Best Public Park - 2007
Madison County Transit bike trails
The mass-transit agency that serves Madison County, Illinois, began converting rail beds to bike trails in the early 1990s. Madison County Transit now has 85 miles of trails, and it's still building. You can travel from the Missouri side of the Mississippi River to Grafton to Edwardsville and on down toward Horseshoe Lake. The gravel or asphalt trails cover many miles through farm fields, which means they're flat, open to the sun and lacking water and bathrooms (port-a-johns) for miles and miles. Sans kids (or other whiners), the MCT trails are an ideal place to pedal your buns off. The MCT has built underpasses at most major intersections, so your ride will be uninterrupted. Just remember to carry a map and track mileage, because MCT doesn't post many signs. If you are packing rug rats and many MCT users do Glenn Meyer, the ride-planning guru at Trailnet in St. Louis, recommends staying close to shade and refreshments. The five-mile Watershed Trail is well-shaded and takes you to the Watershed Nature Center. You can also take advantage of quaint downtown Edwardsville. Meyer recommends parking near Annie's Frozen Custard and taking Schwarz Road east to the 8.2-mile Nickel Plate Trail. A trail system that goes for 85 miles is bound to have some cool landmarks. Two to get you started: the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge (not far off the MCT system) and the Lewis & Clark State Historic Site. Tired yet? Madison County Transit does run buses. All are equipped with bike racks.