Hickory Creek Preserve and Trails
Excerpted from their website:
Fill up the water bottles, leave the car at Hickory Creek Junction, and take a bicycle ride down the Old Plank Road Trail. Travel the Old Plank Road Trail east or west past remnants of Illinois’ once great prairies for a total trail length of 21.5 miles.
The trail east to Park Forest passes the antique shops of historic Frankfort and the Dewey Helmick Nature Preserve. Look for gems such as big bluestem and great egrets in the prairie and wetlands of the preserve. The trail west from the Junction takes visitors through New Lenox, past parks and prairie, to Joliet.
Hickory Creek Junction also serves as your trail connection to the Hickory Creek Bikeway – West Branch. The paved bikeway travels through a portion of the 1,542-acre Hickory Creek Preserve, over Hickory Creek and through woodlands and wetlands. The trail extends north from Hickory Creek Junction for 1 mile to Brightway Lane in Mokena, and turns west 1.8 miles toward Schoolhouse Road. At Schoolhouse Road, trail users can visit the historic Schmuhl School, the last one-room schoolhouse in the area.
For a shorter trip, hike, jog, bike, skate, or cross-country ski the 1-mile loop trail around the wetlands at Hickory Creek Junction.
After your trail ride, relax at a picnic shelter or the accessible playground, constructed from recycled materials. Benches near the playground offer a place to rest and reenergize.
Old Plank Road Crowd
The OPRT crowd refers to this trail as “the hills“. They are aptly named. A couple of seasons ago I ran into Al Sturges riding his bike along these trails in preparation for a self-supported ride he was hoping to do later that year. This is exactly the kind of terrain in which to train for a hilly landscape somewhere out-of-state.
Hickory Creek Bikeway
The 2.8-mile Hickory Creek Bikeway – West Branch begins at Hickory Creek Barrens at Schoolhouse Road in New Lenox. Here, trail users can view Schmuhl School, the last one-room schoolhouse in the area, which is owned and operated by the New Lenox Historical Society.
From Hickory Creek Barrens, the trail travels north and east through woodlands and over Hickory Creek to Brightway Lane in Mokena. There, the trail turns south and heads back over Hickory Creek to Hickory Creek Junction, where trail users can relax at a shelter or have fun at a playground. Those looking for a longer trip can travel across Route 30 to connect with our Old Plank Road Trail.
Our Brief Warmup Ride
We did a single loop of the west portion of the Hickory Creek Preserve without heading east to the other area. The trail is steep in parts. We felt our legs almost from the outset. It was a bit hot but not too humid. Nevertheless, the turns are tight inside the trail and you have to stay alert for oncoming traffic.
A few bikers were out doing obvious training loops inside the park. Lots of runners were there as well. They too seem to relish the hilliness of the trail. We will have to come back again and complete both halves when we have more time.
We should be ready for tonight’s L.A.T.E. Ride in Chicago, along with some 10,000 other individuals! Fun times!
Distance: 6.1 miles
Time: 0h 48m 41s