ParkTalk Blog: Five Main Types of Trails Throughout the Naperville Park District

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Local trails are incredibly beneficial to communities. Not only do they help preserve natural landscapes and habitats, but trails also provide easy access to healthy outdoor exercise. Common trail-based activities, such as walking, running, or biking, are known to improve the physical and mental health of those engaging in the activity. Over 70 miles of trails connect the easily navigable City of Naperville, and the Naperville Park District maintains them across the community. Over the years, residents continually expressed the importance of trails for walking and biking, and input gathered from the 2022 Community Interest and Opinion Survey, further emphasized this. It's important to note that there are different kinds of trails in the community; these include connected trails and loop trails in individual parks as well as trails that connect to other trails and roadways, thereby facilitating an alternate transportation route. With a wide variety of trail types in Naperville, there is a purpose for each and a means for everyone to enjoy some active recreation outdoors. Here are five main trail types you will find in Naperville.

1. The Scenic Route: Naperville Riverwalk

The renowned Naperville Riverwalk

When spending a day in Downtown Naperville, there's no path as popular as Naperville's Riverwalk. Often referred to as the "Crown Jewel," the Riverwalk allows visitors to take in the beautiful sights along the DuPage River after spending the day relaxing at Centennial Beach or kayaking at the Paddleboat Quarry. You can stop along the Riverwalk to picnic on the green grass or under the Riverwalk Grand Pavilion. If you have kids in tow, you can make a stop at the adjacent Jaycees Playground. Stretching from Sindt Woods on the west end of Riverwalk Park all the way through the heart of Downtown Naperville, the Riverwalk delights everyone who visits with the sights and sounds of the DuPage River, transitioning to the bustling action of the downtown area. While bike riding isn't allowed on the Riverwalk, this allows Riverwalk pedestrians to enjoy the scenery and a leisurely stroll without having to navigate people on wheels. Dogs on leashes are welcome on the Riverwalk as long as owners manage them accordingly and pick up any waste. Mutt Mitts are available in certain areas along the Riverwalk for the convenience of pet owners.

2. The Long Road Ahead: Knoch Knolls Park to Naperville Riverwalk

West Branch DuPage River Trail passing through Pioneer Park

Naperville trails connect across the city and can stretch for miles. A great example of such a trail is the West Branch DuPage River Trail. The West Branch extends for miles across multiple towns. In Naperville, however, this trail will take you on a mini tour of Naperville parks. Starting at Knoch Knolls Park, this trail passes through Dorothea Weigand Riverfront Park, Pioneer Park, Veterans Park, connecting with the Naperville Riverwalk and into Firemen's Memorial Park and then to Wil-O-Way Commons. With longer trail segments such as this one, there are restrooms and water fountains for seasonal use along the way, which are great resting spots for those who choose to venture along this route. This trail is perfect for bikers and runners looking to go the distance during their workouts or for long distance walkers seeking to enjoy the scenic stroll along the DuPage River into Downtown Naperville.

3. Round and Round: Loop trails at Nike Sports Complex and Wolf's Crossing Community Park

Turning point on the looped trail at Nike Sports Complex

The Naperville Park District maintains loop trails at several locations, including Nike Sports Complex and Wolf's Crossing Community Park, allowing those who prefer the convenience of walking or running in one location over the journey of a longer, extended trail. (Wolf's Crossing Community Park also connects to Frontier Sports Complex for a long, interconnected trail.) Loop trails are perfect for individuals who want to walk long distances without distancing themselves from their vehicles. They also make distance-tracking easier as each lap is a certain length.

Trail at Wolf's Crossing Community Park

Nike Sports Complex offers a short, flat loop trail that surrounds the synthetic turf field in the park, but Wolf's Crossing's multiple loop trails span the entire park's property. The direction you take on the path can affect the overall length of the lap as well as the elevation and includes a scenic lookout with the ability to see across the entire park. This variety gives trail-goers multiple options on the type of activity they want to do on the trail in a defined, open area.

4. One With Nature at Knoch Knolls Park

Asphalt trail in Knoch Knolls Park

Knoch Knolls Park has one of the most expansive system of trails in the Naperville Park District. Starting at Knoch Knolls Nature Center, miles of branching paths cross through Knoch Knolls Park and into nearby Park District properties, such as the Frank Rus Preserve adjacent to Knoch Knolls Park, DuPage River Sports Complex and Rivercrest Estates Park. Depending on the time of year, you'll see beautiful wildflowers like the Virginia Bluebells blossom and hear diverse bird calls all while immersing yourself in a relaxing, natural environment. This lengthy trail makes for a pleasant nature walk along a winding asphalt trail, a challenging bike ride with rolling hills, or a scenic jog with ample shade.

5. Hiker's Delight

Dirt hiking path at DuPage River Sports Complex

If you're looking to take your nature walk a step further, the Naperville Park District offers dirt paths throughout the wooded area at Knoch Knolls Park and DuPage River Sports Complex. Trail goers can challenge themselves by navigating through the natural environment with branches and roots while hiking in between both parks. These trails will transport you to the wooded wilderness surrounded by tall trees and local wildlife. While walking dirt trails, it is important to be equipped with water and the proper apparel. Hiking shoes or boots should be worn to protect your feet from roots and fallen branches, and hikers should apply bug spray to protect themselves from ticks and mosquitoes.

The Naperville Park District encourages residents and visitors to utilize the trails maintained across the community. While trails are used in different ways and trail types may vary, the Park District wants to remind everyone of simple practices to help provide a safe and enjoyable experience for all trail users. To learn about trail rules and etiquette, and to view regional trail maps, visit