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The Madison County Transit (MCT) Nature Trail goes through richly varied surroundings of city, farm and wood. In the west, it begins at beautiful Wilson Park in Granite City. From there, it makes its way through older city neighborhoods, where it provides a safe off-street path for local use. It does lack good signage in places; the first-time user may have trouble staying on course. But it’s a good way to slow down and enjoy this old river and railroad city.
The trail has two significant trail spurs to surface drainage features of this middle Mississippi floodplain. One goes north along a wide levee and canal system; one goes south to Horseshoe Lake and the MCT Schoolhouse Trail that runs along its shore. Just before this latter spur turns off, the trail crosses railroad tracks and becomes rail-with-trail and rail-trail, all the way to its end.
The trail continues through a wetlands area to intersect with the MCT Nickel Plate Trail, and then it's on to open farmlands of the fertile American Bottom. At one point, it goes alongside and crosses Chain of Rock Road, which was once a part of Old Route 66. At University Drive, the trail meets the MCT Bluff Trail, its link to the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
At that point, the trail leaves the floodplain and climbs gradually to wooded bluffs bordering school properties and residential neighborhoods, going on to cross the MCT Goshen Trail and the MCT Nickel Plate Trail (again) before it comes to an end in the old Leclaire neighborhood of Edwardsville.
To reach trail parking and access from I-270, take Exit 9 and go north on Bluff Road. At the stop light, continue straight ahead onto University Drive. Go 0.9 mile and turn left onto Country Club Road. As soon as you cross the lanes of southbound University Drive, turn back right onto Bluff Road. Drive 0.2 mile to the parking lot on the right.
Very well maintained trail. Long stretches without roads to cross or other things to slow you down. On the Granite City end there are lots of turns and crossings to negotiate. I ride this trail daily. 10/10
We started at the Schoolhouse Trail and connected it with the Goshen Taril to the Nature Trail for a total of 35 miles. Very nice trail, it had the best scenic views of the three we did. I would recommend you get the foldable map from mcttrails.org that shows the 100 miles of connected trails in that area.
Madison County has always been home to me, and my wife and I have been riding the trails since they were opened. There is a wonderful interconnected paved trail system here. As I write, still more miles of outlying crushed gravel trails are being upgraded with asphalt. We have encountered people from all over the country, as well as from places as far away as Europe and Australia, while out for an evening's ride.
Where the trails traverse neighborhoods it is common to see families walking/riding/skating after dinner. Turkey and deer are as common as the aforementioned rabbits. I had a groundhog kamikaze my front wheel last year!
There are many number of loops one could choose to ride...or simply go out and back. I do both on a regular basis. Click the "show all trails" button on this map site to see.
While in the area, be sure to visit the Cahokia Mounds, the largest pre white-man settlement in America, and the location of the biggest Indian mound in North America. This area is not unlike the Nile valley or Mesopotamia, except the early peoples here did not develop writing. As for the 100 foot high mound that is the centerpiece of that UN World Heritage Site, you can see it from several of the trails...just don't confuse the MAL landfill for it.
I would advise caution when parking at the far western end of the Schoolhouse trail. I haven't been there since they built the parking area, but it is in an area I learned to avoid many years ago. Just so you know.
I instantly knew where every photo posted for this trail was taken, and they are not all from the nature trail, but from a wonderful loop ride joining it with the Schoolhouse and Goshen trails. Come out and enjoy our local trails before I wear them out!
Or, almost all of it, I guess. We uploaded pictures we took to the Photo Gallery here. A snapshot [pun intended] of our most memorable sights along the trail. It's one of the trails for which we planned our travel direction--east to west--to take advantage of the downhill kick that comes with the transition from bluff top to old flood plain below. These rail-trails are so flat! The fun of an extra 5 mph with no extra work.. well, that's fun I'll take any day. East to west also let us end up in Granite City's beautiful old Wilson Park, where our ride back to the car took us right by an outdoor wedding in the gazebo. A great ending to a good day's ride.
All the trails are great. When it's hot, they are shaded, making it a comfortable ride. Lots of deer right by (if not on) the trail.
"I combined the Nature Trail and the Bluff Trail today, both of which were new to me. I rode most of the Nature Trail and all of the Bluff Trail. I took off early because temperatures were suppose to get near 100 (33.7C). Luckily the sky was partially overcast so it stayed cool and provided a fantastic canopy of colorful clouds for my ride.
Most of the trail was flat with only a few hills along the way. My trip was around 20 miles. Much of the ride was through farmland which was very scenic. There were lots of corn and crops due to the plentiful rains we have had so far this spring and summer. I passed a large field of sunflowers that was beautiful to see. I spotted a small Bluebird which you don't see too often in town. Of course there were some train cars, abandoned houses, and a few overgrown sheds as well. I passed some trailers and simple homes that surrounded a lake. I went under a highway I use everyday to travel to work and I was amazed at how much is missed from the Interstate when driving in the car.
The trail eventually connected to Southern Illinois University Campus, which was well manicured. I had to share the path with some joggers, skaters and other cyclist from time to time when I reached that point.
There were a lot of rabbits on this trail. Many of them young. I don't know why they like to sit out on the trail. It's almost like they're playmates are hiding in the brush, daring them to stay in open view until the last moment. Then after proving there bravery, they dart into the high grass. I love rabbits, they are such quiet, peaceful creatures."
"I have done this run several times. Even though this trail is eight miles, it connects to other trails. I park at the western end in Pontoon Beach. Parking is about a mile S. of I-270 on IL 111. Where 111 starts to go up the viaduct crossing the trail and RR, take the side road on the east to park.
The trail is asphalt paved and heads northeast crossing under I-255 and then over I-270. Two miles farther it crosses the access road to SIU-E. It also crosses the Bluff Trail (connects to the Delyte Morris Tr) at this point. At this point the MCT starts to climb out of the Mississippi River floodplain. A few miles farther the trail is closed (10/2002) a short distance past Prairie View Dr. due to IL-157 construction.
To detour, take Prairie View to Esic. Go left on Esic to the stoplight. Cross at the stoplight but do not enter the park. Ride along the outside of the fence a short distance and go down the hill to the MCT connector trail with a crushed limestone surface. (The 2 trails will connect once consturction is complete.) Make a right and head south approx 4 miles to Glen Carbon. It runs directly into the Glen Carbon Heritage Trail which is paved with an oil and fine gravel pavement.
Take this trail east for approximately seven miles until it ends (the railroad bed continues, and this section can be ridden on a mountain bike).
At this point you have gone nearly 20 miles through some very scenic and mostly secluded rail corridor. Turn around and head back. Trail passes next to a Casey's convenience store in Glen Carbon. Once IL-157 construction is complete there will be access to businesses in Edwardsville.
Bicycle Trail maps (IL Region 8) are available at the Cyclery in Edwardsville or from the State of Illinois. The latest edition is very up to date on these trails. For the state map, write to:
Illinois Department of Transportation
2300 S. Dirksen Parkway
Map Sales - Room 121
Springfield, IL 62764
You can also call the Illinois Department of Transportation at 217-782-0834."
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