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Bike Trails Feature Image

As warmer temperatures roll in, so do bikers, eager to get their wheels back out and put in miles towards another season. Whether you’re an avid cyclist or just looking for a leisurely afternoon ride, there is always somewhere new to explore. Bike trails around the state offer experiences that range in difficulty, from the easy ride to the intense climb, there’s a trail for every rider. So what are you waiting for? Hop in the saddle and get going!

Rolling agricultural fields, reclaimed strip mines, ravines, rocky streams and wooded bluffs dominate the northern half of the Tunnel Hill State Trail in Vienna. With 47.8 miles (one-way) of crushed gravel surface, extended inclines and dark tunnels, this trail is a difficult one. But if you’re up to the challenge, don’t pass up this Southern Illinois gem.

Tunnel Hill State Trail 1

Tunnel Hill State Trail

The southern half of the trail explodes with scenery that includes bottomland woods, ponds, streams and marshes. The trail, which winds through seven towns, even touches upon a handful of ghost towns that faded into the landscape after the trains here stopped running.

Tunnel Hill State Trail 2

Tunnel Hill State Trail

 

And in the opposite direction of Tunnel Hill, head up north to the Fox River Trail in St. Charles, 32 miles of biking, hiking and, in the winter, cross-country skiing featuring the scenic trails of the Fox River. Make this ride as easy or difficult as you like. There are plenty of spots to pull over and enjoy the scenery or snap a selfie, like the Carpenters Dam, Fox River Shores, Tyler Creek, Voyageur Landing, Shoemaker Nature Center and Fabyan Forest Preserve.

Fox River Bike Trail

The Fox River Trail in St. Charles

 

In Chicago, one the most popular outdoor spots is The 606, celebrating its first birthday this summer. This 2.7-mile rails-to-trails path is one of the newest additions to the city’s green space with gardens and parks lining the trail. Enjoy a more leisurely ride along this path, and in the warmer weather, expect to see lots of dogs, children and people enjoying the trail and various summer events.

The 606 - Courtesy of The Trust for Public Land

The 606 in Chicago (Photo credit: The Trust for Public Land)

 

Along the western edge of the state, cyclists nationally and internationally ride the 62.5 mile stretch the Great River Trail that runs from the Illinois Quad Cities to Savanna, Illinois. This trail isn’t just for the biking enthusiast. The whole trail system measures 10 feet in width to allow bikers and walkers plenty of passing room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ben Butterworth Parkway

 

From panoramic river views and wooded trails, to prairie areas, backwaters and marsh areas, riders will also enjoy the scenic view and unique towns that call the banks of the Mississippi River their home.

These trails are also part of the Mississippi River Trail (MRT), a 10-state network of bike trails and bike-friendly roads that lines the Mississippi River from its headwaters in Minnesota all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico.

– Illinois Office of Tourism

Outdoor FEATURE IMG

The Mississippi River and surrounding natural wilderness provide some of the most beautiful scenery Illinois has to offer. For those seeking adventure, you can enjoy the view while being part of the action! Here are four outdoor adventures in Great Rivers Country for active travelers to enjoy.

Bike down the Great River Trail

This 60-mile stretch along the eastern bank of the mighty Mississippi River is a picturesque journey through the gorgeous river landscape dotted by quaint historic Illinois towns. The trail is a mixture of paved-rail trail, dedicated bike lanes, sidewalks and a stretch of road shoulder along the Great River Road. Bikers can enjoy the natural beauty of the river for miles before stopping in Moline and Rock Island for historic attractions and downtown shopping as well as riverfront dining and entertainment.

Bikers pedal along the scenic Great River Trail.

Bikers pedal along the scenic Great River Trail.

