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Find new places to hike, bike, and run in the area

Published: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

Are you tired of the same old local trails? Or, are you wondering where you can walk or hike while on vacation? I recently was looking for information about the Joe Stengel Trail that runs between Dixon and Freeport, and discovered TrailLink.com.

TrailLink.com is a website provided by the Rails to Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit agency whose mission it is to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people. 

At TrailLink.com you can search for trails by city, state, and Zip code, name of the trail, or keyword. You also can find trails based on the type of activity they allow, be it hiking, walking, snowmobiling, horseback riding, etc. You can read a description of the trail that includes the trail’s length, start and ending points, and where to park. You also can see reviews of the trail submitted by people who have used them.

Once you find a trail you like, you can view it on a satellite map and/or download it onto Garmin GPS units. According to the website, Traillink will also soon be available as a mobile phone app so that you can take the map with you, track your progress on the trail, and take photos and review the trail while you are on it. There are also regional guidebooks with trail maps available at the website.

As an example of what you might find on TrailLink, here is what it had to say about the Joe Stengel Trail: “The Joe Stengel Trail follows an old railroad corridor for 7 miles between the town of Polo and the much smaller community of Woosung. The trail corridor traces farm country along a route scattered with trees. The natural surface can be rough going in places. In Polo, the trail follows city streets, ending at a small cemetery north of town. Another shorter piece of the trail is found farther south by Dixon. The segment is connected to the Lowell Parkway Trail at Lowell Park and passes through Penrose Prairie. There are plans to link the two segments one day. There’s a small parking area south of Polo off Wilson Street west of U.S. 52/CR 26/Division Ave. On-street parking is available in town. In Woosung, park off Central Street.”

I did have a chance to walk the Stengel Trail with friends a few weeks ago and found it very pleasant. It’s not paved, but the surface is flat and level. I’ve heard that it gets overgrown later in the summer, so now might be a great time to check it out. Happy trails to you!

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