Rock River Recreation Path


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Rock River Recreation Path Facts

States: Illinois
Counties: Winnebago
Length: 10 miles
Trail end points: Davis Park (Rockford) and Harlem Rd. (Loves Park)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6015796

Rock River Recreation Path Description

The paved Rock River Recreation Trail winds throughout downtown Rockford and environs, following the east bank of the Rock River through Shorewood Park and Martin Memorial Park. Officially, the trail begins at Davis Park on the west bank of the river; you can cross the river just about anywhere but the trail segments on this side are short and disconnected. There are about 6 miles of paved trail, while another 10 miles (depending on where you begin) follow along roads. The best place to begin is at Whitman Street bridge. Head north along the east bank until the trail is interrupted at the neighborhood Illinois Street. To pick up the next trail segment, take Illinois then go left at Ransom Place, north (right) on Arlington, east (left) on Snow, and take an immediate right on Forest Grove, which dead-ends where the trail picks up.

After passing through Shorewood Park, in a short distance you'll reach Evelyn Avenue; go east (left) then north (right) on East Drive to River Lane; turn east (left) and pick up the trail again.

At E. Riverside Boulevard, the trail crosses the river on the south side of the bridge. Just over the bridge, you'll cross to the other side of Riverside Boulevard at the intersection (use caution) and continue north on the trail along the west bank.

For part of its route the trail parallels active railroad tracks, and some segments of the trail are linked via road. At the bend in the river, the trail crosses the tracks and enters Sportscore One, where it does a 0.75-mile loop around the playing fields. Continue north on the trail from Elmwood Road to Harlem Road (about 0.5 mile), crossing under Harlem to loop around the Winnebago County Forest Preserve.

Cross over the Harlem bridge via a pedestrian/bike path to pick up the Bauer Memorial Path.

Parking and Trail Access

Parking for the trail is available at any of the parks, at Machesney Park Mall or the lot adjacent to the YMCA. Ample parking is available at Sportscore One and in downtown Rockford near State and Madison. Power chair users will find several electrical outlets along the path.

Rock River Recreation Path Reviews

Decent trail, beautiful views, some bumps and navigational confusion

Really nice trail, but not well marked. Because it jogs from trail to street and over bridges it took some doing to navigate correctly. But it is a decent paved trail, great views of the Rock River, and not many other cyclists. Glad I took my hybrid, though, because there were lots of cracks and bumps and I"m not sure a road bike would be very happy on this trail.

Please note: when you cross the bridge on Riverside Dr. heading north, the trail connection restarts IMMEDIATELY at the end of the bridge on the other side of the road. There is nothing to indicate the path entrance and you have to go up to the light on the south side of the road to cross the street and go down the sidewalk on the north side to regain the trail. There is also one really steep switchback to get you down to the river level again.

The best part of the ride was the last northern section from the sports complex up to the forest preserve. Great blacktop, beautiful scenery! A road bike would be fine on this section.

YMCA to Rock Cut and back, why not?

The path can be followed just as described, I would add this crowded trail bypass: go across the Whitman St. bridge to N. Main, go north to Harlem all the way back to Auburn St. bridge and the trail, bypassing the couples their tiny tots and both dogs packing the Rec Path from the Symbol to the 'Y'.

Mega route: continue to the trail end at Machesney Park Rd and N. 2nd, except take the shopping mall road and cross N. 2nd at the north intersection, since need to head north anyways. Continue north 2 blocks on the frontage road to Minns Dr. take it all the way to Alpine Rd.
The trail to Rock Cut State Park, called Willow Creek Path, starts at the overpass just north of Minns Dr. but south of Harlem High School.
You can instead keep on going on Minns and run into the path - turn right.

Places to stop for food on the way: Riverside Blvd. McDonalds a short block from the bridge.
In Rock Cut at the boat rental area is also an eatery - very good food, air conditioning, ice cream treats. Open all summer.
Get there before the scones are gone.

