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The Long Prairie Trail began life as a section of the Kenosha Division Rail Line in the 1850s, when most small communities in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin were serviced by the crisscrossing tracks of the "KD" Line as it traveled from Kenosha to Rockford, Illinois. The line offered passenger service as well as hauling an enormous amount of milk and ice from the dairies and lakes along the route.
The 14.4-mile trail today is pure prairie, and legend has it the railroad gets all the credit. For years, rail cars sparked periodic blazes along the grasslands adjacent to the right-of-way. Woody species could not tolerate the frequent burns, but the native swaths of prairie grassland along the corridor adapted easily and ensured their preservation.
The small villages of Capron, Poplar Grove and Caledonia are anchored by the beautiful paved rail-trail. Starting near the town of Capron at the McHenry/Boone County Line trailhead on County Line Road, you are immediately met with an interpretive sign detailing the Potawatomi Indians' history in the area. This is a pleasant sign of things to come, as there is great signage throughout the trail, with information ranging from area history to flora and fauna identification.
Traveling west you will parallel State Route 173 for close to 2.5 miles. The immaculate and large farm fields of Illinois farm country are a constant neighbor. The trail is located in one of the most rural areas of Boone County and that is apparent in the quiet nature of the ride. The countryside is broken up by stands of trees that create a tunnel of growth around the corridor. On sunny days you will be thankful for the shade.
The woods break into grasslands across which are gently rolling hills and small farms. Caledonia is a quaint Illinois village, with well kept streets and a Norman Rockwell-like feel to it. Leaving the village brings another 3.75 miles of quiet riding among the forest and fields before the trail ends near Wyman School Road. The trail's end is unceremonious: there are no facilities, including parking, here, although a direct connection to the unpaved Stone Bridge Trail allows for an additional 6-mile trek to the villages of Rockton and Roscoe.
Each village has trail parking and access. To reach the County Line Road trailhead near Capron from Interstate 90, take US 20 (Grant Highway) north for approximately 10 miles to Marengo. Turn right onto State Street (County Road 23) and go north for 10 miles. Turn left onto S. Division Street (US 14) and drive for just over a mile. Turn left on Brink Street (County Road 173), go 5 miles and turn right on County Line Road. The trailhead is 0.5 mile ahead on the left.
To reach the Randolph Street trailhead (3.75 miles before the trail's end at Wyman School Road) in Caledonia, take I-90 to Riverside Boulevard and go east for 1.25 miles. Turn left onto Argyle Road and go north for 2.8 miles. Turn left onto Belvidere Road. After 0.75 mile, turn right onto W. Lane Road (County Road 173) and continue for 2.4 miles. Turn right onto Caledonia Road and go 0.4 mile. Turn left on Randolph Street and look for the trailhead in two blocks.
This is a really nice trail, easy to access and even has a bathroom and parking area at the beginning. The scenery was beautiful. And it goes through a couple of little towns where you can stop for lunch.
Lovely trail. We started at East entrance. There is good parking and outhouse. Just off County Line Rd. We are leisurely riders. A few bumps but pretty normal for bike trails. Will do again for sure. Quiet and shaded where we were.
My husband and I have started riding the Long Prairie Trail again.We park in the lot near the Atwood Forest Preserve and go east. Pretty good for a few miles but further down, we couldn't believe how rough it had become. My husband blames the chipmunks for digging up the sides and tunneling under the path which pushes up the asphalt. It is so beautiful out there with a canopy of trees overhead, but boy is it rough east of Rt. 76. I wish there was more money to repair it. Maybe a fundraiser.
I rode this trail for the first time yesterday for the entire length from the eastern trailhead to the western point at McMichael Road where it crosses the county line and turns into the Stone Bridge Trail. At that point I turned around and rode back to my starting point. The tree canopy that is present most of the distance is wonderful as is the countryside the trail travels thru. The only negative I have is the continuous presence of bumps in the blacktop that I found to be very distracting. This is very unfortunate because everything else about the trail was great.
My family uses this trail often. Nice trail with great scenic views. This trail is nicely groomed, and provides a great work out. We have been using this trail for many years. We start at different points and are never disappointed.
I re-rode this trail from Caledonia to Capron two days ago. It wasn't as bumpy as I remembered from my ride last September, which was nice! There are some great sections which are basically tunnels of trees. It's an enjoyable ride but there are some rough sections of trail.
Hard to add anything new to the other 15 reviews. I did think the trail markers were above average in explaining the geology. Very interesting the way forests and prairie compete for dominance. In places, the asphalt has been damaged substantially by frost heaves.
Started in Capron but couldn't find designated parking area.Aside from that nice change of pace thru open rural and small town.Path could use some attention but,good overall.Fortunate to be able to go during the day to appreciate the solitude and wide open spaces.
