by David Scott
http://allerton.illinois.edu/ (Allerton Park Website)
http://www.monticelloillinois.net/ (Monticello Website -- "more than imagined")
Allerton Park, near Monticello, is my favorite place in central Illinois, with its combination of statuary and trails, formal gardens and woodlands. It has the best range and display of spring wild flowers in the area. For running, there are options on both sides of the river. It is possible to do both sides in one grand tour of about 12.5 miles. The bridge over the Sangamon River has been closed off for repairs (which are not going to be done any time soon), and this limits vehicle passage, but on foot it is possible to circumvent the fence.
To get to the north (house) side, take the second Monticello exit from I-72 (coming from Champaign), and follow the brown signs to the Park. From the main parking lot, the trail goes through an avenue of trees back along beside the road to the pagoda and right into the Fu Dog garden and down to the river. Follow the river (the trail here is often under water after heavy rain) past the house and the edge of the meadow and the trail up to the Centaur until the trail to the Sunsinger is reached. Go up this, around the Sunsinger and back half way down to the Centaur trail. Follow this, passing the Centaur, to the Sunken Garden. From here, finish through the formal gardens or the meadow to get back to the parking lot (5.5 miles). This is roughly the course followed by the Allerton Park Trail Run in late October.
To get to the south side of the Park, approach via Monticello (coming from the north, turn right at the McDonalds and left at the golf course). Park in the small parking lot just inside the entrance on the left. The trail heads out the back of the lot. Turn right at every trail junction (excluding a couple of trails that take you straight out the Park), and you will do about 6 miles before returning to the parking lot. The trails pass through natural woodlands with gentle gradients and a 50-acre prairie restoration. There are several trails which can be used to shorten the loop (as on the north side, maps are posted at trail junctions). The trails on this side (especially at the far end) can flood after rain, too.
Breakfast: Montgomery's on the square in Monticello. A cut above the ordinary breakfast. Alternatively for brunch, just off the square, the Brown Bag Deli with its famous pies by Inge (closed Sundays).