
For people who are on this west of Marseilles, is that part of the trail similar to the stretch between Seneca and Marseilles or more like it is east of Seneca? I'm asking both in terms of trail conditions and the scenery.
My huisband and I tried the Lockport section yesterday, but had to give up. That area had been hit by hard winds and rain, and no less than 6 trees had been blown down across the trail. We were in the area for a party and did not know about the damage till we got there. We drove our bikes to the Morris-Channahon section instead. That section is ok.
Saturday evening my husband & I rode from the parking lot at the Ottawa Trail Head west, past the parking lot at the Utica Trail Head. The gate at Utica was open to go farther west. We rode one mile further and turned around because it was getting dark. There were campers at sites A & B. The entire length from one trail head to the next needs attention, but the worst section is that erroded section boardering Silica Sand. Three years now and those gullies have not been fixed, they are deeper. This length is not nearly as bad as the Marseilles section is, but it needs grading and more finely crushed limestone.
About two weeks ago, my husband and I rode the trail from the east end of Marseilles into Seneca. The trail had been improved from last year. Last year (summer 2011) the trail from east Marseilles through Seneca was full of wood debris and potholes. By mid summer, the owner of the sheep farm had scraped the trail with a tractor shovel (you could follow the tracks to the house) and the road was worse than before. My husband has a road bike, I have several touring/ mountain bikes (large knobby tires). We stopped riding there and rode only from Ottawa to Utica or Morris to Channahon. This year the section from east Marseilles to Seneca has been repaired. All potholes filled, wood debris removed, and the brush trimmed. Did not go as far as the washout between Seneca and Gebhard Woods. Don't know if that has been repaired. The section through Marseilles to Ottawa is still fit only for dirt bikes.
Last year found section in Channahon near McKinnley Woods had large limestone rocks rather than the crushed rock it should have had.
Tonight going to check out Ottawa to Utica.
I rode this trail roundtrip from Rockdale to Peru (61 miles) over two weekdays in late June, 2011 and pretty much had the trail to myself. You can park your car overnight at the Brandon Road trailhead. The trail is about 70% shaded so it’s comfortable on a hot day. The eastern part of the trail is much better maintained than the western segment. I saw workers applying new crushed limestone for a very smooth ride on part of the eastern segment.
Directly across from the entrance to Buffalo Rock State Park there’s a gate and a sign that the trail is closed west of that point. I kept going and found a long stretch to Utica that has not been maintained in awhile - a bumpy ride on my Raleigh hybrid. A mountain bike would have been better here. From Utica west, the trail was much better.
The worst segment of the trail starts just west of Marseilles. There, the canal and the trail are at the same level in a number of areas so there are many wet, muddy spots. I could get through but mud splattered the bike (and rider). I don’t think this would be at all passable during spring rains. The trail needs to be raised here. On the way back, I took Dee Bennett Road (which was not busy Friday morning) from Utica to the state park entrance where I rejoined the trail.
There are a lot of old locks and dams, some restored buildings and several working aqueducts (where the canal was carried over a river) which make for an interesting ride. The state publishes an excellent map, “I&M Canal Passage”, which details the entire route.
My pals & I set off from Romeoville for the 78-mile ride to Oglesby, IL along the I&M Canal trail. With the exception of ~4 miles in Joliet & ~5 miles after Buffalo Rock, bikers are on a nice path that allows for 15mph+ touring speeds along a nice, scenic trail. Those previously mentioned 9 miles require road riding; the first where there is no trail, the second where the trail is closed while they resolve a conflict with a nearby shooting range.
There are a few stretches (notably west of Marseilles) that could use a little TLC. They are muddy & unkept & ride like double-track mtn biking trails vs touring trails. They WERE navigable, but deserve a little upkeep in order to properly complete what is otherwise a splendid trail.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the delightful "Garzanelli's Supper Club" in Oglesby, IL. It was a perfect spot for 3 tired soldiers (after the 1st day's 78-mile pedal) to refuel for the run home.
A great path for taking parts of it or touring and riding the entire length. It’s packed gravel and can be ridden with a road bike and skinny tires.
There are several towns along the way, and motels and campgrounds, as well as having camping available along the canal. It roughly follows the Illinois River as well, so there’s several state parks along the way.
It varies between open fields and sunny and very shaded areas where you’re under trees. There are mile-markers and posts explaining the history and heritage of the canal. The path is also part of the GIT – the Grand Illinois Trail – and you can ride about 15-20 miles on highways to the Hennepin Canal Trail. Effectively, the Illinois and Michigan Canal Path and the Hennepin Canal Trail allow you to ride a good deal across the width of the state of Illinois.
"This was an enjoyable trail to ride. It's your normal crushed stone being at least 85% shaded. You pretty much follow the canal which isn't always visible. There's sections where you ride only 3 or 4 feet away, so be careful riding with kids. There's enough towns along the way to stop for a picnic or pick up something in the town. In Marseilles there's a nice Burger King. With very few roads to cross and very light traffic of the ones you do cross make it an idea trail for kids to ride on. If you start in La Salle you have to come off Rte. 351 north of the Illinois River. The bridge crossing the Illinois River is closed for construction."
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