Along the Stone Bridge Trail

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Stone Bridge Trail, April 2014. Photo: Don Balsam, Traillink

"This is as beautiful as Rock Cut State Park," said a biker along Roscoe's Stone Bridge Trail last week. "Maybe more beautiful."  No motorized vehicles are allowed, but bicycles and pedestrians are. The former railroad easement, part of the rails-to-trails movement, is maintained by Roscoe Township

The Stone Bridge trail gets its name from the 1882 double-arched bridge over the South Kinnikinnick Creek, the bridge on which Rockton-Roscoe News based its logo. The railroad dates back to the 1850s and trains carried material over a previous bridge to rebuilt Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871. 

One easy place to begin your ride (or walk) is at the trail's west end at the park-and-ride lot on the south side of Rockton Road between I-90 and 251, which holds about 15 cars. Another easy access point is the parking lot at Roland Olson Forest Preserve on Atwood Road, which holds about 10 cars.  There is not yet an official trailhead parking lot at Elevator Road, between Hope Church and Life Church.

The trail continues for miles after it becomes the Long Prairie Trail when it crosses McMichael Road into Boone County and passes Brown Conservation Park (and its restrooms) at Caledonia Road and Quail Trap, which begins as Brown Road at Belvidere Road. Many riders start their trip in Caledonia at the grain elevator. In Poplar Grove, the trail crosses State Street/Poplar Grove Road north of Main Street, so you can stop for lunch at Arturo's Mexican Restaurant. The trail continue east to Capron and ends at the McHenry County line. But the Chemung Trail continues to Harvard. It's all part of the 500-mile Grand Illinois Trail, which includes 200 miles of regular roads and only 300 miles of trails. But theoretically you could bike to Chicago, or at least bike to the Metra train station in Harvard and then ride to Chicago.

For most of your trip on the Stone Bridge Trail, you won't be too aware of the outside world, except for traffic as you go under the I-90 bridge and the occasional traffic over the Hamborg Road bridge. Watch for cars on Atwood Road next to Roland Olson Forest Preserve and as you cross Elevator Road between Poison Ivy Pub and the Roscoe Township offices. You'll cross beautiful bridges and creeks and McCurry Road. By the time you reach Rockton Road, you will again be aware of the outside world.

As a commuter to and from work on the Stone Bridge Trail, I experienced the seasons. April brings wild flowers such as dame's rocket and later, wild phlox. In summer, mulberries fall onto the path. This October, trees are changing color. And this winter... I should buy snow shoes.

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