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The Madison County Transit (MCT) Schoolhouse Trail is part of the Transit District's system of more than 100 miles of urban and suburban trails—many of which are former railroad corridors, all of which are linked with public transit. This trail lies along an alignment of the old Illinois Traction System (Illinois Terminal Railroad) of electric trains which once connected St. Louis, MO to Springfield, IL. Various other MCT Trails are also on sections of this old rail network—as are the McKinley Bridge Bikeway, the Benld to Gillespie, and Interurban Trail.
The trail begins near the southwest corner of Horseshoe Lake State Park at Harrison Street in Madison. The smooth asphalt path travels east over Route 203 via a trail bridge and then onto the old railroad corridor. For a few miles, the trail shares this route with a utility corridor and passes heavily industrial business areas.
For this first part of the journey, Horseshoe Lake remains hidden from view to the southeast. But be patient. At mile 3, the lake bursts briefly into view when the trail emerges from a pocket of trees. The lake offers excellent bird watching. In late summer, the lake's southern portion is drained, drawing snowy egrets and great blue herons to feast on clams and snails.
About a mile after the lake first comes into view, there is a spur down to Lake Drive, which runs parallel to the trail for 1.1 mile, connecting to the trail at both ends and providing a constant and more scenic view of the lake. If you choose to stay on the main rail-trail, you will have only fleeting glimpses of the lake through the trees. Watch for a trail connection on the left—the MCT Nature Trail. Take this route if you wish to take an off-shoot trip 11 miles to the city of Edwardsville.
Leaving the lake area, you soon cross State Route 111, and the trail takes on a more rural feel, with vast farm fields on both sides. Interstate 255 is the halfway mark for the trail, and crossing under it brings you to the trail's halfway services at the MEPRD trailhead on the outskirts of Collinsville. Just when it seems like a more urban environment will prevail, the trail plunges you into wonderful woodlands behind very tidy neighborhoods. It is quiet through the hardwoods, disguising your proximity to a major interstate. The trees occasionally open to offer glimpses of the open fields that mark the landscape beyond the forest.
The town of Maryville almost sneaks by, but you will want to catch the respite offered by either the spur right to the YMCA or Drost Park on the trail's left. From here, you have 1.2 mile more to its end at the MCT Goshen Trail, which offers 7 more miles of pavement into the town of Edwardsville.
To reach the western trailend from I-55, take Exit 4 to IL Route 203 North. Proceed 2.1 miles and turn left onto Harrison St. Parking and the trailend are immediately on the left.
To reach the eastern trailend from I-55, take Exit 18 to IL Route 162 West. Proceed 1 mile and turn right onto Old Troy Rd. Parking is 500 feet ahead, on the right. From the parking lot, go 0.4 mile south on the MCT Goshen Trail, to its junction with the MCT Schoolhouse Trail.
Loved taking this trail today for some rollerblading. I've had trouble finding paths that are smooth, flat, and not too crowded, but this is it! The beautiful scenery around the lake was an added bonus.
I really enjoyed the scenery here as well as the wildlife. There are tons of shaded areas along the way and plenty of interesting things to look at. We saw a large buck, doe and little fawn as well as some larger birds.
The ride is really flat and super well-maintained, and Horseshoe Lake was really pretty during golden hour. My one caveat: where we parked (the very west end of the trail) didn't feel very safe.When we arrived, there were no other cyclists in the area and there was a dog roaming around without a collar. I know this sounds awfully judgy, but I am a St. Louis City resident who lives just off Grand and have seen my fair share of crime. Next time we'll just park the car further up the trail near other people.
Don't let that dissuade you front trying this trail!
Madison County out did themselves with these trails. They are flat for the most part, clear, spacious and well maintained. You can get a short ride or get a nice distance ride in like my buddies and I did from Horeshoe Lake out to Marine.Highly recommend.
Started at the western end for my run today and did 7.5 miles out and back. The course was very flat and perfect for running. No obstacles to impede your run if you are trying to do a workout. There was only 1 stoplight to go through for at least the first 8 miles of the course. The first 3 miles on the western end were isolated so use your best judgment on safety- that being said, I felt safe on the course
While St.Louis has many places to ride with more every year, MCT Trail network is the best place to ride in the whole St. Louis Metro area. The trails are paved , well kept, scenic, accessible, and make it very easy to crank out 40,60, 80+ miles. There are many places to "refresh and refuel" after your ride. I give them an A and would rank them up there with any other trail network in the country.
Thank you Madison County!
My wife and I rode this trail today and we were very impressed with how well kept the trails are. Also several areas that have bathrooms and water. We parked in the middle of the trail at the headquarters area which had air and tools as well! They seemed to have gone out of their way to make everything as pleasant as possible. We will surely be back!
We decided to ride this trail and connect it with the Goshen Trail, and the Nature Trail for a total of 35.8 miles. It is a nice ride, Horsehoe Lake is very pretty. Was able to see some deer along the way on the Goshen Trail. Overall it was a very nice ride, the nature Trail provided the most scenic part of the trail in my opinion. I would recommend that you get the small foldable map from mcttrails.org It shows the complete trail system of over 100 miles.
..and this trail (by a schoolhouse of yesteryear) is one I liked, too. All except the west end's parking lot in kind of a rough section of town. We had a nice chat with some fellow trikers we met on the trail, and it was a special treat to visit the MEPRD rest area at the halfway mark. They do so much to promote trail recreation in this area! I was really glad someone told me before about the alternate route on Lake Drive. The constant, 1-mile view of Horseshoe Lake was really nice.
This is the first trail I took my son on and he loves it, particularly going through tunnels under roadways :)
This was our first visit to the Madison County Transit Trails (in July 2013). It was a lot of fun and so much to see. We rode about 9 miles of the trail and then back again (about a total of 18-20 miles). We saw, bunnies, deer, a momma crane and 13 baby cranes along the way and also saw some RC planes flying around (which our 10 year old son absolutely loved-we had to stop along the trail and watch a while). It was awesome. We cannot wait to go back and ride some of the other trails. We drove 1 hour and 45 minutes to get there and were not disappointed. In fact, we cannot wait to go back!!!!!
We came from Melbourne, Australia to sample a few cycling rail trails. We brought our tandem recumbent with us. We collected a very comprehensive map from the Madison County Transit One Transit Way
Granite City, IL 62040-7500. The staff there were very friendly, willing and informative. We started from Citizen Park 299 Daenzer Dr Glen Carbon, IL 62034, a very well situated car park close to a local library. We used its restrooms as the trail ones were closed. We cycled in a loop starting on the Nickel Plate Trail then onto the Nature Trail towards Granit City, turning to Schoolhouse Trail along the Horseshoe Lake, then Goshen Trail to Edwardsville for lunch and desert at famous Annie's Frozen Custard. Yummy!!! We pedaled back to the car park via Nickel Plate Trail.
The day was very enjoyable. This network of trails is fantastic. The surface is all concrete or asphalt, very smooth. Well mapped directions with maps on every intersection. Uninterrupted green views everywhere with deer and squirrels. Restrooms with pergolas and benches were well situated along each trail.
It was a hot and humid May day, but with sheltered pathways the riding was made easy and pleasant.
We highly recommend the Trails and leave few photos for posterity.
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