Following the mighty Mississippi River for 60 miles from Savanna to Rock Island, Illinois's Great River Trail is an epic journey through scenic terrain, bustling river towns, and Midwestern history. Fido and Fifi will enjoy a smooth and level walk with views of the river, and you'll enjoy the excitement as the trail winds near shops and restaurants and past parks and historic sites.
Most hikers explore different sections of the trail on different days. If your pack is looking for a serious adventure, though, through-hiking is possible; you'll find plenty of pet-friendly hotels and campgrounds along the way where you can snooze between legs of the trip.
The trail is a mix of converted rail lines connected by roadside trail and even city sidewalks and bike lanes, most of which are paved and comfy for tender paws. The diversity of the trail's surroundings is part of the fun. If you hop on the northern trailhead in Savanna, stop at the Visitor's Center in a converted rail car to pick up a detailed trail map.
From Savanna to Thompson, you'll get plenty of shade in a forested section before merging with a country road for views over the water. South of Thompson, the trail follows Hwy 84 fairly closely, which some visitors dislike. Traffic is light, though, and the easy access to help makes this journey safer for you and your guard dogs.
You'll pass a number of landmarks worth barking about. In Fulton, the Dutch windmill was transported from the Netherlands and rebuilt here by a local craftsman. In Albany, you can connect to the park trails of the Albany Indian Mounds State Historic Site to spot these giant earthworks, likely burial mounds, created by Native American tribes more than 2,000 years ago. In Hampton, you'll see the site of the Battle of Rock Island Rapids from the War of 1812.
As you make your way south towards the Quad Cities, the trail will become increasingly urban with lots of opportunities to hop off for a bite to eat. The scenic waterfront town of Port Byron is a pawpular pit stop, but you'll find several dog-friendly restaurant patios within an easy walk when you get to Moline (including Johnny's Italian Steakhouse on River Drive, just yards from the trail). After crossing the Centennial Bridge into Rock Island, the trail ends at lovely Sunset Park.
The trail's popularity with bikers means you should keep an eye and ear out for speedy traffic that might startle your pups. Whether you're looking for a peaceful walk in the woods or an intriguing urban stroll, the Great River Trail has a stretch that's pawfect for you and your fur family.