Fall is my favorite time of year for hiking in Illinois and with all the gorgeous weather afoot. For this month I decided to get back to trying out longer trails. I visited Black Partridge Park near Metamora, Illinois to try their 6.5 mile loop trail. I’ve been reviewing trails for long enough now to have become quite picky, so bear that in mind as I describe what I think of as a fairly mediocre trail.
Getting There and Parking
The whelming experience began with a 90 minute drive in the direction of Peoria. We all know how gorgeous I-74 is. So there’s 70 minutes of that business, and then a few turns on various country roads. On the plus side, the signage for the park after you exit the interstate is consistent and clear, AllTrails does indeed take you near the trailhead, and there is ample parking. Enough parking that even though there was some sort of sports game going on, and seemingly hundreds of kids and families around, I had no problem getting a spot near the well-marked trailhead.
The throngs of people made it unappealing to see if the buildings near the sports fields had public facilities, so I can’t comment as the existence or quality of amenities near the trailhead other than to say there was one trash can. It turned out to be the only trash can on trail so be prepared to carry your trash the whole way.
The trail was well-maintained and had regular markers to indicate which route you were following. If you want to follow an outer loop this can be somewhat confusing to keep track of when you need to switch to another trail number. That’s why I recommend using the AllTrails app. According to a lot of the reviews I read before coming out, people like that it’s a flowy and somewhat technical trail and I would agree. It’s got a meandering sort of feel and you definitely want to watch out for tree roots. You’ll also want to watch out for bikers because this trail seems to be a very popular bike trail. Hikers and walkers should be prepared to step aside and let the bikers pass safely.
The Bathroom Situation
This trail was very sparse on any amenities and that includes bathrooms. There are a few spots towards the middle of the trail that provide denser tree cover than others. So assume you’ll have to pee outside, and just watch your sightlines because this is a well trafficked trail that meanders such that it would be easy to give an unplanned free show to some unsuspecting hiker or biker at a lower elevation.
Sharing the space with bikers is the biggest concern on this trail. You’ll need to keep some situational awareness to make sure you hear them coming because not all of them will shout a warning. Otherwise, it’s just the usual concerns about ticks and biting insects. As always, bug spray is your friend.
Wildlife & Scenic Views
This was one of the more heavily trafficked trails I’ve walked recently, and it is perhaps because of how noisy people are that there were few interesting birds or animals to be heard or seen. The most interesting things I saw were a really large stick insect and some interesting fungus. There was also a body of water next to the trail but there were no good viewing spots. And even if there had been good viewing spots, there were no benches to sit on and marinate in the sound of kids shrieking, er, I mean trees rustling. That said, I am a sucker for little bridges and there were a lot of little bridges along the way and that was pretty charming.
This was honestly just a super basic walk in the woods. It wasn’t strenuous enough to feel satisfyingly worn out (though at 6.5 miles, it’s not ranked as “easy”), there were no special views, the loud people kept the birds and animals away, and in terms of amenities, well, there were very few. I think if I lived in Metamora I’d probably visit because why not. A walk in the woods is almost always time well spent. But unless there was some sort of special event (like an owl prowl!) going on there, are plenty of better trails within a much closer and/or more scenic drive.