IM CANAL TRAIL
As you all know, we have taken several bike trips over the years. I have always struggled to compare and contrast the trips and remember which are worth the effort and those that need to be excluded from further consideration. Thus, I have put together this blog for your consideration. I welcome your input; on second thought, no input is necessary.
To my mind, there are two important factors for the trip, one being the trail and the other being the town. With respect to the trail, there are two components that I took into consideration: the first being the condition of the trail itself; and, the second being the scenery along the trail. I excluded from consideration traveling companions for obvious reasons. With respect to the town, there are two things that I considered: the first being the town with the food and drink establishments; and, the second being the accommodations.
With respect to both the trail and town rating, I used a 1 to 5 star rating system with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best.
As a reference point with respect to past trails I rate them as follows:
Badger Trail (New Glarus) – 3.5
Great Western (Sycamore) – 3
DesPlaines River Trail – 5
With respect to the towns I rate them as follows:
New Glarus – 4
Sycamore – 4
Morris – 3
This trip took place on July 7, 2017, a hot sunny day commencing in Morris, Illinois at the Canal Port Plaza. Easy parking next door at the Law Enforcement Center. Unfortunately, a portion of the initial part of the trail was out and we would have been better of starting at Gebhard Woods State Park, which is a couple miles west of downtown Morris.
Please note that approximately three to four years ago, also on a hot summer day, Dave and I rode the IM Canal Trail from Joliet to Morris. I will include this section of the trail in my analysis.
With respect to each segment of the trail I rate it as follows:
Joliet to Morris:
This segment is approximately 26 miles. The trail is mostly crushed limestone and was in good condition when ridden approximately 3 years prior. For most of the trail the canal is still present and there are some interesting historical sites where the canal tender houses are still present. I rate this section as a 3.
Morris to Seneca:
This section of the trail is approximately 10 miles. It is mostly crushed limestone. There is an interesting bridge that you pass under at approximately the half way point. In Seneca there is an old tavern by the name of Fergie’s, which is a nice place to stop and get a beer. There are times when the crushed limestone can become very rough. I rate this section as a 2.
Seneca to Marseilles:
This stretch is approximately 6 miles. It is very similar to the stretch from Morris to Seneca. I rate this section as a 2.
Marseilles to Ottawa:
This section is approximately 8 miles. There are many portions of this section where the canal has been completely lost to vegetation. The trail is poorly marked. Much of the trail is single track through heavy vegetation. When ridden in July of 2017 there were many downed trees, which obviously impeded the progress. I rate this section as a 1.
Ottawa to Utica:
This segment is approximately 8 miles. For the most part, the trail is in good condition and there are some remnants of the canal left for viewing. There was one section where a bridge was out just west of Buffalo State Park, but there was an easy work around. I rate this section as 2.5.
As previously mentioned, the criteria for rating the town are the food and drink establishments; and, lodging. Utica scores very well in both. A good place to have a beer and get the unbelievable fried mushrooms is Duffy’s Tavern. Across the street is the August Hill Winery, which grows all of its grapes in Illinois and has a very attractive tasting room. Up Mill Street to the north from Duffy’s and the August Hill Winery are several restaurants and bars. A nice one to stop in for a burger is Scoog’s Pub & Grill.
The best accommodations in town, and by the way the only accommodations that are in town, is the Willows Hotel & Bistro. A very quaint hotel, which is walking distance to all that Utica has to offer.
On the whole I rate the town of Utica as a 4.
The best part of the IM canal is from Joliet to Morris. Morris has a nice interesting historical downtown area with many bars and restaurants. The only drawback to Morris is that there are no accommodations in walking distance from downtown, rather, they are all approximately three miles away by Interstate 80.
With respect to the segments from Morris to Utica, if there was a way to bypass the 8 miles from Marseilles to Ottawa, it would be an enjoyable trip with a nice payoff in Utica.
Postscript: I submit that it is time for one of you gentlemen to the step to the fore and plan the next trip. I am always available for consultation.