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The western segment of the Great Western Trail in Illinois follows 17 miles of a former railway corridor through DeKalb and Kane counties, between LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve and the town of Sycamore. Another section of the Great Western Trail is found in DuPage County to the east. The Chicago Great Western Railway (later Chicago and North Western) was called the Corn Belt Route because it linked Chicago, Minneapolis, Omaha, and Kansas City.
At the trailhead on Dean Street in Saint Charles, you will find restrooms, water, and a connection to the Randall Road Bike Trail, if you want to extend your trip. The trail surface is primarily crushed stone, but occasional paved sections appear toward its eastern end. The trail surface and adjacent areas are well maintained, and the trail is well integrated within the local community.
This busy section of trail heads northwest toward Wasco and offers opportunities along the way for food and refreshments. A pleasant combination of tree canopy cover and open areas with wildflowers keep the pathway from becoming routine.
A few miles from the west end of the trail, you’ll find the Sycamore Speedway and its racing-themed restaurant located on the right for all those with a secret interest in stock car racing and demolition derbies. The trail continues about 4 miles more before the rail-trail portion ends at the small parking lot at Old State Road, on the outskirts of Sycamore.
From this location, an on-road route continues mostly along shared roadways through Sycamore Community Park, the Sycamore Community Golf Course, and residential neighborhoods to a connection with the DeKalb-Sycamore Trail (also known as the Peace Road Trail).
In winter, allowable uses include cross-country skiing and snowmobiling (the latter west of Wasco and when snows reach 4 inches).
On the east end of the trail in Saint Charles, a trailhead with parking can be found in the LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve. From I-88, take the exit for IL 31 E near mile marker 117. Head north on IL 31 for 8.8 miles. Turn left onto W. Main St./IL 64. In 0.5 mile, turn right onto N. Ninth St., which becomes Dean St. Take Dean St. 1.2 miles to the forest preserve’s parking lot, which will be on your left.
In Sycamore, on the west end of the trail, parking is located off Old State Road. From I-88, take Exit 94 for Peace Road, and head north on Peace Road. Follow the roadway 6.6 miles, then turn right onto W. State St./IL 64. Follow IL 64 for 2.6 miles east to its intersection with Old State Road. Veer left to get onto Old State Road and take this road to the parking lot, which is only about 400 feet farther.
I frequently am on the GNW Trail between Gary Avenue and County Farm Road. The location is beautiful but the surface has become very uneven for bicyclists as well as for runners. It is so uneven that runners risk sprained ankles. Is there a way you could even it out? Thank you.
We've ridden the Great Western trail from St. Charles to Sycamore and back a bunch of times. It became one of our favorite rides during the pandemic because it is much less crowded than the trails in the more densely populated parts of the Chicago area. It's pretty straight and reasonably flat. There are a reasonable number of trail users near the St. Charles trail head but the trail is never crowded and the Sycamore end of the trail is pretty deserted. The scenery is more agricultural than wild but it's nice nevertheless. The trail surface is a mix of asphalt and gravel and is in pretty good shape. If you follow the trail towards Sycamore from the Great Western trailhead there is a park with tables, benches and a restroom which is where we usually take a break before returning to St. Charles.
09/01/2021 - Excellent trail. Beautiful September day for a ride. This is a well maintained trail perfect for road or mountain bikes. Rode from Sycamore trail head to the St. Charles ( LeRoy Oakes Forest Preserve) head and back. I can highly recommend to any biker looking for a great ride. And a special thanks to the gentleman who joined me spontaneously for part of the way. Good conversation always makes the miles go fast.
This is a lovely trail! Fairly level with a few inclines along the wAy, this trail is well maintained and it’s such an enjoyable ride. A new fire house in Lily Lake has a bike pump and a water filling station. A large picnic table is available for a nice stop. Restaurants are available along the trail but you have to cross Rt 64. The Dean Street parking lot is nice and has restrooms. My friend and I love the Fox River Trail, but we’ve just made this trail a new addition to our favorite list.
This is my go-to trail. It's a straight shot, and fairly open to the wind and sun, but I love it for the meditational aspects. There's light traffic on the trail and crossroads (and better yet, bridges over some crossroads). This lets my mind wander and enjoy the ride. I love to start at Wasco and ride west out-and-back toward Virgil and Sycamore.
The Great Western Trail is very close to my home so I ride this trail often. I park in different areas and take a spin out from there. The scenery goes from a canopy of woods to open farmland. On a very windy day the open farmland can be a bit of challenge for me. I park on Wooley rode off of Rt 47 and ride east to St Charles on windy days. Lots of woods and protection from the wind this direction so the ride is easier for me. A stop in Wasco is a must. Great café with good coffee and nice sandwiches. I park in Sycamore many times and ride to Woolley road and back. Great views of the Midwest farmlands. Each direction gives you a 20 - 22 mile ride. If you ride towards St Charles be sure and cross Dean Street into LeRoy Oaks Forest Preserve and see the wild flowers in bloom in early spring. Just beautiful. LeRoy Oaks Forest Preserve is at the end of the Great Western Trail at the eastern terminus.
