Jane Addams Trail Description

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There’s no debating the historical significance of the Jane Addams Trail. Not only is it named for a Nobel Peace Prize-winning social activist who grew up nearby, but the trail also passes the site of the second Abraham Lincoln-Stephen Douglas debate, located in Freeport.

The trail runs nearly 19 miles from historical Tutty’s Crossing in Freeport to the Wisconsin border, where it becomes the Badger State Trail. It follows a rail line that the Illinois Central built in 1887 between Freeport, Illinois, and Madison, Wisconsin. The route, which crosses 22 bridges on the way to the border, is part of the 500-mile Grand Illinois Trail. Future plans call for a connection to the Pecatonica Prairie Trail east of Freeport.

Starting at Tutty’s Crossing trailhead in Freeport, you’ll wind through a historical district on sidewalks and bike paths for about 0.4 mile to a park featuring displays and life-size statues marking the site of the second Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858. Following on-street bike lanes another 0.4 mile takes you to the original steel truss railroad bridge across the Pecatonica River and the beginning of an off-road paved trail that proceeds 3.5 miles to the Wes Block trailhead. The path is crushed limestone from Wes Block north.

Heading due north, the trail passes through woods that support a wide variety of trees, birds, and other wildlife. During deer-hunting season, it’s recommended that trail users wear blaze orange. Bright-colored clothing is also advised for those traveling on foot or skis during winter, as snowmobiling is allowed when at least 4 inches of snow are on the trail.

As you travel from Freeport north to Orangeville, you will see exposed rock embankments as well as creeks and wetlands. Vistas of open prairie and farmland are interspersed among the wooded areas.

You’ll cross County Road 5 at 3 miles past the Wes Block trailhead. It’s less than 2 miles on a shoulderless road to the childhood home and grave site of Jane Addams in Cedarville. Born here in 1860, she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931 for her humanitarian deeds, which included the opening of a settlement house project (Hull House) in Chicago and activism in the social and political movements of her time.

About 7 miles north of CR 5, you’ll cross a covered bridge as you arrive in Orangeville, where the Richland Creek trailhead provides a quiet and convenient place to end your trip with a covered shelter and nearby gas station for refreshments. The official end of the trail is at the Illinois-Wisconsin state line, about 2.5 miles north. You’ll need a Wisconsin state trail pass if you plan to ride the remaining 40 miles north to Madison on the Badger State Trail.