Check out the trail map
The Old Plank Road Trail is a 22-mile long paved rail-trail that connects the Illinois
towns of Joliet, New Lenox, Frankfort, Matteson, Richton Park, Park Forest, and
Click on the map to go to the Old Plank Road Trail (OPRT) map page to view an
enlarged copy of the trail map.
Using the menu at the top of the pages you can find out more about special trail
events, about the animals and plants you’ll see along the trail, and about the
conversion of a railroad property into a hiking and biking trail. From 1855 until
1975 the Michigan Central Railroad ran freight and passenger trains along this route.
Before that it was a plank road and part of the Great Sauk trail that ran from Rock Island to Detroit.
Looking east from Campbell Ave. in Chicago Heights.
This is the new eastern end of the OPRT.
Looking south where the new extension of the Thorn
Creek trail leading to 26th Street and Sauk Trail Woods
Preserve ducks under the railroad bridge over Thorn
Creek. This is about a quarter mile south of the new
eastern terminus of the OPRT shown above.
OPRT trail extended east to Chicago
The OPRT has been extended another mile and a quarter to the east. The new
pavement runs east from Western Avenue in Park Forest to Campbell Avenue in
Chicago Heights. The new eastern end of the OPRT connects with the Thorn
Creek Trail (see the next story).
Thorn Creek Trail
The Old Plank Road Trail now connects with the Thorn Creek Trail system
in Chicago Heights. Contractors recently graded and paved a new section of
the Thorn Creek Trail extending it south along Thorn Creek to 26th Street. The
new trail section connects with trails in the Cook County Forest Preserve
District Sauk Trail Woods preserve. Another section of the Thorn Creek
Trail, paved in 2014, runs north from the new eastern terminus of the OPRT
starting near the intersection of Campbell Avenue and Hickory Street in
Chicago Heights. It follows the creek northeast to Joe Orr Road where it
connects with a much older section of the Thorn Creek Trail. Another section
is under construction connecting Glenwood with Brownell Woods sections of
the Thorn Creek Trail.
Get the Adobe Acrobat PDF map of Thorn Creek Trail from the Cook County
Forest Preserve District.
Take a tour of the Old Plank Road Trail (OPRT) without leaving your
computer. Click here to go to the photo tour.
Park Forest Railfan Park
Dozens of north-south trains cross over the Old Plank Road Trail at Matteson
while dozens more run east-west on the former Elgin, Joliet and Eastern tracks
that parallel the OPRT about a half mile to the south. The Matteson METRA
station platform is also a good train viewing location. Click here for more CN-
Connection info. Click here for pictures of some recent trains passing the Park
Forest Railfan park.
Wildlife along the
A bald eagle was spotted in the Dewey
Helmick nature preserve between Central
Avenue and Richland Avenue on 27
October 2014. There’s also evidence of
beavers having trimmed some trees that
have grown up in the fence where the Old
Plank Trail crosses a small creek in
Matteson. The creek is about half way
between Governors Highway and Cicero
Avenue, 200 feet east of the Centennial
Path sidepath. The limbs got hung up in the
chain link fence so the beavers were not
able to use the lumber to dam the creek and
raise the water level.
Trail Patches are
Earn a patch for completing the 20-mile
trail in one trip or several smaller trips.
Patches are full color, embroidered, and 2.5
inches in diameter, and ideal for sewing
onto vests or backpacks. Patches sell for
$3.00 each and come in two styles: hiking
and cycling. Payment is accepted by cash or
check made payable to the Forest Preserve
District of Will County.
Get your Old Plank Road Trail
Sugar Creek Visitor
17540 W. Laraway Road (3/4-
mile east of Route 52) Joliet,
open Monday through Friday,
8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. or call