Cycle Chicago, Sightseeing Rides, Fermilab Trail & Illinois Prairie Path

At three miles one way, the Fermilab Trail in Batavia is so short that it is often overlooked. This ride extends that trail by starting in Warrenville and incorporating parts of the vast Illinois Prairie Path, making the ride more varied and more interesting. This description focuses on the Fermilab Trail, leaving the IPP for another description. Although short and sweet, the Fermilab Trail is full of art and science, history and beauty. Along the way, savor both natural and manmade wonders, from woods and buffalo to impressive architecture and beautiful sculptures.

Terrain

Flat path along paved and crushed limestone paths.

Traffic

There is a fair amount of cross traffic, with a couple of busy highways to negotiate.

Access

The trailhead is not readily accessible by transit, though Pace Bus #676 runs on Batavia Road along portions of this ride.

By car, exit Interstate 88 at Route 59 going north. Turn right on Butterfield Road. From the intersection of Butterfield and Batavia roads go east one block to Manning Avenue, take the first right onto Warren Avenue and the first right, again, onto Stafford Place. Park on the left.

Food and Drink

Fermilab’s main cafeteria on the first floor of Wilson Hall is open to the public.

Side Trip

At the very least, visit Wilson Hall at Fermilab. In addition, consider a tour of Fermilab’s buildings and grounds.

 

More Details

One of the world’s greatest research centers, Fermi National Accelerator Lab employees 2,000 to do research in particle physics and investigate matter’s smallest building blocks by making them collide and studying how they interact. With a four-mile circumference, Tevatron is the world’s second most powerful particle accelerator. Although this ride runs along parts of Tevatron, don’t try to race the particles. They travel near the speed of light. More obvious than the underground accelerator are the above-ground ecological treasures.

This 6,800-acre site contains wetlands, woodlands and 1,100 acres of reconstructed tall-grass prairie - one of Illinois’ largest such projects. Learn about this by walking the interpretative trails, which have bike racks at their trailheads. Fermilab is a great steward of its grounds. In 1969 founding director Robert Wilson introduced a herd of buffalo that has become a popular attraction. That tradition continues. In 2008 Fermilab released barn owls onto the property. Wilson also created sculptures that dot the site, including Broken Symmetry straddling the western entrance. This three-span arch appears symmetric from below but asymmetric from elsewhere. Fermilab’s stunning administrative building was inspired by a Gothic cathedral in Beavais, France.

Its twin towers swoop upward, connecting at the seventh floor. Inside is one of the world’s largest atriums, soaring 16 stories. Two miles east, see a cluster of farmhouses that were moved together from around the property when Fermilab was built. They house lab visitors. Fermilab employees are big bikers. Since 2004 when they started keeping track, 70 employees have logged 275,000 miles. “Many of us bike to work year-round,” said Dave Peterson, an engineer who designed a bike-powered snow plow so he can clear a nearby forest preserve trail, making it easier for Fermilab employees to bike to work. “We see bicycling as a primary means of transportation as well as a great recreational activity.”

Illinois Prairie Path

This ride gives a good introduction to the Illinois Prairie Path, one of Chicagoland’s largest and most extensive bike trail systems. It starts along IPP’s Aurora Branch, one of the three branches that radiate out from Wheaton. Soon thereafter the ride turns off onto IPP’s Batavia Spur.

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start at southeast corner of Butterfield and Batavia roads, going southwest on bike path parallel to Butterfield Rd.
  • 0.2 Cross Rockwell St.
  • 0.7 Cross Williams Rd.
  • 1.4 Walk your bike through narrow, one-lane underpass. Bikes come quickly from other direction.
  • 1.6 Take high bridge over Ferry Rd - not small path on left.
  • 2.4 Turn right onto IPP Batavia Spur. You’ll be going parallel to Interstate 88.
  • 3.1 Walk your bike across railroad tracks.
  • 3.6 Bear left to stay on crushed limestone path.
  • 4.1 Cross Bitter Rd to left and pick up crushed limestone path.
  • 4.5 Turn right at T.
  • 4.8 Pass housing development and pond on right.
  • 5.0 Information board about IIP on left.
  • 5.7 Cross busy Butterfield Rd.
  • 6.9 Cross a long wooden bridge over Kirk Rd.
  • 7.0 Double back to Kirk Rd using gravel path on right.
  • 7.1 Turn left onto IPP, which runs along west side of Kirk Rd.
  • 7.9 Cross Pine St, then Kirk Rd into Fermilab. Follow bike path straight ahead.
  • 8.0 Cross Main Entrance Rd (to right) following sign for bike path.
  • 8.1 Bear left toward tall building (Wilson Hall).
  • 8.7 Do not cross Main Entrance Rd onto small bike path straight ahead. Instead, turn right along Main Entrance Rd and ride in the bike lane along the right side of road.
  • 9.0 Turn right on Road A1 toward Wilson Hall. Visit building.
  • 9.2 Return to Main Entrance Rd via Road A, which runs parallel to Road A1 on other side of pool.
  • 9.3 Turn right on D St (Main Entrance Rd) following sign “Exit Highway 59”.
  • 9.4 Veer off the road to right onto the bike path that runs along road. Or, if traffic is light, stay on the road, which is smoother.
  • 10.0 Buffalo roam in pasture on left.
  • 10.8 Cross main road (now Batavia Rd) as the bike path crosses to other side of road.
  • 11.4 After crossing Sauk Rd, note cluster of old farmhouses.
  • 12.0 Exit Fermilab. Note parking spaces for someone who wants to start biking at Fermilab.
  • 12.1 Careful crossing railroad tracks. Continue on wide sidewalk, which doubles as an official bike path.
  • 12.7 Cross Route 59.
  • 13.4 After Williams Rd, cross Batavia Rd and pick up path on the other side.
  • 14.0 Cross Butterfield Rd. End ride.
  • Trail map

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    22.066 km / 13.711 mi

    Total Distance

    95 m / 311 ft

    Total Ascent

    95 m / 311 ft

    Total Descent

    237 m / 778 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Difficulty: Intermediate (Red)
    Ride Duration: 1-2 hrs
    Fitness Level: Medium
    Terrain:
    Shared Bike Path - Paved
    Shared Bike Path - Dirt
    On-Road Bike Lane
    On-Road
    Off-Road - Fire Trail
    Off-Road - Rail Trail
    Off-Road - Single Track
    Off-Road - Downhill
    Mobile Coverage: Excellent
    Estimated Distance: 22.0
    Services:
    Water
    Food
    First Aid
    Toilets
    Bike hire facilities
    Carparking
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber
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