Nice Ride

Very well maintained. As others have stated, very busy from the YMCA to the Auburn Street bridge, but much lighter after that. Other than people taking up too much of the path, it's really not a problem. It could use some better signage on the roadway sections. Some of the roadway sections have a lot of loose gravel due to poor road maintenance. I regularly ride this path since I live near downtown. Taking it up to the Forest Preserve headquarters and around the loop there at the north end makes for a very nice ride. I've also used it to connect to the Willow Creek path and then on to the Perryville path.

One of my favorite paths

I ride this several times a week and really enjoy this path. It does get busy between Auburn Rd and Whitman St but north of Auburn there are just a few people. On Wednesday evenings when you ride through Shore wood park you can watch the Ski Broncs perform on the river.


Love riding this trail

It can be pretty busy between the Y (downtown) and Sinnissippi, so I typically don't ride that part. However, I love going north of that. It is pretty ride along the river -- you can also jump off and go through neighborhoods.

This isn't a really long path, but you can cut across the north side (Victory - Rossevelt, etc..) to get all the way to Rock Cut State Park or the Perryville Road path. And you can do this without getting on any major roads.

I have also been impressed with the way the park district keeps this path clean of snow and debri.

Be ready to make a lot of lane changes

Great path, especially near the Y. Very well maintained and the view of the river is excellent. Been extremely popular for years so expect lots of people. Mainly walkers and dogs.

Just ok..way too short.

People in Rockford are not too bright when it comes to bike paths. You see there is this little thing called the rules of the road which means that you drive on the right side and pass on the left. The same applies to bike paths at least everywhere else. But people in Rockford have a hard time understanding this concept thus making the path dangerous. And 7 miles is pretty short for a bike path sorry.

One of Rockford's Crown Jewels

This popular path connects many Rockford parks as it travels from the heart of Rockford to Loves Park. Stately homes line the rivers edge. The few areas that require the use of city streets are marked and lightly traveled by vehicles. In other areas there are marked side walks. The two locations that cross the Rock River, at Jefferson and Riverside, have very nice planked bridges. Riverside is a busy road with a button to push at the pedestrian crossing a block west of the river. After crossing turn back toward the river. The trail could use a sign there when traveling north. This urban path is a nice contrast to the many rural paths we often ride. It's nice to see others out enjoying their day. I highly recommend a bell for your bike to let the many walkers know you're passing. It seems more polite than yelling "on your left"!

Martin Park to Whitman Street

We parked at Martin Park and went south to Whitman Street - 7.9 miles round trip according to Base Camp. There are a bunch of parks and other attractions on the way. We walked three segments of the path that are joined by two segments that are on city streets.

About two thirds of the route is actual bike path and the rest is city streets. There are no signs directing you how to get between the discontinuous segments of the path, so unless you know how to get from one segment to another, you are just out of luck. The streets used to get from segment to segment are relatively lightly used, so are not too bad for bikes. Sidewalks are sporadic and I often ended up walking in the street in the on street segment between Shorewood Park and Illinois Street Park.

The first segment of the actual bike path we walked was in Martin Park. This park is located at the SW corner of the Rock River and Riverside Blvd. You can't get to it from Riverside though. There is a sign on Riverside Blvd at East Drive directing one south to Shorewood Park that is where you turn to get to Martin Park. If you continue down East Drive it also goes to Shorewood Park.

Martin Park is a typical city park. It has grass, playground equipment, picnic tables, benches, water fountains, trash cans, etc. It has a boat launch and an indoor picnic shelter with toilet facilities (real flush toilets too). Walking by I saw padlocks on them and thought they were locked but the hasps were open so you could use them. There is also a lagoon.

The on street segment from Martin Park to Shorewood Park comes out of the south end of Martin Park one block east on River Lane to East Drive. It takes East Drive south to Evelyn Avenue where it runs east for about a half a block to where the bike path picks up again in Shorewood Park. About 1/2 a mile on streets. There is no sidewalk along River Lane. There is a sidewalk along East Drive and Evelyn Avenue, but it is only continuous along the west side of East Drive and only exists along the south side of Evelyn Avenue. The sidewalk is narrow, and there are a number of places where vegetation has grown out over the sidewalk. There are hand painted arrows on the street showing you how to get from Martin Park to East Drive, probably left overs from a bike-a-thon or something.

