Now that the dust has settled on your move, it's time to kick up some dust on the Illinois Prairie Path. Whether you are looking for an epic bike ride, a fun walk with your kids, or a car-free way to shop local businesses, the Prarie Path is your key to adventure.
As a new resident of DuPage County, you have access to hundreds of miles of trails. Many of these paths are “rails-to-trails” conversions which follow along old or existing train tracks. The main trail in this system is the 61-mile Illinois Prairie Path (IPP). The IPP follows historical train routes to the communities of Elgin, Aurora, Geneva, Batavia, and Forest Park on five connected trail segments. Along the way, trail-users have access to forest preserves, wetlands, parks, and local shops and restaurants. The IPP consists of three main branches, roughly in the shape of a “Y,” which span out from the trail’s hub in Wheaton.
Exploring everything our trail system has to offer will be a lifetime project, so let’s focus on our local area to get you started. Passing through the towns of Wheaton, Glen Ellyn and Lombard, this 7-mile stretch of the prairie path will expose you to historic downtowns, scenic wildlife, and a plethora of fun activities. Expect a mix of bicycle-friendly sidewalks, crushed limestone and paved paths. You’ll be sharing the path with cyclists, runners, walkers and even horse riders. Look out for each other, and anticipate road crossings and some busy intersections.
Our day trip will begin at the Prairie Path Trailhead in Wheaton. From here, head east and enjoy some of the highlights of downtown. Dip into Extract Juicery, Egg Harbor Café or Kimmers for ice cream if you need some energy for the ride (see our Let’s Eat section for a list of more great restaurants you will pass along the way). And if you are venturing out on a Saturday, make sure you stop by the ever-popular Wheaton French Market and pick up some local treats. Challenge friends or family to a game of miniature golf at the Clocktower Mini Golf and Skate Park. Continue along the path to Hoffman Park, the first of five city parks along this main branch.
At mile three, the IPP passes through the village of Glen Ellyn, where you’ll find shops and eateries.
Top spots to take a break at are A Toda Madre; grab some coffee at Einstein’s Bros. Bagels, or
grab a beer at The Beer Cellar. And if the kiddos are in tow, definitely make a stop into 2 Toots
Whistle Grill, where your food is delivered by mini electric train that runs the length of the
countertop that surrounds the diner. If you're looking for a fishing adventure, head north of the path at Park Avenue to Lake Ellyn. This lake is teaming with bluegill, bass and crappie, and also hosts professional bike races in July. As you head out of Glen Ellyn, enjoy a large quiet stretch of tree-lined path which hosts numerous wildlife, such as rabbits, squirrels, songbirds and hawks.
After crossing over U.S. Highway 355, the trail passes through the town of Lombard. You will
read more about Sheldon Peck and the history of Lombard in the History section, but make
sure to take time for a visit into the Homestead museum, located just four blocks north of the trail.
Some popular places to stop for a bite include Babcock’s House, Rebel Bar and Grill, and
Rosemary in Jeans. And, of course, you must pick up some treats for later at Sweet Streets! Check out classic cars and jam out to local bands during Lombard’s cruise nights, Saturdays, all summer long.
Also, by now, you will want to stop into Retro Glow Cycles, maybe fill up those tires with air, get
a tune-up. Located just a half block north of the Prarie Path on Main Street, check out some of the unique bikes that the owners are restoring to ride once again in the Lilac Parade! Plus, you can swag new bike lights to dress up your wheels for some night riding!
From Lombard, you can continue on to the communities of Villa Park, Elmhurst, Berkeley, Bellwood and Maywood. In Villa Park, you can link up to the Great Western Trail and head west for more scenic adventures.
Your local trail system provides a sustainable, environmentally friendly way to bring communities together and stay connected. Creating a fun, healthy environment, local trails increase your property value and are a gateway to new adventures. If you enjoyed your time on the trail, consider supporting local organizations, such as Friends of the East Branch Dupage River Trail, who advocate for additional trails and more ways for you to choose your own adventure.
Pro tip: Cyclists share the path with walkers, runners and parents taking their kids out for an adventure. Be courteous when riding and alert them when approaching from behind. Use either a bell, or simply call out “on your left” so they can move over if needed. Keep the trails safe for everyone.