The Old Plank Road Trail is a 22-mile long paved rail-trail that connects the towns of Joliet, New Lenox, Frankfort, Matteson, Richton Park, Park Forest, and Chicago Heights. Click on the map to go to the Old Plank Road Trail (OPRT) map page to view an enlarged copy of the latest trail map.Using the menu at the top of the pages you can find out more about special trail events, about the animals and plants you’ll see along the trail, and about the conversion of a railroad property into a hiking and biking trail. From 1855 until 1975 the Michigan Central Railroad ran freight and passenger trains along this route. Before that it was a plank road and part of the Great Sauk trail that ran from Rock Island to Detroit.
A bald eagle was spotted in the Dewey Helmick nature preserve between Central Avenue and Richland Avenue on 27 October 2014. There’s also evidence of beavers having trimmed some trees that have grown up in the fence where the Old Plank Trail crosses a small creek in Matteson. The creek is about half way between Governors Highway and Cicero Avenue, 200 feet east of the Centennial Path sidepath. The limbs got hung up in the chain link fence so the beavers were not able to use the lumber to dam the creek and raise the water level.Thorn Creek TrailWork is underway (September 2014) on the Thorn Creek Trail system on the eastern end of the Old Plank Road Trail (OPRT) in Chicago Heights. The newly paved section of the Thorn Creek Trail starts near the intersection of Campbell Avenue and Hickory Street in Chicago Heights. It follows the creek northeast to Joe Orr Road where it connects with a previously paved section of the Thorn Creek Trail. Another section is under construction connecting Glenwood with Brownell Woods sections of the Thorn Creek Trail.The eastern end of the OPRT is currently at Western Avenue so there is a gap of about a mile and a quarter between the eastern end of the OPRT and the new section of the Thorn Creek Trail. To make connections, take the Western Avenue sidepath north about a third of a mile and then head east on West 15th Street into Chicago Heights. The new trail is about a mile and a half east just before you cross Thorn Creek.Get the Adobe Acrobat PDF map of Thorn Creek Trail from the Cook County Forest Preserve District.Park Forest Railfan ParkDozens of north-south trains cross over the Old Plank Road Trail at Matteson while dozens more run east-west on the former Elgin, Joliet and Eastern tracks that parallel the OPRT about a half mile to the south. The Matteson METRA station platform is also a good train viewing location. Click here for more CN-Connection info. Click here for pictures of some recent trains passing the Park Forest Railfan park.
OPRT has 128,000 users a year
Steve Buchtel, executive director of Trails for Illinois recently released a trail usage report, Making Trails Count in Illinois. The group installed 18 electronic sensors on six non-motorized trails in Illinois and tallied the number of joggers, walkers, and cyclists using the trails for a 13-week period in 2012. The data was analyzed by scientists at the University of Illinois. You can download and read a copy of the 28-page final report by clicking on Making Trails Count in Illinois. The study found that trails impact local economies; people spend money at businesses along trails, trails strengthen environmental stewardship, and trails help people to maintain and improve their health and fitness. Download your own copy of the report to see the full story in numbers and dollars.Trail tourTake a tour of the Old Plank Road Trail (OPRT) without leaving your computer. Click here to go to the photo tour.Trail Patches are availableEarn a patch for completing the 20-mile trail in one trip or several smaller trips. Patches are full color, embroidered, and 2.5 inches in diameter, and ideal for sewing onto vests or backpacks. Patches sell for $3.00 each and come in two styles: hiking and cycling. Payment is accepted by cash or check made payable to the Forest Preserve District of Will County.
Get your Old Plank Road Trail patches at:
Sugar Creek Visitor Center 17540 W. Laraway Road (3/4-mile east of Route 52) Joliet, Illinoisopen Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or call 815-727-8700.