Shorewood Park also has the typical city park facilities. It also had flush toilets. The Ski Broncs arena is located here. They do ski exhibitions during the summer. I think they are free to the public, but not sure. There is a lagoon here with a boardwalk. I did not try the boardwalk on our way south as there were a bunch of children playing on it. On the way back it was quite dark, and we went out about half way on the boardwalk to where one side of the boardwalk has sunk about 8 or 10 inches. I decided not to walk any farther in the dark on a boardwalk that crooked.

After coming out of Shorewood Park, we proceeded south to Illinois Street Park. I think the official route is supposed to be to come out on Forest Grove St. one block SE to Snow Ave, 1/2 a block east to Arlington St, south to Ransom Place, east to Illinois St., and then south along Illinois Street to Illinois Street Park. It's about 3/4 of a mile on street. We did not take this route exactly either coming or going. Sidewalks are pretty sporadic along this route, and many spots sidewalks did not exist at all. There are some hand painted markings on the streets I noticed here and there but they were not especially helpful.

Illinois Street park is mostly just a field along Illinois Street. I noticed some benches and trash cans. There was a toilet building at the south end of the park. It was open. Flush toilets. Outside the toilet building was a water fountain. It even had a dog water bowl. Illinois Street goes along a rail road line that does not appear to currently be in use. The bike path is adjacent to the RR line all the way from Illinois Street Park to Whitman Street, never more than about 50 feet away.

The bike path starts up again at the south end of Illinois Street Park where the street dead ends into the bike path. Sinnissippi River Front Park starts at the south end of Illinois Street Park and continues along the river front all the way down to the YMCA complex that is located at Whitman Street.

There is an underpass at Spring Creek Road. I have seen it flooded several times from the road, but there is a path segment that goes up to the road for those occasions. The Symbol sculpture and several smaller versions of it can be found in this park. Sinnissippi Gardens and Lagoon are also here, although the lagoon is currently closed for construction. They are also building a new boat dock near the lagoon.

Just south of the lagoon is Nicholas Conservatory. There is an outbuilding here with a water fountain and flush toilets. There was a dog dish there with water in it, but Wilma refused to drink from it. She generally does not like to drink from community water bowls. She did drink some water out of my hand though.

The YMCA complex is located to the south at Whitman Street. It is a lot larger than I realized. They have a picnic shelter and toilet facility and water fountain they maintain along the path just north of Whitman Street. There is a sign that says the toilet facility is only open during the summer months and only during certain hours. For some reason it closes early on weekends, but is open till 10 pm during the week.

The path actually continues on a pedestrian bridge across Whitman Street, and then just stops on the west side of the river. We did not go across the bridge. Just turned around and went back when we got to the bridge.

There were a lot of geese along the path segment in River Front Park. Lots of goose poop on the path. People feed the geese so of course they hang around the path. The park district has spent hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of dollars trying to control the goose problem, but it does not appear to have had any real effect since the last time I was down that way maybe 15 years ago.

Lots of walkers, bikes, and dogs taking their humans for a walk. Several people stopped to pet Wilma. One woman gave her a couple of treats. The bikers were an assortment of casual bikers, kids, and bikers in a big hurry. I did not see anyone on roller blades. I have heard the kids on roller blades can be quite obnoxious and was glad they were not out today to run over Wilma.

I doubt I will walk this again any time soon. I prefer a less crowded and more scenic path. I also prefer other than paved surfaces. I can walk on city streets anywhere. The actual bike path segments are nice. It is too bad they were never able to connect them up properly. Given how disruptive it would be to do so (especially between Martin and Shorewood Parks), I doubt the path segments will ever be connected.

My route map and some video posted at:

Heavenly path!