Rode this today for the first time and it won't be the last. A beautiful location and trail, very few road crossings so you ride for long stretches without ever dealing with cars. If you want a ride where you fell like you're away from the city or suburbs, this would be excellent. One note, it's a little bumpy between Capron and Poplar Grove but once you're past that it's smooth. Hope you enjoy it!
I rode this trail for the first time today, a beautiful early fall Saturday. Finding the eastern trail head just east of Capron, IL was easy and there were 10+ parking spaces and a restroom. I had a great ride to the western end and back and will do this trail again.
Some of the eastern end of the trail needs some repairs and resurfacing, but on balance the trail was even, flat and full of interesting views of Boone County farmland and small towns.
The Saturday morning traffic on the trail was moderate and polite. A mix of walkers, joggers, fellow bikers and some deer. Several rest stops are on the trail and appreciated.
A morning ride would be best if initiated on the eastern trail head as the rising sun will be behind you. On your return the sun will be higher in the sky and the western prevailing winds could give one a "push".
There is enough tree lined trail to challenge the upkeep as was pointed out in a previous review, however it looked like maintenance had been active this summer with many fresh tree cuts and piles of wood along the shoulder.
Several small towns along the ride gave one a chance to rest, refuel and/or sight see. A nice mix of straight open trail, tree lined rail bed and some small towns where one could imagine where trains had traveled before.
It was a nice chance to ride through the northern Illinois farm country on asphalt not dedicated to automobiles.
Yesterday I traveled to Capron, IL, to do a long run (20 miles) on the Long Prairie Trail. The trail head is located in Capron, but when I arrived, the parking area was gated and a sign that said that the area was temporarily closed due to temporary budget cuts was affixed to the gate. No snow had been removed from the parking area, so I wouldn't have been able to park there even if the gate had been open.
Instead, I drove down to Caledonia, where I knew there was a parking area that wasn't gated (there was still a sign there that said the area was temporarily closed due to budget cuts). I set out from Caledonia and ran east to Capron and back, a little over 20 miles total for the entire round trip.
The trail itself is in good shape overall, but there were patches that were in need of repair. Some of the path that runs along 173 has some potholes and there are some areas that have cracked and sunk down. Before I got to Capron, there were two large dead trees blocking the path, but I managed to scoot underneath them and keep going (if you were a cyclist, there was no way to get around them). In some areas, specifically the Caledonia parking lot and passing through Poplar Grove, there was a strong odor of rotting trash that made for a not-so-pleasant experience. The restroom at the Caledonia parking area was pretty dirty; it looked like it had not been cleaned in quite some time.
The trail experience itself was pretty good, however; very scenic and I felt pretty safe while running. It was relatively busy when I was there in the mid-afternoon, passing a few other runners and cyclists. There are many rest areas (especially along the part that parallels 173) and even signs for a snack shop near Caledonia. The road crossings were safe and easy, and there are historical markers to stop and read as you get closer to Capron and within Capron itself.
Overall, I will go back and run this trail again. I would love to run this when spring has finally sprung and everything is green instead of brown.
I like to take the METRA commuter train from Chicago to Harvard. There is a short hellish stretch to get to the eastern trail head on State Road 173 where I have to walk for about a mile because of heavy traffic and no shoulder. As awful as it is, the Long Prairie Path and the Stone Bridge Trail are worth it. If you hook up with the Dorr Road path you can make it to Beloit where their are a wide choice of accommodations. The second day, you can take Beloit-Newark Road to County T to Brodhead, WI and pick up the Sugar River trail and stay in lovely New Glarus. That's close to 50 miles, but the Sugar River is 23 of it so it's flat and pretty fast. The third day, you can pick up the Badger State Trail to Madison, WI. That's about 27-32 miles depending on where in Madison you want to end up. I think more people would do this if you could get to the trail without being a few feet away from speeding trucks.
Today was the first time I've ridden this trail. I felt that the scenery was absolutely beautiful. Riding through both wooded areas, farmland and prairie. But the trail isn't well maintained, and very bumpy in some places. Most of the trail was alright, but the parts that were bad, were quite bad.
Nice trail, not too much traffic. The roads it crosses are not hard to cross. The trail is in need of some repair but it is not unbearable. There is some pot holes and a couple of bigger bumps but over all nice trail.
I ride this trail regularly and was last on it in June of 2012. This trail is actually much longer that it appears, with extensions going north towards South Beloit and west towards Capron. Trail surface begins as crushed limestone and switches to asphalt as you ride west. Trail is well cared for and very shady. Poplar Grove is a nice place to stop to get food and drink--there's also a grocery store in Poplar Grove.
Wilma and I went out yesteday (Christmas Eve) for a nice walk.
We parked At Roland Olson FP and walked east to Brown Conservation Park where the trail crosses Caledonia Road.
