Cycle Chicago, Sightseeing Ride, Old Plank Road Trail
Smooth. Flat. Wide. Straight. Paved. Shaded. Easy to follow. This path through a former railroad right-of-way from Park Forest to Joliet has a lot going for it. It even has its own bike shop. Relatively new, this gem is rapidly becoming known and appreciated throughout Chicagoland’s bicycle community. As with most other suburban bike paths in the region, there are several road crossings, but these are easier to handle than elsewhere because most of them provide good visibility as you approach, and most of the roads are quiet.
Flat, paved well-maintained surface. There are a number of cracks but all have been filled, a practice other park and trail jurisdictions should emulate.
Several cross streets, but most are small with good visibility.
Take the Metra Electric Line to Matteson and bike 1.3 miles east to the official beginning of the trail - and this ride - at Western Avenue.
By car, exit Interstate 57 eastbound or Highway 394 westbound at Highway 30. Turn south on Western Avenue. After half a mile, you’ll pass the trailhead on the right but there’s no parking. Turn right on the next street, North Street. As soon as the road bends north, turn right into the parking lot for Logan Park. If you can’t park here, try the Metra lot in Matteson.
Food and Drink
Numerous drinking fountains along the way, and several shops and restaurants on or near the trail in Frankfort.
Visit the cities and suburbs through which the trail passes. If you want more biking or a change of pace from the flat straight Old Plank Road Trail, try Hickory Creek Forest Preserve’s hilly, windy trail 12.2 miles into the ride.
Welcome to the Old Plank Road Trail, one of the best pedals in Chicagoland. The path began as a wooden plank road for farmers to transport their grain and produce. They had to pay a toll, but the plank road was a big improvement over the muddy or dusty roads that were common at that time. The Michigan Central Railroad laid tracks through the corridor in the 1850s.
A series of rail lines, including an interurban, Penn Central and Conrail, used the right-of-way until it was abandoned in 1972. The first portion of this biking and walking trail was opened in 1997 thanks, in part, to funds from the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation and Efficiency Act, which encourages non-motorized forms of transportation.
This convenient and easy-toride trail certainly does replace vehicles with bicycles across the suburbs it serves. One thing that makes this trail so pleasant is that it’s mostly shaded. Although the path is relatively wide, the corridor is narrow so you will feel embraced and covered by nature as you bike through the canopy of trees.
The shade is broken up occasionally by open sections that take you by farms and fields, ponds and lakes, restored prairies and other remnants of the rich and diverse native landscapes, including oak woods. In addition, there are many manmade attractions to break up the 41-mile ride, including several lovely community parks, local libraries, a caboose, shopping malls and numerous connections to other bike trails.
Highlights include the attractive Frankfort Historic District, with Breidert’s Green, restaurants, the Plank Road Cyclery and a picturesque downtown nearby; the Prairie Park, with a play lot, nature walk and interpretive panels; and a connection to the Hickory Creek Bikeway with the Schmuhl School, the last oneroom school house in the area. At the very least, plan to stop at Frankfort, midway out or back, since it has done the most to celebrate Old Plank Road Trail. Bicyclists will feel very welcome there and find several options for shopping, food and drink.
33.714 km / 20.949 mi
98 m / 323 ft
143 m / 468 ft
230 m / 754 ft