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.
Flat path along paved and crushed limestone paths.
There is a fair amount of cross traffic, with a couple of busy highways to negotiate.
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.
At the very least, visit Wilson Hall at Fermilab. In addition, consider a tour of Fermilab’s buildings and grounds.
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.
22.066 km / 13.711 mi
95 m / 311 ft
95 m / 311 ft
237 m / 778 ft