Pictures and video at http://ilbob.blogspot.com/2011/12/long-prairie-trail-12-24-11.html
The section we walked included about a half a mile of the Stone Bridge Trail. Base Camp said it was 5.4 miles round trip. Sounds about right.
Brown Conservation park is fairly new and is not shown on the Boone County Conservation District map of the trail or even as a facility on the web site, although it is mentioned in one of their newsletters online.
The trail is blacktop, about 10 feet wide. It is the same old RR bed as the Stone Bridge Trail, constructed similarly. Much of the trail has steep drops offs along side it, some times 40 or 50 feet, and a few places it is level to the adjacent land. There are even a few places where it has been dug out and there are 5 to 10 foot high berms along side it. Like the SBT, there is a mostly wooded buffer of 30-50 feet on either side of the trail. The trail section we were on was well maintained.
The scenery is a lot different than the SBT though. It is mostly farm lands, so I did not feel like I was walking thru people's back yards so much. There are several stone culverts that go under the trail. I don't know if they are for drainage or once provided access to the farm fields, or both. The steep sides along the trail would make it difficult to explore them, except at one spot where it might have been possible. Probably would have been a nice picture but it was on our way back and I did not have the time to spend. There are a number of places where farmers cross the trail to get to their fields. Some are marked with signs and stripes on the trail, a couple are not marked at all. Some have pavement adjacent to the trail for the farmers, others don't.
We ran across some joggers, walkers, and bikers. Maybe a total of 8 to 10 people and 2 dogs. We even ran across an older couple with the two dogs. The man was pushing the woman in a wheel chair. They had two dogs with them. One dog was an older golden retriever who I ran across sleeping at the trail head at McMichael Road. They said he was too old to walk but wanted to come out with them so he slept there and waited for them to come back. I am not normally a fan of loose and/or unleashed dogs but both dogs were friendly and well behaved. They pointed to a house near the trail head where they live.
Parking, toilets, and water at both Roland Olson FP and Brown Conservation Park although Brown Conservation Park where we turned around seemed to be semi-closed. The parking area was blocked off, but the well worked, and the toilets were open. I am going to email the district and ask about it, as I kind of had in mind parking there next week one day and walking another section toward the east and back.
We recently got a hitch and bike rack for our van and this was our first outing as whole family all 5 of us - my wife and I and our 10, 7 and 4 year old boys. My wife pulled our youngest on his tag-a-long bike and I helped keep the pack in line and warned of oncoming riders. We only went 3 miles out and back starting in Poplar Grove and heading east toward Capron but it was an enjoyable ride. The boys were tired at the end this having been their first long ride.
The trail was fairly busy on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. When we got back to the car we stopped at The Trail Stop and got some yummy ice cream afterwards. I highly recommend stopping there for a treat if you don't mind stocking back up on those calories you just spent. It is right next to the trail where it crosses State St in Poplar Grove.
For some reason this trail officially ends half way between Caledonia and highway 251 but in fact you can ride all the way to 251 which as another reviewer pointed out makes for a total of about 20 miles one way. We didn't right that direction but I know it goes all the way..
All in all a great trail.
i decided to see how far i could get on this trail yesterday..i started out at the very begining of the Stone Bridge trail at Rockton Rd and 251 and rode til the very end of Long Prairie Trail.. it was just over 20 miles one way! pretty long ride..nice flat path but not much to see besides trees and fields! but 40 miles round trip was some great exercise!
Took the day off work on a couple weeks ago and decided to ride the Long Prairie trail. This trail was perfect. 28 miles round trip makes this a great day ride. The trail was flat, paved and scenic. There were some great stops along the trail too. Be sure to search off the trail where the derailment occured. There is a remnant of the old train car. Incredible at how the thick steel was "ribboned" . There are about 3 small towns that you pass through on this trail. One of which has a little store to get some cold drinks. If you don't know already, take a stop over at geocaching.com. There are numerous geocaches to find along the way too.
This is a nice trail. They have alot of rest areas. The trail is very flat and easy riding. This trail would be great for new riders.
"This is definitely a nice regional trail, which passes through scenic and flat farm country. In addition, there are a couple of attractive and congenial places to get a bite to eat and something to drink in Poplar Grove. Still, I wouldn't go too far out of my way to ride this trail."
"This is what a dream bike path is...level and paved and runs through the countryside with lil' country towns in between. It's a great family path. A good place to start is Caledonia, Illinois, on Hwy 173. Directly behind the grain elevators is a great parking lot.
Go east into Popular Grove and farther or take the trail northwest out of Caledonia to a forest preserve less than five miles away. This part of the path becomes crushed limestone, which even I, a 55+ granny on a bike with no speeds, handled pretty well. The scenery is worth it.
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