Aurora, Illinois, offers a variety of running routes for every level, from beginning jogger to serious marathoner. Quiet residential parks and riverfront paths are perfect for a quick run. More serious runners can check out longer trails in tree-lined forest preserves or routes that span the prairie through three counties. These are our favorite running routes in and around Aurora.
Picture yourself running on the same ground where mastodons roamed 22,000 years ago! While digging this lake in the 1930s, archaeologists uncovered bones and tusks belonging to mastodons—prehistoric pachyderms—who lived in the area between 10,000 to 22,000 years ago. Aurora later turned the 28-acre lake and its peninsular island into a park within the city’s larger Phillips Park. Ideal for quick runs, the gently sloping 1.5-mile paved path loops through forested areas around the lake. To add strength training, stop at any of the weight resistance machines strategically located along the path. Park on H.A. Wyeth Senior Drive and use the pedestrian bridge on the east side of the lake to access the trail.
Looking for a place for an early morning run before your work day begins? Tucked within a residential neighborhood, this trail goes past the playground, picnic shelter, fishing pier, and creek before circling the lake. Continue another mile, and you’ll hit Waubonsie Creek Trail and the Eola Community Center, where you can refill your water bottle before heading back.
Want to add a challenge to your next run? Then head to Oakhurst Forest Preserve and scale the half-mile path that cuts across one of the area’s tallest hills. The view at its summit—of the lake and forested area—makes it worth the huffing and puffing up the steep incline. Then complete your run by choosing one of seven other trails, ranging from the half-mile mowed-grass Beaver Trail that takes you through a wildflower prairie to the gravel trail that circles Lake Patterson. A map of the forest preserve and its trails is available at the information kiosk by the parking area. The preserve is open from sunrise to sunset, 365 days per year.
Runners looking to build their endurance should check out the Illinois Prairie Path. One of the area’s most popular multi-use trails, the Illinois Prairie Path spans 61 miles through three counties in northeastern Illinois. The southern branch of the trail begins at Illinois Avenue Park in Aurora, following the northern border of the Arlene Shoemaker Forest Preserve, then extending northeast for 13 miles until it converges with the trail’s northern and eastern branches in the city of Wheaton. Traversing prairies, forests and urban areas, the trail’s surface varies from asphalt to hard-packed crushed stone. The path gets crowded with high-speed cyclists on weekend afternoons so if you prefer a quieter jog, schedule your run in the mornings or during weekdays.
Head to the Fox River Trail for a running route that offers diverse terrain and delightful vistas. This 43-mile multi-use path travels through city streets, riverfront parks and forest preserves. During your run you will see quaint restaurants and charming shops (in Aurora and other towns); waterfalls and dams (along the Fox River); and marshes and woodlands (Kane County Forest Preserve). You might even spot a blue heron fishing in the river or a bald eagle soaring between the trees. The trail’s difficulty ranges from easy-to-maneuver flat paths to more challenging hills. It is very popular with long-distance cyclists and picnicking families on weekends afternoons. You can avoid crowds by planning your run during a weekend morning or anytime on a weekday.
The 11-mile Virgil Gilman Trail is popular with those training for half and full marathons, although individuals looking for a shorter run will enjoy the diverse terrain of this trail, too. The path takes you through established residential neighborhoods, across bridges, near creeks and wetlands, through restored prairies and next to a 19th-century living history museum called Blackberry Farm. Most of the trail is shaded by trees, making it a comfortable run even on hot, sunny afternoons. Dogs are allowed on the trail, so bring your canine friend with you, but keep him on a leash at all times.
Located within Kane County’s Arlene Shoemaker Forest Preserve, the short .39-mile Swamp White Oak Trail is an easy course for joggers and beginning runners. The trail is named for the trees that canopy it – oak trees whose leaves have a distinctive silvery-white underside. Swamp White Oak Trail is especially pretty in the fall, when those leaves turn a vibrant golden orange. While running, keep your eyes peeled for a variety of unique birds. More than 123 species make their home in the flatwood ecosystem that surrounds the trail, including wild turkeys, ruby-throated hummingbirds, great blue herons and several types of woodpeckers. The trail connects with the 61-mile Illinois Prairie Path for those who want to extend their run.