Illinois Prairie Path

Type: Rail Trail
Length: 27.80 miles
Loop Trail? No
Allowed Uses: Bicycling (on pavement)
Bicycling (off pavement)
Dogs - On leash
Equestrian - Riding
Pedestrian - Walking/Hiking/Running
Roller/Inline Skating
Snow - Cross-country Skiing
Snow - Snowshoeing
Wildlife Observation
Agency: City, Town, or County
Entry Fee? No
Parking Fee? No

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Location: 3-branched system joining Aurora, Elgin, and Oak Park, with junction in Wheaton.
States: Illinois
Counties: Dupage, Kane, Cook
Latitude:   Longitude:

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The Illinois Prairie Path (IPP) is a 61-mike hiking/biking trail located about 20 miles west of Chicago, Illinois, in Cook, DuPage and Kane Counties.
In 1963 a small group of trail enthusiasts, led by noted naturalist May Theilgaard Watts, determined to develop a nature path through the western suburbs of Chicago. In 1965 they formed The Illinois Prairie Path, a not-for-profit corporation made up of volunteers; and in 1966 after much work, they leased the old Chicago, Aurora and Elgin (CA&E) Railroad right-of-way from the new owner, DuPage County, and began building the trail. The first green-and-white logo signs went up in 1967, and The Path was officially on the map. In 1971 most of the Illinois Prairie Path was designated a National Recreation Trail, part of the National Trails System.
Many governmental agencies have played a major role in Path development. In 1972 the State of Illinois Department of Conservation acquired much of the CA&E right-of-way in Kane County. This land was leased to the Kane County Forest Preserve District and to the Fox Valley Park District so that the Prairie Path could be extended to the Fox River at Elgin, Batavia and Aurora. In 1979 the Illinois Department of Conservation purchased 4.5 miles of the right-of-way in Cook County to extend the Path to First Avenue, Maywood, with the cooperation of the various municipalities. In 1986 the DuPage County Division of Transportation took over maintenance of the DuPage County segments and in 1987 began the lengthy process of reconnecting the last CA&E segment, the Geneva Spur, to the Illinois Prairie Path trail system.
The real story of the Illinois Prairie Path, however, is the determination and hard work of its volunteers, who for twenty years managed, developed and maintained the trail on a shoestring budget of membership dues and donations. Volunteers have built three steel bridges, surfaced miles of trail, installed benches, signs and steps, preserved prairie remnants, picked up tons of trash, and made the Illinois Prairie Path one of the greatest and most famous urban trails in the United States. In 1988 the volunteers received the Take Pride in America Award in ceremonies at the White House.

Additional Details

Width: 120 inches.
Primary Surface: Crushed Rock
Secondary Surface: None
Average Grade: 5%
Elevation Low Point: Not Available
Elevation High Point: Not Available
Year Designated: 1971

Contact Information

For more information and current conditions, contact the trail manager (listed below). For questions, suggestions, and corrections to information listed on the website, contact American Trails.

Trail Management:
Charles Tokarski
DuPage County Div. Of Transportation
421 N. County Farm Rd.
Wheaton , IL 60187

Trail Management:
Daniel Thomas
Principal Planner / Trails Coordinator
DuPage County Department of Economic Development &
421 N. County Farm Road
Wheaton , IL
(630) 407-6883



2-mile marker of the Aurora Branch of the Illinois Prairie Path. Photo by Tomjackson/wiki.

2-mile marker of the Aurora Branch of the Illinois Prairie Path. Photo by Tomjackson/wiki.

Pedestrian truss bridge for the Illinois Prairie Path. Photo by Lpangelrob/wiki.

Pedestrian truss bridge for the Illinois Prairie Path. Photo by Lpangelrob/wiki.


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