Photo by Neal Herbert

The yearly descent into another Midwestern winter need not be a cause for hibernation. This winter, snow and ice will cause some people to spend longer hours in the comfort of their homes, waiting for an eventual return of spring to venture back out again. However, in parks across the state of Illinois, winter weather is no deterrent from enjoying the great outdoors and the many activities that are only possible when the air is cold and the ground is blanketed in snow.

This month we are featuring the Hennepin Canal State Trail as our park of the month due to its unparalleled access to snowmobiling.

Snowmobiling is a uniquely thrilling way to take in winter scenery. The Hennepin Canal State Trail, located just outside of Sheffield in Western Illinois, is one of the best places to enjoy snowmobiling in Illinois. Hennepin Trail is home to Illinois’ longest snowmobile trail, which runs for 91 miles along the canal’s old tow path, offering unique views of the canal’s historic locks and viaducts.

When there are at least six inches of frost in the ground and at least four inches of snow on the ground, the trails are open to snowmobiles. Riders may travel on the ice at their own risk when snowmobiling is allowed. Park staff posts this information at the site access areas and on the park’s telephone system at (815) 454-2328.

Parking, toilets, and a warming house are located at the visitor center just east of Sheffield (RR #2, Box 201 Sheffield, IL 61362). Other registration points and parking are located at Lock 24 near Geneseo, Lock 23 near Atkinson, Lock 11 near Tiskilwa, Route 92 Bridge 56 near Tampico, Route 88 Bridge 45 south of Rock Falls and Bridge 15 near Sheffield. Because they are supported by snowmobile registration fees, all public snowmobile trails in Illinois are free to use.

During the warmer months, Hennepin Canal State Trail is ideal for biking, equestrian riding, fishing, hiking and hunting. The park is also open to boats and canoes on the canal from which the trail takes its name. Built between 1892 and 1907, Hennepin Canal was the first American canal built entirely out of concrete. Visitors to the trail still enjoy learning about the canal’s large and innovative locks.

The end of temperate weather does not mean the end of outdoor fun in Illinois. Schedule your visit to Hennepin Canal State Trail before the winter wonderland warms up!

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