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Ridgefield Trace currently consists of two short segments open for use. The western section runs from McHenry County College on US 14 in Crystal Lake to just west of N. Oak Street. Active railroad tracks prevent direct access to the eastern trail segment, which stretches from N. Oak Street to the northwest edge of Veteran Acres Park on Walkup Road.
Both sections of the trail occupy a ComEd electric utility corridor, but still offer wide open views of rural northern Illinois countryside.
In Veteran Acres Park, you'll find a nature center, athletic fields, restrooms, picnic shelters and a playground. Just east of the park, you can connect to the Prairie Trail, a scenic 28-mile rail-trail.
One day, Ridgefield Trace is planned to be much longer via an extension of the current pathway northwest from McHenry County College to the intersection of Lake Avenue and State Route 47 in Woodstock.
Parking is available in Veteran Acres Park (431 Walkup Road) on the east end of the trail. In the west, park at McHenry County College off US 14.
I live in Crystal Lake and work at McHenry County College, so when this trail was built, I had every intention of finally getting a bike and riding to work when the weather permitted. I was disappointed to discover the gap in the trail described by the other posters.
Last year I went ahead and got the bike and figured out how to get across the gap. What I do is come north on Oak St. to where the eastern leg ends, then cross the street and ride on the gravel road that leads to the power line tower. Then I ride across the grass to the railroad tracks. My entry-level Giant road bike has fairly wide tires, so this works for me. I pick the bike up, carry it over the tracks, walk it through the short path somebody mows through the field, then mount up again on the turnaround of the western leg. I don't recommend using the dirt path south of the tracks; it's rough and muddy, and now some of it has been wiped out by heavy equipment brought in for power line maintenance a couple of months ago.
The rest of the ride is pleasant and level, past a cow pasture and through a cornfield to McHenry County College.
A couple of weeks ago I rode the eastern leg to its terminus at Walkup Rd., crossed the street, took the asphalt path adjacent to Walkup north to Burning Bush Trail, then turned east. At that street's dead end, a short dirt trail connects to the gravel hiking-biking path in Sterne's Woods. At that point you're about 500 feet of gravel path from the paved Prairie Trail, which goes for miles in both directions from there. I plan to explore this more this summer.
As the two previous reviewers noted, the trail "ends" poorly about 1000 feet west of N. Oak Street, south of the tracks. You can pick it up again about 500 feet or 0.1 mile north of the tracks from Oak Street to continue east to Walkup Road and cross over to Veterans Acres Park. The actual trail is about 2.3 miles total.
Until Union Pacific Railroad (their right of way, their liability issues) allows improvement of the last 1000 feet of the path from the turnaround west of Oak Street, or someone pays for easement, cuts and paves a path in the field to the south, it is what it is. At least that's how I understand it.
I started at McHenry County College because I had not been able to locate the other end of this trail. There is no other end! It dead ends in a turnaround and just goes back. I didn't want to go all the way back to the college and noticed a man made trail through the brush. It was more than a little bumpy but took me out to Oak Street where a sign was posted "NOT A TRAIL". Until they decide to finish this trail I will not be back. It would be nice if it connected to Veteran's Acres which it could if the trail actually did continue to Oak Street.
I decided to check out this short, new (for me) trail but it didn't turn out to be as quick a ride as I had intended.
From Crystal Lake, there's no clear way to see where the trail starts. As you come from another portion of trails running behind some homes and unto the (according to the map) trail entrance, there's an ¿ arrow that leads literally nowhere. As I ventured unto what I thought could be the trail, it just ends at an electrical grid tower and couldn't see much more because of brush growth.
I really wanted to check it out as I was already there (somewhat), so I went out to the marked end point (MCC) & rode it back.
The trail itself is nice and paved the entire way. It's fairly straight and cuts through farmland so there are nice views of the countryside along the path.
The beginning of this specific trail as it turns out, is not at all marked. People have apparently been coming into it through a path running on the south side of the tracks and entering by a 'Not Trail' sign. If you have a mountain bike you'll be OK, but otherwise that might be a tough one & you may have to walk your bike the 100 or so yards until you reach the paved start to the trail as it is pretty rugged. Others have been entering by apparently cutting through the tall grass from the opposite side (north of tracks) as evidenced by the disturbed grass pattern.
I hope they fix that entrance issue and I look forward to the extended part of the trail when/if it happens. I'll post a few photos taken during my ride to give a better picture of Ridgefield Trace.
I hope this helps. Ride safely.
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