Tunnel Hill State Trail, Illinois

Tunnel Hill State Trail is a day-use trail. It is a woody railroad line converted into a bike trail that stretches 45-miles from Harrisburg to Karnak, Illinois.

I’m not an experienced cyclist but I was able to travel the complete trail in a day. Remember to carry food and water.

If you prefer shorter rides, I recommend the trailhead in Vienna that allows comfortable round-trips on the trail—approximately 10 miles north gets you to Tunnel Hill; 13-miles south is the Henry Barkhausen Wetlands Center. With a 2% grade, the trail is comfortable.

Landform changes along the trail. Keep an eye on interpretive signs. Start early; it’s quiet. Be prepared to be with yourself.

Tunnel Hill State Trail

Start your day early; the forest and the trail could be all yours. A good place to stay in Vienna is Country Schemes Bed and Breakfast -- away from the town and a centennial farm.

Tunnel Hill State Trail

A journey awaits you. Take your time to enjoy the sights. The songbirds will cheer for you along the way.

Tunnel Hill State Trail

The trail is mostly crushed stone with a bit of concrete near Harrisburg. If you're headed south of Vienna, the trail surface is looser.

Tunnel Hill State Trail

You will ride mostly in the shade on the Tunnel Hill State Trail. There are 23 trestles and they range from approximately 30 to 430 feet in length. Some are 90-feet high.

Tunnel Hill State Trail

Tunnel Hill State Trail is a day-use trail. There are privy toilets and water fountain at the access areas. Bring your own water. There are no camping facilities. If you're riding in the late-afternoon on a summer day, a bug spray will make your stops on the trail more pleasant.

Tunnel Hill State Trail

During the summer months the trail is lush green, which is evident in the wider sections. Take a moment to stop and admire the prairie flowers or listen to a songbird.

Tunnel Hill State Trail

The shade from the trees might seem like you have arrived at the tunnel on the trail but don't be fooled. "The woods are lovely, dark, and deep..."

Tunnel Hill State Trail

In the United States, trains approaching a public grade crossing must sound a whistle or horn four times [long-long-short-long; represented by the letter Q in Morse code].

Tunnel Hill State Trail

Rock formations along the Tunnel Hill State Trail contrast with the lush summer greenery.

Tunnel Hill State Trail

The Tunnel Hill State Trail offers habitat to a variety of birds and animals. I have seen several white-tailed deer during my rides. I'm not good at identifying bird calls but it's a delight to listen to the songbirds.

Tunnel Hill State Trail

The trestles on Tunnel Hill State Trail feature decking and side rails. Take a break from your ride and pause to enjoy the scenery from an overlook.

Tunnel Hill State Trail

Freight cars went through the narrow tunnel. The tunnel is the highest point on the trail with an elevation of 680 feet. The tunnel isn't majestic but it's a part of the journey. Embrace it.

Tunnel Hill State Trail

Tunnel Hill was originally longer than 800 feet. In 1929, a portion of the tunnel collapsed and it was shortened by 300 feet. Now at 543 feet, it is the only tunnel on the trail.

It can be quite disorienting as you enter the tunnel because it is dark. Bring a headlamp or use your bike light. If you have neither, go slow and keep looking straight ahead at the light at the end of the tunnel. Warned you.

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