I've been using this path for the past 10 years. Ever since I moved here from Phoenix as a boy, I can't get enough of it. I absolutlely love the scenery. It's close to a lot of neighborhoods in the downtown area of Rockford. There are geese that use the path as a restroom more towards the beginning but it's fine if you just dodge through that. The underway underneath the Auburn bridge does flood on rare occasions. If that happens, you can just go over the bridge. The scenic path doesn't cease to bring me back out of nostalgia. It's beautiful! It goes on forever and the beauty doesn't stop. I really enjoy the steep and curvy hill part of the path after crossing the Riverside bridge. I'm actually about to ride it today. All 17 miles of it plus the route to and from home are perfect for my exercising pleasure. I reccomend to everyone!

Sections of trail stitched together by streets

It is not really a single path so much as a series of discontinuous path sections, joined by streets. It starts at Davis Park downtown on the west side of the river and heads north for a few blocks thru the park, and maybe a block farther outside the park and just stops. The next segment starts at the Whitman Street bridge about 3/4 of a mile to the north. There is a bike way across the river and on the east side of the river the bike path heads north thru Sinnissippi Gardens, past Spring Creek Road and into Riverfront Park. It stops at the north edge of this park. It picks up again at Shorewood Park and stops at the north edge of the park, if you count the park road as part of the path. There is a break until you get to Martin Park in Loves Park. It winds thru Martin Park and back across the river at Riverside Blvd. There is a bike/pedestrian bridge there but you have to go a block or two to the west to a stop light to get across Riverside, cross the street, and then come back for the next chunk. The last chunk is continuous from Riverside Blvd all the way to Harlem Road (Frank Bauer Pkwy)on the west side of the river. It connects to the Bauer Path and into the forest preserve district HQ trails at the bridge. The nicest sections are the Sinnissippi Garden section and the part north of Riverside Blvd up to Sportscore.

Back years ago when I had a bike I biked this path a number of times. My brother used to jog it. My niece used to roller blade on it. It gets a lot of use. I have heard a fair number of complaints about the obnoxious roller bladers that use the path. Mostly I think they use the part north of Whitman Street, which is the most heavily used section. There have been large numbers of geese on this section of the path in the past. The geese tend to mess up the path. I have not been on this section of the path in a long time now so I can't comment as to whether the geese are currently an issue or not.

I have noticed that the part of the path that goes under Spring Creek Road seems to flood now and then.

Wilma and I hiked one of the nicer segments north of Riverside Blvd not long ago. I posted some video and pictures on my blog.

I would just skip the part downtown, unless you like biking or walking along busy city streets. There is nothing downtown to see except government buildings for the most part, and Davis Park where the trail starts is not one of the nicest areas of town. The parts north of Whitman Street are nice, even where you have to go out on city streets. They are not especially busy streets.

There is plenty of parking along the way as others have mentioned. I think all the parks are Rockford Park District so bathroom facilities are probably plentiful in warmer times, but non-existent when it is cold, as the district relies mostly on port-a-potties that are removed when it gets cold.

I don't recall if they plow it during the winter or not. I know some parts are plowed, but I don't know if the whole thing is.

pretty nice

A real good short ride, surface in good shape. The previous tp about the YMCA is right on. Lots of places to stop, johns ,pay phones (yes they still exist), concession stands, picknick shelters I give it a solid A.

Rock River Recreation Path

great path - Sinnissippi gardens undergoing construction now - will be Nicholas Conservatory...path is very nice even with constructon. Lots of parking at Sportscore I (beginning/end of the path), Martin Park, or Shorewood Park, Cliffbreakers (hotel), Rockford YMCA...or downtown Rockford...near State & Madison...more on Madison near Waterside Park (end/beginning of path)
great ride along the river - very pretty -- enjoy it!!
Jackie M May 2010

Rockford Bike Path

this is a pretty nice bike path. we park at the ymca and start riding from there. its a well maintained trail.. it goes on from sinnissippi park (a nice stretch) .. then a few blocks on the city streets to the next park..through that park onto the streets again for a few more blocks to another park then across the riverside bridge and street to a steep trail down along the rockriver and through the woods to the sportscore park where the trail ends.. a great trail for bikes.. some areas not so great for inline skating! my biggest problem with skating on the bike path sometimes there are large amounts of people walking on and all over and across the path blocking it completely leaving no room to pass..(i find that using my airhorn works nicely when trying to get people to pay attention and get out of the way!)

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