Experience the Grafton Zipline Adventures

For adrenaline junkies, nothing gets the heart racing like nearly two miles of zip lining through the towering trees with nothing but air separating your shoes from the ground below. The course accommodates adventurers of all ages, starting off with the 300-foot Baby Bear zip line, gradually leading up to the Soaring Eagle, a 2,000-foot zip line with a 250-foot descent! To unwind after all the thrills, visit nearby Aerie’s Riverview Winery for award-winning wines, al fresco dining and live music on the weekends.

Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride at Galena On The Fly

Soar high above the rolling hills that encompass historic Galena in a private hot air balloon ride. From 3,000 feet up in the air, you can experience spectacular views with as many as 14 passengers in a breathtaking hour-long tour at sunrise or sunset.

Balloons taking off from their launch pad between downtown Galena and the Mississippi River.

Balloons taking off from their launch pad between downtown Galena and the Mississippi River.

Explore Pere Marquette State Park

The largest state park in Illinois, this nature lover’s paradise allows visitors to hike, bike and horseback ride through miles of woodland trails with stunning photo opportunities along the way. Cap off a relaxing day fishing and boating on the Illinois River with a picnic at the Pere Marquette Lodge.

 Just one of the many magnificent views from a peak in Pere Marquette State Park. (Photo credit: Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Just one of the many magnificent views from a peak in Pere Marquette State Park. (Photo credit: Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau)

What outdoor destinations do you visit to get away? Comment below and tell us! Check out EnjoyIllinois.com for more exciting outdoors adventures to take this summer.

-Illinois Office of Tourism

The-GypsyNesters-Part-III-logo

Main Street in Galena, Illinois has been named a National Register Historic District, and it’s easy to see why. Even though most of the buildings serve as shops and restaurants now, they have been wonderfully preserved.

One of those restaurants is Vinny Vanucchi’s Little Italy and, after strolling around the lovely town, some Italian food was sounding pretty darn good to us.

The historic building has been transformed into four distinctive dining areas, including an outdoor cappuccino garden.

Testing our theory that the way to judge an Italian restaurant is by their meatballs, Vinny passed with flying colors. We also tried the Pasta Ala Vinny, linguini with shrimp, lobster and crab in a spicy olive oil and garlic sauce that was a seafood lover’s dream.

Topped off with a Chocolate Vanucchi, a moist, deep chocolate layered cake with white chocolate mousse and a cappuccino, we fully approved of the moniker “Little Italy.”

Cheers!

–David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com, Illinois Mile Markers

Click here to see our full adventure down The Great River Road

Thanks to our partners for making this trip possible, including the Quad Cities CVB, Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB, Quincy Area CVB and Nauvoo Tourism Office. Want to follow in Mile Markers David & Veronica’s footsteps? Travel the below map!


View Illinois Mile Markers: Great River Road Itinerary in a larger map

Meet the Mile Markers:

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David & Veronica

Empty Nesters
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David and Veronica are experiencing the collision of Baby Boomer and Empty Nester. When their youngest headed off to college, they decided to grab life by the horns, sell the nest, hit the road and become GypsyNesters!

They've been full-time travelers and have been breaking the empty nest rules since 2008. Frequent visitors of Illinois, they are looking forward to exploring the Great River Road this spring!

GypsyNesters-Part-II-logo

Stepping into the… wait, before we even entered The Irish Cottage Boutique Hotel, we knew we weren’t simply entering a place to crash for the night, we were stepping into a philosophy. We love these kinds of places.

Situated in the rolling hills on the edge of historic Galena, The Irish Cottage concept was inspired by its surroundings, which reminded the owners, Jack and Debbie, of the Irish countryside.

The hotel is alive with Irish art, literature, and tradition. The pub showcases music and dance, with each guest room dedicated and named for a county in the old country.

We were blown away by the snugs imported from Ireland that bookended the bar in the pub. Snugs are small, private areas with easy access to the bartender. Snugs were used for “business” affairs or a place for a couple to sneak off alone. Though we never saw anyone go in the snug at the Irish Cottage, we’re guessing it gets used — a lot!