For several years I've ridden this path and waited for word to get out as to how GREAT it is. To get the full effect I usually ride from Dean Street in St. Charles out to Sycamore. That's about 35 miles. The trail is a mix of asphalt and crushed limestone and it's 100% well maintained. There's a good split of canopy and sunlight offering riders an opportunity to cool off under the tree's and get decent views in other spots. The trail takes you through a couple of small towns, each of which offers opportunities for food/water. There are several bridges along the way as well as benches and picnic tables for rest breaks. West of Campton Hills you'll probably see a drastic drop in traffic. You'll also see a nice mix of wildlife out here. A great number of birds including an electric blue finch-like bird frequents the area, as do horse farms and other small critters. Just a beautiful path that runs through forested areas, over small streams and b offers great views of the distant prairie. Cheers
Solid 17 mile path for a decent workout. Fairly flat and well maintained. Follows highway IL 64 for the most part but does veer away in certain parts. Country and town mixed together. Excellent ride for the recreational biker who wants to get away but not to far away from civilization for a couple hours. Started and ended in Sycamore so there are easy amenities before and after the ride.
I have done this trail a few times with my friend. It was semi-open and is a nice easy flat ride. The view is nice to ride through but would not be my choice for a windy day for lack of protection. If you looking for a nice all day ride path this is it. Start on one side, do a nice lunch at the other side town and ride back. The path is not busy even on weekends so have fun with it.
If yo are looking for a trail that is pretty flat and easy to ride, then this one is for you. My best friend and I like to meet on this trail as it is a perfect midway point between us. There is nothing fancy about the trail, and the scenery is standard fair, but it is well maintained and very pleasant. If you have children, I would suggest this trail because there are no difficulties to be found. Great trail for a relaxing day ride!
This is the class of Northern IL, flat and consistently in great shape for long endurance rides.
Not too many road crossings. Many of the industrial buildings are semi-hidden by trees. Good surface. Not really that busy.
Great trail. I walk 10 miles a pop (5 miles out, then back). I've tried all of it. Sure, it would be nice to have some more "facilities" at various points, but that is a huge maintenance cost, I'm sure.
The only downside - and this is not a fault of the trail - is that cyclists in the U.S. have no trail etiquette nor consideration for others. They will come up from behind and pass - usually very close - without so much as a bell ring or a word of their approach. Really inconsiderate.
I parked in the LeRoy Oakes parking lot. Pit toilet there and water. (Hand sanitizer would be nice to have there, though.) There are several Picnic tables and a shelter. The trail changes periodically from asphalt to crushed limestone. Well maintained. There were several people using the trail: walkers & runners, exercise bikers, and like me, casual bikers. I love the amount of shade, bird songs, prairie flowers and even saw a doe cross the trail. The mulberries are ripening. Yum! All in all it was very peaceful. Although I only went 5 miles (& 5 miles back), it was very pleasurable.
We went on a Sunday morning expecting it to be packed. Not so! The first 4-5 miles on the eastern end had some people, but beyond that, very sparse. Good amount of shade for the eastern 2/3 - the trees also cut down the wind (may be an issue on the more open west end). A couple bridges in place of hills, but worth it not to have to cross busier streets. Trail in EXCELLENT condition!!! Just some very minor damage from horses around the middle (8-9 mile mark) of the trail, mainly traveling west. Mile markers for the eastern 2/3 but absent on the west end. Good size parking lot at the east end. If you want to do a pleasant, hassle-free ride, without killing yourself on hill after hill, this is the perfect trail.
I tried this trail on 4/6/14. The limestone portion west of the short paved section is, unfortunately, in bad shape again and needs to be resurfaced. Lots of deep hoof prints make for a rough ride. Wouldn't recommend a road bike here.
I'm pretty new to biking on trails and very new to comparing trails here in Northern Illinois, but I feel the Great Western Trail between Sycamore and St. Charles is really GREAT. I'm lucky, I live near the trail and can start my ride at several "way points" along the route. I can ride east or west, 5 or 30 miles (round trip) it's my choice.
Yes, the rail trail is flat (which rail trail isn't); yes, it can be windy out in the open spaces and it can be noisy along SR 64, but I have ridden a few other rail trails that parallel modern roads; it happens. At least I am not on the road!
Several of the R/Ts in northern Illinois are more rural, but there are not many as long and as well cared for as the GWT. Plus the GWT connects in St Charles with several other trails, parks and paths that give the rider many options.
This year I rode the trail in the spring and watched farmers planting, during this summer airplanes applying insect spray, horse farmers baling hay and straw and now with the first few days of fall I passed a combine harvesting soybeans.
During my morning rides I see numerous rabbits and ground squirrels, birds of many kinds, I passed a praying mantis yesterday and a garter snake this morning. I've scared up a deer and said "good morning" to countless joggers and bikers and a few dog walkers.
I'm not a naturalist, but there are many types of trees, flowers, weeds, insects, birds and mammals along the way. There are lots of colors, shapes and sizes.
