Clinton Lake Trail
by David Scott
http://dnr.state.il.us/lands/landmgt/PARKS/R3/CLINTON.HTM (Clinton Lake Website)
http://www.ilohwy.com/f/farmerci.htm (Farmer City website)
http://www.wwhp.com/ ("The Whip" -- great radio station broadcasting from Farmer City on 98.3 FM)
This trail loops around the north(-west) arm of Clinton Lake in De Witt County. The outward leg heads south on the west side of the lake; the return north is on the east side of the water. It is 9.5 to 11 miles long, depending on whether you believe Chris Migotsky's Pod pedometer, or the length you really think it is. The trail is seldom flat for most of its length, as it makes short steep ascents and descents up and down from tributary creeks (much like the Lake Mingo trail). It is the toughest trail in the area, excepting the Forest Glen Backpack Trail (some find it harder).
To get there, take I-74 to the Farmer City exit, then Illinois 54 south through Farmer City to Parnell. As the main road curves left at a pair of big grain elevators, go straight (1200 N or De Witt County 10). Follow this through flat farmland until woods appear and there is a big dip in the road. At the bottom of the dip, turn left and park in the North Fork Canoe Access parking lot.
The trail starts across the road, before the distinctive girder bridge. It is clearly marked the whole way with white flashes and the occasional arrow and marker wand. On the outward leg, the trail jogs to the left after about a mile as it crosses a track heading down to the left. About a mile later, the route skirts to the left of a hunting cabin and a small pond. After a very long five miles or so, the path emerges onto a road. Turn left and cross the bridge. On the far side, the start of the second half of the trail is found opposite the big parking lot. This arm of the trail is easier and shorter, and (certainly in summer) offers more expansive views. It is easy to follow: just be careful when heading up the wide track towards a house to look out for the trail branching off to the left. The end of the trail is unfortunately advertised by old washing machines and the remains of a couple of 1950s cars. When you emerge on the road, turn left, cross the girder bridge and you will see the parking lot where you started.
Breakfast: Farmer City Caf: good standard breakfasts though unfortunately the unique buffalo menu and gift shop are now gone.