Get Off the Pavement!

Take your exercise routine to a new level while enjoying the beautiful trails of central Illinois.

by Adam White, RC Outfitters
Central Illinois Trail Running Alliance (CITRA) members on a run near Farmdale Reservoir between Washington and East Peoria. Photo by Tina Bajic

Trail running/walking is a great way to relieve the fatigue from “pounding the pavement,” as well as breaking up the monotonous scenery most of us are accustomed to in our exercise routine. Getting out in nature is also therapeutic for the mind, body and soul. Fortunately, central Illinois has an abundance of great parks with amazing trails for people of all ages and abilities. Here are five local trails to check out if you’re looking for an alternative workout. 

Forest Park Nature Center is a great place to start. This trail is wonderful for beginning and experienced trail runners alike because it is small (relative to other area parks) and offers both flat and hilly terrain. The trails are marked and well-maintained, making them extremely easy to navigate. The hills are tough, however—so take it easy if you’re new to running, and maybe walk the hills and run the flats. You’re still getting a great glute workout either way!

Just up the road is Detweiller Park. This trail system is a bit more complicated, and all are single-track. Its trails extend all the way to Camp Wakonda in Mossville (connected by the Robinson Park trail system). If you want to break up the hills, you can always go to the flats and run on one of the most famous high school cross-country courses in the country. 

Located between Kickapoo and Brimfield, Jubilee College State Park has over 3,200 acres to explore and offers something for everyone. There are flat, wide trails in the upper prairie and some gnarly single-track trails in the woods. Jubilee also allows for mountain biking and camping—so consider taking the whole family for a day to hike, bike, have a picnic or even stay the night. It’s a great park to explore on your own or as a group.

The Farmdale Recreation Area Trail between Washington and East Peoria has single-track trails great for hiking, running and mountain biking. The 6.9-mile loop is hilly, so it’s a great workout for anyone looking to break a sweat. It’s not unusual to see someone riding their horse on this trail, which is also dog-friendly. 

McNaughton Park near Pekin is approximately 700 acres and has an extensive trail system with well-established single-track trails. The Potawatomi Trail is seven miles, with plenty of shortcuts and alternate trails if you don’t want to go the distance. But there’s plenty to look at if you do: including a waterfall, an old cemetery and the “Dirksen Swimming Hole,” where the late Senator Everett Dirksen swam as a child. The hilly trails are a great challenge for building endurance. 

These are just some of the parks and trail systems offered here in Greater Peoria. A number of them also offer trail races which draw people from all over the country. For more information on trails and events, check out the Central Illinois Trail Running Alliance at or Peoria Area Mountain Bike Association at PM

Adam White is co-owner of RC Outfitters and ShaZam Racing. He has been running for 30 years and is committed to community health and wellness.