Hennepin Canal Trail Home
The Hennepin Canal Trail of Illinois

Hennepin Canal Trail Frequently Asked Questions

How hilly is the trail?
See the elevation charts for a visual represntation of the trail's hills.

As you might expect for a canal, the trail does not have steep hills. But as you would also expect from a canal, there are small rolling hills and a long gradual elevation change; that's why some 30 locks were needed.
Equestrian use Can horseback riders use the Hennepin Canal Trail?
Yes, horses are allowed between April 15 through October 31.

Note that equestrian camping is only allowed at Lock 21, near Wyanet.
What are the regulations for snowmobile use?
Are locks still used?
No, the locks are no longer working; the gates have been replaced with concrete walls. An exception is Lock 16, which offers an example of a Marshall Gate lock. A Marshall Gate is a single gate spanning across the lock, using the principle of buoyancy.
Are pets allowed on the Hennepin Canal Trail?
Yes, but they must be on leashes shorter than 10 feet.
What are the regulations for snowmobile use?
Is the canal good for kayaking/canoeing?
Yes, paddlers are welcome, but of course you will have to portage around any locks. However, there western part of the canal offers several nice streches in between locks, notably:
  • Between locks 22 and 23 - 9 miles
  • Between locks 23 and 24 - 10 miles
  • Between locks 24 and 25 - 5.5 miles
  • The Feeder Line - 29 miles
Paddling is not recommended west of Lock 26

Motorized boats are allowed throughout the canal with a maximum 10 HP. There are no horsepower limits between 24 and Bridge 37.
Is camping allowed along the trail?
The state offers campsites at several locations along the canal, at locks 6, 11, 17, 21, 22, 23, and 26. Only Lock 21 allows equestrian camping.

Click the following link for a list of all camping options along the Katy Trail.

Please observe the parks' campsite quiet hours from 10PM to 7AM.

What's the best kind of bike tire for the Katy Trail / can I use a road bike?
In general, wider tires are better.  If you're riding a mountain bike, hybrid, or comfort bike, your tires are fine.  But the Katy is definitely suitable for road bikes, and you'll see plenty of them out there.  The crushed limestone packs down hard and gives you a surface nearly as solid as asphalt, unless it's been raining a lot.  But there are a few places where it's not packed as hard, or where the trail crosses gravel roads, that could be a little rough on road bikes.

Most of what I've heard from road bikers is that any tire 25mm or wider is fine for the Katy Trail.  I've seen some riders say they did fine with 23, but most suggest 25 or wider.  For best results, go with the widest cross-tread tire your rims can handle.  You do not need knobby tires, something with light tread is ideal.  If using skinny tires, you may want to inflate to a slightly lower pressure than you use on pavement. 

For a well-researched discussion of tire recommendations, read Katy Trail Tire Selection by M L Haag MD

This topic comes up from time to time on the Comment Forum.  Here are a few comment threads and other discussions: Speaking of tires: always bring spare tubes and a pump or compressed air.  There are thorny plants which have given flats to many a rider.  Be prepared for possible flats!
I'd like to ride on the trail but don't have a bike. Can I rent a bike?
Yes, there are businesses at many points along the trail offering a wide variety of bikes for rent.  Follow this link for a list of bike shops along the Katy Trail, many of which offer rentals.  Also, some of the B&B's have bikes that they make available to their guests.
What should I bring on my bike ride?
For a one-day trip, here are some suggestions:
  • Plenty of water
  • Helmet
  • Sunscreen
  • Maps, and/or screen printouts from BikeKatyTrail.com for the towns you'll be visiting (go to the trip planner to build your customized list)
  • Cell phone
  • Bike repair tools
  • Spare inner tubes or patch kit
  • Pump or compressed air
  • Insect repellant
  • Tissues / toilet paper (don't count on the trailhead restrooms being stocked)
  • Cash, credit cards
  • Camera
  • More water
For a multi-day trip, you'll need more stuff - maybe a lot more, depending on how long you'll be riding and how self-sufficient you plan to be (not to mention the fact that you'll need a trailer or panniers to hold everything).

Here's a discussion on the Katy Trail Forum about what to pack.

Here's a good packing list for serious bike touring (probably more than you'd need for the Katy Trail): http://www.allenf.com/bikelist.htm
Is the trail handicap/wheelchair-accessible?
Yes, the trail is flat and easily reached by wheelchair from nearly all trailheads.  One exception is the St Charles 364 parking lot (not the main St Charles Trailhead), which has a steep 1/4 mile long ramp that some wheelchair users might not want to tackle.
Note that Katy Bike Rental in Defiance offers wheelchair bikes, handcycles, and other specialized equipment to make the trail more accessible to handicapped individuals.

Although motorized vehicles are banned from the trail, motorized wheelchairs and scooters for the handicapped are allowed.

Be aware that your wheelchair or mobility device will get dusty from the trail surface.
Has anyone ever ridden the entire trail in a single day?
Amazingly, yes.  We maintain a list of people who have ridden the Katy Trail in a single day, or covered the whole trail on foot. If you've accomplished either of these feats, let us know.
How do I get my business listed on BikeKatyTrail.com?
If your business is on or near the Katy Trail, and of interest to trail users, then BikeKatyTrail wants to list you.  Please visit the Contact Us page for a list of the info we need, and what address to send it to.  There are no fees whatsoever to be listed here.

Want to get your message out to thousands of Katy Trail users?  BikeKatyTrail offers reasonably priced advertising to a highly-targeted group of potential customers, most of whom are actively planning a Katy Trail trip.  We'll even create an ad for you!  For more details, check out the Advertising Rates page.
I spotted an error on the site.  How can I report it?
I appreciate your help in keeping the site 100% accurate (so do future visitors to the site!).  Please contact BikeKatyTrail.com with details of the error, and we'll fix it ASAP.
I love your website - what can I do to help support you?
Really, people do ask this!  If you've found BikeKatyTrail to be a useful resource, please help spread the word by telling other Katy Trail users about the website.  Please support our advertisers - they make the website possible.  And when you patronize a trail business that you saw listed here, please tell them that you saw them on BikeKatyTrail.com.  Finally, please consider getting a Katy Trail t-shirt, patch, map, and/or sticker - they're really cool!
Who built this site?
Ray Scott is an avid cyclist and a six-time marathon finisher.  In August 2012, my son and I rode the trail from end to end (actually we crossed the state of Missouri, from the Kansas state line to the Mississippi River, using the Katy Trail for the majority of our 310 mile ride). In August 2013, we rode from Machens to Clinton over four days.

"As a software engineer who builds commercial websites for a living, I decided to build the ultimate Katy Trail website with all the nitty-gritty details that cyclists and runners need.  I hope you'll find BikeKatyTrail to be a useful resource for all your Katy Trail information needs.