LOCAL OUTDOOR HIGHLIGHT : Prairie Trail, a Rail Trail Bike Ride

Just southeast of Lake Geneva is a small Wisconsin border town, Genoa City. Genoa City is also the northern most point of a really great local rail trail called the Prairie Trail. Rail trails are former railroad beds transformed into multi-use trails, and they are popping up all over Wisconsin as well as nationally. The Rail Trail Conservancy has lofty ambitions to connect the entire United States with a vast network of rail trails. The Prairie Trail is just one shinning example of how great this project is. The trail extends south from Genoa City for 26.1 miles all the way to Algonquin, Illinois at the southern most point of the trail. Locally the trail connects Genoa City to nearby Richmond, Illinois and Glacial Park. Bikes are one great way for the whole family to enjoy the Prairie Trail.

^Kid trailers are a really convenient way to get little
kids out on the trail for the day. Various trailers are available in the marketplace today, and this one pictured from Burley is a convenient purchase with many options to convert it from a jogging stroller to a bike trailer, and a cross-country ski sled trailer as well. Most rail trails consist of crushed stone and pavement. These surfaces are good for all types of bikes and all riding abilities as well. These rail beds were laid for trains so often the grades of elevation change are typically quite gradual and the Prairie Trail is no exception.

^The whole trail in its entirety is 26.1 miles long, but obviously one can choose how much or how little they'd choose to take on. 

^The Prairie Trail technically ends in Genoa City at the end of this road in a neighborhood on the southeast side of town, pictured in the map above. However, a new trailhead that utilizes a portion of the Hebron Trail was constructed just south of Genoa City across the Illinois border that is actually a better way to access the Prairie Trail. The Hebron Trail is another great local rail trail that runs east and west from the town of Hebron to this trailhead and over the the Prairie Trail.

^This picture above shows the trailhead and portion of the Hebron trail to use. For the sake of this local outdoor highlight we will stick to the Prairie Trail and simply show how to utilize the Hebron Trail to get over to the Prairie Trail from a more convenient parking area and trailhead. The trailhead just off Keystone Rd. (Fellows Rd in Genoa City turns into Keystone Rd. in Illinois) has a great parking area, bike racks, bathrooms, water fountain, and picnic area. It is the more convenient way to access the Prairie Trail as well for most people. From the trailhead follow the trail south for a short distance when the Hebron Trail breaks off west on the right and crosses the street towards Hebron, Illinois. To get to the Prairie Trail towards Richmond, simply stay straight with the trail that then quickly turns east across the prairie. 

^Continuing east towards Richmond brings riders across a bridge over the Nippersink creek flowing south out of Genoa City. 

^After 1.5 miles of prairie riding the trail intersects with the Prairie Trail at a T-intersection. Turning left towards the north leads one back to the Prairie trail's northerly point in the neighborhood in Genoa City, and a right towards the south goes to Richmond, Glacial Park, and eventually Algonquin. 

^The Prairie Trail travels through prairies, as its name would suggest, but it also offers a lot of forest landscapes as well. 

^The trail crosses the Nippersink Creek again in Richmond where it bisects the town crossing multiple busy streets where riders could break off to enjoy the restaurants and amenities of Richmond at any point. 

^Rail trails are gaining in popularity with road bikers riding on cyclocross bikes, but walkers and especially family bikers old and young are really taking to the rail trails in a big way. The quality surfaces and minimal elevation changes make them ideal for young kids to ride their bikes on, or for mom and dad to haul a kid trailer to the local ice cream shop. The diverse usability of rail trails is really the key component to rail trails growing popularity. The railroads used to be a wonderful way for people to see the countryside, and as it turns out, they still are, just a little differently now then they used to be enjoyed. Now instead of smokey loud trains rumbling down the track, it is smiling happy people of all ages extending pleasantries as they pass each other on leisurely walks or rides through the very same beautiful countryside all the while getting a little quality exercise and sense of adventure too.  

^The Prairie Trail extending south from Genoa City Wisconsin is just one of many fantastic rail trails in the region. Whether taking a big huge bike ride for the distance of the whole trail all the way to Algonquin, or a short walk, or family bike ride, the Prairie Trail has something for everyone. The scenery is classic to the region littered with prairies, creeks, woods, and hills. The bike riding is casual, smooth, and relatively flat. The multi-use designation is broad. The access is plentiful. The amenities along the route are many. Basically, the Prairie Trail has a lot to offer, for almost anyone, and that is a really great infrastructural asset for the community to have. Get out there and enjoy it!

For more information about the Prairie Trail from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy website, click here.