For those of you new to Springfield’s great and growing bike and hike trails, I thought I might provide some information here. Through a good deal of planning, fund-raising, research, and cooperation by the city, county, and the intensive lobbying efforts by the Springfield Bicycle Club over the years, this area is blessed with many very nice, safe trails. Most are located on the outskirts of Springfield reaching into the nearby communities of Chatham and Rochester, with more growth planned for the future.
Sangamon Valley Trail
The Sangamon Valley Trail is the newest asset for the Springfield cycling community. It spans from Centennial Park at Bunker Hill Rd.on the south to Winch Lane and Stewart Park trail head in the middle. It is an easy ride, fairly scenic,and mostly level with only one moderately steep grade as you leave Stewart Park. The 5.5 miles of paved trail is a straight shot past farm fields, through subdivisions, into and out of the woods, and over several bridges, including a long span bridge that provides a wonderful overview of Spring Creek. Nice place to take a break — just don’t drop your water bottle, or you will have to climb down 60 feet to retrieve it. This trail now extends northward across the Sangamon River Valley into the Athens/Petersburg area near the Lincoln sites at New Salem. Six more miles have been added to this trail. This new section starts near Stewart park and heads north for 2.5 miles to the 1600 foot long trestle at the Sangamon river. The bridge is a great place to rest and provides a great over look of the historic Sangamon river. Continuing north on the trail you will soon arrive at a second very tall trestle with great views of the bottom lands. From there it’s a short ride to the northern trail head at Andrew road. There is a parking lot and a porta potty at this site. And finally…one more mile north to the end of the trail at Irwin bridge road. Athens Illinois is to the north and west. I’m am offering a commemorative jersey for this trail so Pop by the shop and pick one up. Part of the proceeds will go to trail maintenance.
Lost Bridge Trail
Sometimes referred to as the IDOT Trail, this route stretches east for about 5.6 miles between the Illinois Department of Transportation on Veterans Parkway to Walnut St. in the city of Rochester. The “thrilling” downhill from the IDOT parking lot takes you past a lovely pond frequented by many Canada geese (so, watch out for the goose poo!). A winding course sends you to the old railroad bed converted to an uninterrupted paved trail that features a tunnel and two bridges. This well-maintained trail is shady and cool in the summer and nicely sheltered for winter riding. A small detour into Rochester’s community park for a shaved ice is a wonderful treat on a hot summer afternoon. Someday this trail may reach to the towns of Taylorville and Pana via connection to the Lincoln Prairie Trail.
Lincoln Prairie Trail
This trail runs parallel to State Route 29 for the majority of its 14.8 mile length, from County Road 12 west of Pana to Paw Paw St. in Taylorville. Four original railroad bridges dot this repurposed railroad bed. While the paved trail is well-maintained, do be careful of the thorns from the honey locust trees in the shaded areas. The landscape is mostly flat farmland becoming more wooded around Bertinettis Lake and Taylorville Lake. The small town of Owaneco is a good place for a rest stop about half-way though, but there are no restaurants or service stations.
The Wabash Trail is the epitome of an urban rail-trail link. It’s 2.1 miles is straight and flat with one bridge over the only intersecting roadway. It connects shopping areas near the trail head on Robbins Road to city neighborhoods in the middle, then to shopping and restaurants at S. Park St. and Wabash Ave. on the east. From the parking lot at this end you can hop directly onto the Interurban Trail that runs south to the city of Chatham.
The Interurban Trail connects Springfield from Wabash Ave. to Chatham at S.Main St. The 8.8 miles is a pleasant mix of suburban and rural, highlighted by lovely views of Lake Springfield. On the Chatham end, visitors may enjoy the Chatham Railroad Museum, housed in a 1902 train station. This former electric rail-line corridor is mostly flat and straight, but begins to ramble a bit as you near Springfield. Recent construction along the trail has brought what is affectionately called “Mount Doom” by the cyclists who regularly use the Interurban — a rather steep climb to a bridge over railroad tracks.