And then there is the old rail bed. Sometimes I stop at one of the bridge crossings and wonder how the original crossing was constructed; how was it planned, how were the materials gathered and placed and how much work and toil did it take. While I bike I sometimes marvel at how much ballast needed to be piled up to reach the elevation and then think about how "mild" this prairie railroad construction would have been compared to other geographies.
The GWT is flat and requires a biker to pedal throughout, it also has limited road intersections so a biker just continues to pedal. The trail bed is maintained and the majority is crushed limestone. There are a few holes where critters have burrowed or a motorcycle has "spun out", but mostly the trail is smooth, straight and flat.
I'll continue to try some other R/Ts around Illinois, but I am very lucky to have the Great Western Trail close by and I will continue to enjoy a GREAT experience.
Prior to this year, it had been two years since I used this trail. Although a big advantage of this long path was its sparse use by locals (meaning few large family groups, dog walkers, inattentive strollers, etc. to maneuver around) it did suffer from some inconveniences. At the east end, the trail was badly rutted. Past that, a 3-mile section of asphalt pavement was in rough shape. Once beyond that it got worse; the surface in the western half was very loose and required a great deal of careful attention if you weren't on a mountain bike. At the far western end, the path devolved to packed dirt, with intruding grass and weeds - you didn't want to be there unless it was dry. And you really needed to be sure to empty your bladder at the parking lot because there were absolutely no facilities over the 17.4 mile stretch.
I only spend so much time on describing past conditions for those like me who have tried the path in the past and are reluctant to go again. It has been improved over the past two years, and improvements continue.
Almost the entire path has been resurfaced. Starting from the east parking lot, the first 4.4 miles are crushed limestone. The paved section over the next 3 miles is new asphalt pavement with a narrow band of looser limestone on one side (intended for equestrian use?). A parking area with a permanent restroom has been added at the 6.7 mile mark. The western half has also been resurfaced in crushed limeston and is in good shape.
Now, this path still does have its problems for the casual rider. It is, of course, a relentlessly straight east/west path. So consider the prevailing wind conditions before you go. There seems to be a very slight slope to the trail (lower at the east end), but it is pretty flat overall offering no respite from constantly pedaling. Once past the subdivisions on the eastern end, you are riding through farm country (which can be boring) and over long stretches the path runs parallel to a road which seems to be popular with motorcyclists and owners of vehicles with loud mufflers. At the western end, the path ends unceremoniously just short of Sycamore at a parking lot that still has no facilities. Hopefully this will be corrected soon, as the ride back to the nearest restroom facility is nearly 11 miles.
However, if you are riding for exercise, this is a great path as it is still lightly used (especially the western half), has no busy roads where you have to wait to cross, and offers no tempting distractions.
Hard pack limestone and asphalt.Keep the knobby tires home.Went on a Saturday saw somebody once and awhile.Good scenery and a lot of alone time.Went from St.Charles to Sycamore and back in alittle over 3hrs.Inclines extended over distance and gradual.General easy and straight.
We biked the Great Western from Sycamore to St. Charles (Leroy Oaks FP) and back 7/20/13, a total of just over 36 miles, starting from our parking place at the Sycamore Community Park. The trail is perfectly straight and very level for the entire 18 miles. For most of the distance the surface is crushed gravel; otherwise paved. We found both the surface and the many bridges to be in very good condition. The prairie wildflowers (Queen Anne's lace, bee balm, black-eyed susans) were blooming profusely and very colorful. Near the eastern and more suburban area, we appreciated the bridges that took the trail OVER some of the busier roads so we did not have to contend with traffic. This is a very nice railtrail, and the only minor drawbacks I can think of are (1) would have liked more shade; and (2) traffic noise from the parallel Route 64.
"This is a fine trail for bicycle riding in that it is very scenic and mostly flat. Apparently going west there is a slight incline. You can see many kinds of birds including pheasants along this trail. Once you are west of the St Charles area, there are generally very few people on the trail which makes for pleasant side by side riding.
This can be a very bumpy ride in some parts though. Rain has caused many little gullies (for lack of a better term) and you must be careful not to hit them too hard. There are also many little pot holes and other bumps along the way. This is true more as you get out of the St Charles area where it is paved for the first 4 miles or so. There is enough parking at the Sycamore Trail head for about 4 cars. When I park there, there are generally no other cars parked there. At the trail and Hwy 47, there is a Gas Station/Mini Mart and that is the last of such things until you get to Sycamore (about 11 miles). All and all a great (but slightly bumpy trail). "
"I ride this trail quite often as its close by and an even grade. 2/3 of the trail is shielded by trees so you would not get burned up too bad in the heat of the day. The only downfall is if its a windy day, you'll be pushing against what seems to be a constant side wind out and back. There is ample parking at Leroy Oaks as well as a fountain, sheltered table, and outhouse. There is little in terms of gas stations or other places to eat until you get to Sycamore. There is one bar on the west side in Virgil (about 5 miles from the forest preserve), prices are very good and cash only."
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