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.
OPRT trail extension in Chicago Heights
Steve Buchtel, executive director of Trails for Illinois reports that the extension of the OPRT from Park Forest to Chicago Heights is starting to take shape. The Rails to Trails conservancy website reports that, “Chicago Heights has signed off on a preliminary engineering report for a multi-use trail across the missing link.”If, and when, this mile long section of trail is built it will extend the eastern end (currently at Western Avenue) of the OPRT about a mile into Chicago Heights.Trail tourTake a tour of the Old Plank Road Trail (OPRT) without leaving your computer. Click here to go to the photo tour.CN train viewing The Canadian National (CN) Railroad finished construction on the "Matteson Connection," in November, 2011. It’s 3/4 mile long double-wye between the east-west CN line (formerly the EJ&E RR) and the north-south CN line (fomerly the Illinois Central RR). As part of the project, the Canadian National Railroad worked with the Village of Park Forest to build a park at the intersection of the two rail routes. It is on the south side of the Park Forest-METRA commuter parking lot just east of the IC tracks. It includes the 35-foot tall, train viewing platform (photo below) and a railroad caboose. An exhibit of trail and railroad history is also in the works.Dozens 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 infoWatch the Canadian National Railroad “Matteson Connection” video.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.