Illinois


Great American Rail-Trail Preferred Route Illinois Map | Updated May 2020
Great American Rail-Trail Preferred Route Illinois Map | Updated May 2020
2020 Update from Great Strides on Great American Rail-Trail Virtual Celebration

In Illinois, the preferred route of the Great American Rail-Trail is poised to stretch across the northern part of the state from the Chicago metropolitan area to the Mississippi River.

Existing trails that host a majority of the route include the Hennepin Canal Parkway, which still contains many of the old locks and aqueducts from its namesake, the early-20th-century Hennepin Canal, and the Illinois & Michigan Canal State Park Trail, which traverses the I&M Canal National Heritage Corridor, designated in 1984 as the first National Heritage Area in the United States. Toward the end of the Great American route in Illinois, the Great River Trail features the river communities along the mighty Mississippi—including the Quad Cities of East Moline and Rock Island.


The “Great American” Route Through Illinois


RTC’s route analysis defines the preferred route of the Great American Rail-Trail through Illinois as 194.8 miles and 86% complete—comprising 167 existing trail miles and 27.8 gap miles. The Great American will be hosted by eight existing trails through Illinois. Click the links below to view full trail descriptions on TrailLink.com.


Trails Along the Route



Gateway Trail


Hennepin Canal Parkway | Photo courtesy Thomas Photographic Services, Trails for Illinois
Hennepin Canal Parkway | Photo courtesy Thomas Photographic Services, Trails for Illinois

Hennepin Canal Parkway

Boasting more than 100 miles of trail, the Hennepin Canal Parkway parallels the early-20th-century canal along which visitors will see many of the old locks and aqueducts. From the Illinois River in the east to the Rock River (and almost the Iowa border) in the west, the pathway offers passage through the varied terrain of northwestern Illinois, including forests, grasslands, marshes and farmland.

View on TrailLink

Be a Part of the Movement to Complete the Great American


Like you, we can’t wait to see the Great American Rail-Trail vision come to life—but we can’t do it alone. Help us reach 1 million pledges for the Great American, showing the strength and solidarity of the trails community.

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Completing the Great American Rail-Trail: Catalyst Initiatives in Illinois


In every state along the preferred route of the Great American, needs for completing the trail vary. To spur trail completion, RTC has identified initial catalyst initiatives—projects or challenges that would most benefit from RTC’s national breadth of resources. (View the complete list of catalyst initiatives and criteria here.) Through these initiatives, RTC will support local and state partners, investing time, expertise and organizational resources in specific projects that are critical to the ultimate completion of the Great American Rail-Trail.

Hennepin Canal Parkway | Photo courtesy Thomas Photographic Services, Trails for Illinois
Hennepin Canal Parkway | Photo courtesy Thomas Photographic Services, Trails for Illinois

Statewide Trail Funding

RTC will advocate for use of unobligated federal funding for trails, including funds from the Transportation Alternatives Program and the Recreational Trails Program, to meet development needs along the preferred route of the Great American. Special emphasis will be placed on the maintenance and capital improvement needs of the Hennepin Canal Parkway, one of the Great American gateway trails.