Navigating Greater Peoria's Mountain Biking Trails


Mark Monge, Guest Writer


Trying to pick my favorite mountain bike park in central Illinois is like trying to pick my favorite child-if I had 8 children. They all have their own unique personalities and attitudes, some are easy going while others are going to challenge you.

Whatever park you decide to start at, you’re never more than 15 minutes away from the next one. That’s in large part to the thousands of hours of trail building over the years done by the dedicated volunteers of the Peoria Area Mountain Bike Association, who have built up the greatest collection of trails anywhere in the Midwest. 

In no particular order (because I’d certainly never rank my kids), here’s a brief rundown of what you can expect from each park.

Kinsey Park  {Peoria}  // Kinsey is one of the newer parks added to the system, and the only mountain bike park on Peoria Park District land. Located on the northwest side of Peoria, Kinsey’s trails continue to grow at an exponential pace, thanks to their Tuesday night volunteer trail building sessions. All of the trails have a Wizard of Oz themed name. There’s Munchkin Land east and west-a great flat and easy starter for the youngest of bikers. If you wander up Farm Road, you’ll see other trails such as Yellow Brick Road, Lions and Tigers and Bears, Land of Oz, Ruby Slippers, Tin Man, Scarecrow, Flying Monkeys and more. Flying Monkeys can be just as hair raising now as they were in the movie. After a ride at Kinsey, take a short hop over to the charming town of Kickapoo and grab some pizza or a drink at Pizza 150!

Wildlife Prairie Park  {Hanna City}  //  Located 5 minutes away from Kinsey is Wildlife Prairie Park. On the West side of the entrance are most of the mountain bike trails, while the east side also has a few easier options. This is not a public park, and there is a self-pay kiosk at the trailhead if you are wanting to just pay for a day pass, or you can join for an annual pass as well (either of which are the cheapest passes in town for a great time). There are some great variations in the trails here, some more challenging than others, but there are also easier options such as the Bison Pump Track, and the free-flowing Flood Plain Trail on the East side. It's a great place to spend the weekend in a tent, cabin, or even a train caboose or corn silo! Pop over to Hanna City for some great chicken at Gil’s Supper Club or a home brewed coffee at the Coffee Can

Photo Courtesy: Mark Monge

Jubilee College State Park  {Brimfield}  //  JCSP has been around since, well, before bikes almost....1840 to be exact, and offers up some challenging trails and hills. There are some trails dedicated to mountain bikers and hikers, and some strictly for horses, so be sure to check the map and make sure you’re on the right ones. I grew up on the Jubilee trails, and it’s still a large enough system that I can still get lost a little each time I go there-which is half the fun. Be sure to also check out their historic single building college located at the entrance, for which the park was named. After burning some calories on the trails at Jubilee, you’ve earned the right to put some back, in the form of some great homemade pie options at Jubilee Cafe

While that sums up the mountain bike trail options on the west side of the river, we’re only just getting started. 

In Tazewell county, you’ll find Independence Park (Indy), Dirksen, Fort Creve Coeur and Farmdale, while Woodford county has Black Partridge Park

Independence Park  {Marquette Heights}  +  Dirksen Park  {Pekin}  //  Independence Park  and Dirksen Park are both located close to each other. I don’t know what it is about Tazewell County trails, but there are some amazingly wicked rides here. Indy's trails are numbered, 1-6, but don't let the low number fool you-as there is a ton of great dirt to be ridden at Indy! If Indy and Dirksen were brothers, then Indy would be Dr Jekyll and Dirksen would be the evil Mr. Hyde. Thanks in large part to the crew at Little Ades Bicycles,  you’ll find an abundance of man-made obstacles, see-saws, skinny’s (planks on a fallen tree) and more, harkening back to its old BMX history. 

Fort Creve Coeur  {Creve Coeur}  // Fort Creve Coeur is one of the newest trail systems that continues to seem to grow daily, and is located 5 minutes away in Creve Coeur. The difficulty level and obstacles are similar to Dirksen Park, if Dirksen was located on the side of a cliff. Situated at the top of the river bluff, immediately next to the historically recreated Ft Creve Coeur, you’ll start at the top and head down, and down, and down, and down, until you reach the river bottom basically. There are some great flowing trails as well as man-made obstacles, none of which I’d say are great for the beginner rider, but all are great at challenging your skill set. It’s the only trail system in the area that offers a chair lift back to the top...sort of. Occasionally on some weekends you’ll find the trail steward offering to shuttle bikers back to the top along with their bikes on his modified truck-complete with a multi-bike rack and picnic table. Literally. There's a picnic table built into the bed of the truck. You won't find that on Amazon anywhere. 

After a ride at either Indy, Dirksen or Ft Creve Coeur, you MUST stop by Kuchies on the Water in Creve Coeur for either a famous Shipwreck Bloody Mary or any of the gastronomical creations they may be featuring that week.

Black Partridge Park  {Metamora}  //  At Black Partridge you'll find over 8 miles of numbered trails (1-7), with a few different trail heads. Lots of ups and downs, just like life, with plenty of creek and bridge crossings thrown in for good measure. Once you've conquered these trails (or they've conquered you), head over to Geo's Pizza in Metamora for a bite, and DEFINITELY stop by Evergreen Farm Brewing, one of my favorite local spots, for a home brewed cold one. 

Photo Courtesy: Cody Renshaw

Farmdale Reservoir Parking lot {Washington}  //  Farmdale Reservoir is the crown jewel of East Peoria, with enough trails to fill up your entire day. With about 15 miles of single track, as well as a downhill course, free ride and stunt course, there's something for everyone, at every skill level, or death wish. Just kidding about that last one. Kind of. It's managed by the Army Corps of Engineers and has no biking within 24 hours of a rainfall rule. There are also horses there, so just be on the lookout and give plenty of space. Lots of hills, chills and thrills, creek crossings, open meadows, forested overhangs and everything in between. You'll never be disappointed or left wanting more. 

Every Fall, the Peoria Area Mountain Bike Association has a challenge to hit most of the trails in all of the above-mentioned parks within a 24 hour period, which they call the Mug of Dirt . If that's not enough, and trust me-it's plenty enough, they have an additional challenge that includes RIDING TO AND FROM each park, and biking all the trails, also within 24 hours, and is affectionately known as the Keg of Dirt. Many have tried, few have succeeded. It's about the same number as those that have successfully escaped from Alcatraz, which by the way, is much easier than completing the Keg of Dirt.  

Photo Courtesy: Chris Camp

Mark Monge, Guest Writer

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