Illinois Prairie Path

The Illinois Prairie Path is an exceptional trail system winding through the western Chicago suburbs. The Prairie Path was the nation’s first rails-to-trails conversion and has become an international model for recreational development.

Openlands and the Illinois Prairie Path truly grew up together, with both originating in 1963. Under the leadership of our first Executive Director, Gunnar Peterson, Openlands helped coordinate the project, advised on plans, and gained the support of the region’s decision makers. Openlands┬ámade friends among the legislators in both Springfield and Washington, plus in the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation and the Illinois Department of Conservation (now the Illinois Department of Natural Resources), both of which were vital partnerships for creating the trail.

You click on the map below to begin exploring the Illinois Prairie Path, and please note that this is not a comprehensive map of the trail system (you can find one of those here).

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Photo: Lincoln Marsh along the Elgin Spur by Daniel X. O’Neil

Plan Your Trip

The Illinois Prairie Path is great for a short walk, a day outside, or for long distance cycling. Consider checking it out by bike: start in downtown Villa Park at Villa Ave, head west on the main branch of the trail to the Wheaton Prairie Path Trailhead, turn north and take the Elgin Branch to Timber Ridge Forest Preserve, then when you reach the Great Western Trail, head back east all the way to your starting point. This is a 24-mile loop and takes at minimum two hours.

You’ll pass through parks, forest preserves, and open spaces as well as downtown areas and major roads, so be careful, share the path, wear your helmet, and bring plenty of water.

For additional trail maps, safety tips, closures and maintenance information, directions, and news, please visit IPP.org.


For more information on the Illinois Prairie Path, please contact GIT@openlands.org.