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The Rend Lake Bike Trail, in the heart of southern Illinois, goes around nearly half of the second-largest man-made lake in the state. Along the way, trail-goers will enjoy picturesque views of the tree-lined water, prairie grasslands, wetlands, waterfowl and other wildlife. The trail is mostly flat, except where it descends from lake level to cross the Big Muddy River below the dam and spillway.
The trail is comprised of three discontiguous sections, all separated by stretches of narrow rural highways many will feel too unsafe to ride. But each section stands alone on its own merit, even if all are not ridden together. Future trail plans include connecting these three sections.
The first 5.9-mile section of the trail—the only section that is crushed stone and not concrete—begins in the northeast, between the village of Ina and Rend Lake College. From there it enters Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park and approaches the Rend Lake Resort, before turning to pass through woods and meadows and end at State Route 154.
Off the same SR 154, just west of I-57, the second and shortest section of the trail (3.8 miles) continues southward past the Southern Illinois Artisans Shop & Visitors Center, Seasons Lodge and Golf Course, and more woodlands and open spaces.
The centerpiece of the 10.9-mile southern trail section is the large and well-staffed visitor center just west of the dam. From there you can ride east for 4.8 miles, down to cross the river and back up to a campground and day use area. From the visitor center you can also ride north for 6.1 miles, past a marina, a beach, and multiple campground and public use areas.
Multiple parking and access points are available at the campgrounds and beaches along the trail, at the Rend Lake Visitor Center and in Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park.
To reach the Rend Lake Visitor Center from I-57, take Exit 71 and turn west onto State Route 14. Go west for 2.7 miles and turn right onto Rend City Road. Proceed 2.9 miles to Rend Lake Dam Road, turn left and immediately back right into parking lot.
We rode the west/north leg of the trail & it was a beautiful fall ride, with enough gradual hills & curves to keep it interesting. The trail is mostly away from the highway, and connects several beautiful campgrounds, in addition to the Visitor Center and Dam site. An enjoyable ride for two seniors!
My husband and I just stayed at South Marcum campgrounds. We rode the bike trails there, at North and South Sandusky and also Wayne Fitzgerald State Park. We enjoyed it very much and will camp again just to bike there. Most of the trail is paved. We saw deer and baby fawns, turkeys, and even a groundhog.
We visited in mid-November. Many of the parking areas were closed but the larger ones were open. We saw several deer, including some young ones that eyed us very curiously and didn't bound away until we got close. A surprised buck lifted his large rack of antlers and gave us an annoyed snort before flipping up his white tail and leaping into the woods. We saw a few fishermen but no other bicyclists. It's a beautiful place, even in the cold grey of November.
We have ridden all the trails in the Rend Lake complex. They are good rides. The COE trails are all paved. The State of Illinois side is crushed stone and part paved. The hills are easy to climb. All in all, a great trail(s) to ride. Cannot wait until the trail extends the entire circumference of the lake.
The trail from South Marcum to North Sandusky is the most scenic, especially the dam area. But there are parts of the Gun Creek side that are scenic, too.
You should enjoy these trails. Besides scenery, we have seen snakes, lizards, deer and turkey. These critters all have the implicit right of way.
This is a really nice off-road trail, both for folks staying at the lake on vacation and for those coming in for a day visit. Whether you're wanting a good, safe pathway from one area of the park to another, or you're riding to be alone and take it all in. The scenery and park amenities couldn't be nicer, and the trail is entirely in very good condition. Enjoy your day or days at Rend Lake.
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