Our suite was named for County Clare and the artwork by Roisin O’Shea introduced us to the beauty of Clare.

We took advantage of the large whirlpool bath in the living area to sooth our sightseeing feet whilst marveling at the amenities like the wet bar and the ornate fireplace.

Complimentary hotel breakfasts usually consist of plastic vats of cereal, instant oatmeal and, if one is lucky, a boiled egg. Just food one snarfs enough of to get through a busy morning. Not so at the Irish Cottage. We were served homemade fare on lovely china that included the most mouthwatering scones we’d ever tasted.

I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised, nothing is done halfway here.

Click here to see our full adventure down The Great River Road

–David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com, Illinois Mile Markers

Thanks to our partners for making this trip possible, including the Quad Cities CVB, Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB, Quincy Area CVB and Nauvoo Tourism Office. Want to follow in Mile Markers David & Veronica’s footsteps? Travel the below map!


View Illinois Mile Markers: Great River Road Itinerary in a larger map

Meet the Mile Markers:

arrow

David & Veronica

Empty Nesters
close
info:
David and Veronica are experiencing the collision of Baby Boomer and Empty Nester. When their youngest headed off to college, they decided to grab life by the horns, sell the nest, hit the road and become GypsyNesters!

They've been full-time travelers and have been breaking the empty nest rules since 2008. Frequent visitors of Illinois, they are looking forward to exploring the Great River Road this spring!

Galena, Illinois was at one time the center of attention for not only the state, but The United States.

When General Ulysses S. Grant returned to town after winning The Civil War, the eyes of the nation were upon him. The grateful townsfolk presented the victorious general with a gift of a stately home overlooking the city, and soon the calls for Grant to run for president began.

The town was not wholly unknown before then. As the nation’s top producer of lead, and a major river port, it was vitally important to the country’s expansion. Though sitting a few miles from The Mississippi, upstream on The Galena River, by the mid 1800s there was no busier port between St. Louis and St. Paul as steamboats hauled massive loads of galena, the lead ore that gave the town its name.

On our visit, we found a much different place, no longer a mining community or a center of politics, this is a town rich in history that has renewed itself as a year round destination with great options for dining, shopping, boating, hiking, fishing, and skiing at nearby Chestnut Mountain Resort.

By taking a tour on the Galena Trolley, we got a complete overview of the history, lore and politics of this architecturally rich city. We began at The Belvedere, an 1857 mansion erected by Joseph Russell Jones, a cheerleader of sorts for President Grant. Our hilarious, yet informative guide, Johnny, informed us that The Belvedere is now famous for housing some of Liberace’s estate items and the drapes from Gone With the Wind.

From there the trolley climbed the hill up to Grant’s home and throughout the neighborhood where many of his colleagues lived. All in all, nine of the Union’s generals in The Civil War hailed from Galena.

Back down along the river, we covered the length of the historic Main Street and it’s easy to see why this has been named a National Register Historic District. The buildings have been wonderfully preserved and most serve as shops and restaurants, making Galena not only a delight for history buffs, but foodies and shoppers alike.

Click here to see our full adventure down The Great River Road

–David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com, Illinois Mile Markers

Thanks to our partners for making this trip possible, including the Quad Cities CVB, Galena/Jo Daviess County CVB, Quincy Area CVB and Nauvoo Tourism Office. Want to follow in Mile Markers David & Veronica’s footsteps? Travel the below map!


View Illinois Mile Markers: Great River Road Itinerary in a larger map

Meet the Mile Markers:

arrow

David & Veronica

Empty Nesters
close
info:
David and Veronica are experiencing the collision of Baby Boomer and Empty Nester. When their youngest headed off to college, they decided to grab life by the horns, sell the nest, hit the road and become GypsyNesters!

They've been full-time travelers and have been breaking the empty nest rules since 2008. Frequent visitors of Illinois, they are looking forward to exploring the Great River Road this spring!