About Bicycles Online > Bicycle Touring and Trails > McHenry Prairie Trail

The Prairie Trail from Algonquin Illinois to Genoa City Wisconsin.

The start of the Prairie Trail in Algonquin Illinois (connects to the Fox River trail in the south) The Prairie Trail through Sternes Woods (major hills). The northern section of the Prairie Trail (gravel/dirt road) on to Wisconsin!

The Prairie Trail (Illinois - 25.9m) from Algonquin(south) to Genoa City Wisconsin (north) was once Chicago and Northwestern rail line that ran from Kane county into Wisconsin.

From Algonquin to Ringwood the trail is paved and from Ringwood to the Wisconsin border the trail is the original rail ballast/gravel trail for biking, hiking and horseback riding (and snowmobiles in the winter). It is nice to have a mountian bike in the non-paved section, but it can be done with a hybrid or road bike.

The Sterne's Woods section, from Lorraine Ave and Hillside road in Crystal lake (aka hill hell), has some major hills and requires extra precautions. Most of this trail is just west of Route 31 from Algonguin and north.

The Prairie Trail From South to North.

Here's a first hand description, of the McHenry County Prairie Trail, from the trips that we have made on this trail starting in East Dundee, Illinois (the Fox River Trail (see attached links)) to Genoa City, Wisconsin, 32 miles one way.

The Prairie Trail and has a lot of wooded areas followed by long stretches by the railroad tracks and a few gravel pits. In Crystal Lake you have to cross a few streets but there are some nice places for breaks.

Just past the street section in Crystal Lake is a place that we call "hill hell" (Sterne's woods). This is a really hilly, curvy and dangerously fun part of the trail! There are some major hills here, so do take it a little easy on this part of the trail.

After "hill hell" there are these long stretches along the railroad tracks, this is all still blacktop at this point, and a very hot part of the ride (in summer), but the background scenery is still really nice (country, farms, sod fields, etc.) A little after this the path turns into a gravel and dirt road. (We've only ever seen a few other people on this whole 15 to 20 mile section).

This section goes on to Richmond Illinois and a few miles later to Genoa City Wisconsin! On our first trip, I asked a lady where we were and she also told us about a nice restaurant in town called Kellers. It is a nice place for dinner and a real nice break!!!

If you are going to do this trip do get an early start. It took us about 6 hours (an easy pace with breaks) each way. If you get a late start (as we did the first time) and you go both ways, you end up riding back in the dark. It turned out that the very last stretch (that beautiful shady area by the river) gets really really dark and scary and it is against the trail rules to be out there at night anyway.

I have done this trip a few times now (with family members) and it also works out well as a one way trip (we have done East Dundee Il., to Genoa City Wis.) if you have a volunteer to go back for the car and drive up to Wisconsin to pick up the weary riders.

Whether you go one way (32 miles (including the fox river trail section from east Dundee)) or round trip (64 miles)... It really it a fantastic ride and a nice adventure for a day.

I hope you enjoy this little virtual tour and hope it inspires you to take the trail(s) in the spring, summer or fall and/or provides a nice memory of your trips in the winter when you may not be able to get out there and enjoy it (although some people do ride throughout some of the winter also and those fat mountian bike tires can handle the snow pretty well too! :-) ).


Prairie Bike Trail Photos

Here's a photo tour of the Prairie Trail, from south to north (mostly). These pictures are from mid July (2003) so it's a little harder to see the shady areas...

McHenry Cty Prairie Trail Photos 1 - Starting in Algonquin
McHenry Cty Prairie Trail Photos 2 - Past  the Airport and into Crystal Lake
McHenry Cty Prairie Trail Photos 3 - Crystal Lake to Sterne's Woods
McHenry Cty Prairie Trail Photos 4 - The Hills in Sterne's Woods
McHenry Cty Prairie Trail Photos 5 - From Fort McHenry Park
McHenry Cty Prairie Trail Photos 6-  Dirt Trail into Wisconsin

NOTE: There is a detour on this trail through Algonquin where they are working on the Route 31 improvements as of 2013.

See the Prairie Trail Detour, May, 2014 Update for more on the detour and construction.

Prairie Trail and Route 31 Intersection 2015

Prairie Trail Route 31 Intersection Past and Present



**** NEW McHenry County Prairie Trail Video ****

I have just completed the McHenry County Prairie Trail video (July, 2009).

Here's the video tour of the McHenry County Prairie Trail starting in Algonquin and ending in Genoa City Wisconsin.

The McHenry County Prairie Trail Video Bike Trail Video