Grand Illinois Trail

The Grand Illinois Trail (GIT) was first conceived in the mid-1990s. Knowing that northern Illinois had a rich network of off-road bicycle trails, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources proposed the creation of a “Grand Illinois Trail”. This suggestion was published in the Illinois State Trails Plan and was overwhelmingly supported by all parties involved: cities and villages, forest preserve and conservation districts, as well as non-profit organizations.

Slowly the off-road trails and on-road routes have fallen into place. Today we are approaching 500 miles of trails and designated road routes stretching from the shores of Lake Michigan to the banks of the Mississippi and back again. You will travel through large metropolitan cities and small rural towns. And at the speed of a bicycle, you’ll meet the real people of Illinois.

View an interactive (and mobile friendly) map of the Grand Illinois Trail.

A section of the GIT is also a part of the American Discovery Trail. The American Discovery Trail (ADT) is a 5500 mile trail route across America, linking the Atlantic Ocean in Delaware to Pt. Reyes National Seashore in California. Its route was studied by the National Park Service in the early 1990’s, and ever since, advocated for by the American Discovery Trail Society. The trail offers two alternatives through the central U.S. The southern alternative traverses southern Indiana and Illinois, and central Missouri and Kansas, while the northern alternative traverses central Indiana, northern Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska.  The two legs of the trail meet up in Denver and Cincinnati. Openlands serves as the state coordinator for the northern Illinois portion of the trail.

The set of route recommendations offered by Openlands is focused on the touring bicyclist (or hiker) interested in leisurely traveling the various sections of the GIT. The routes selected are not necessarily the fastest routes, but they are very scenic, have minimal traffic, and attempt to parallel the future trail sections yet-to-be-built as closely as possible. Take on one or two, or make a plan to bike the entire distance!


For more information, please contact