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The Madison County Transit (MCT) Schoolhouse Trail offers a 15.5-mile flat, paved route through the eastern suburbs of greater St. Louis, Missouri, between Madison and Maryville, Illinois. Along the way, it meets two other trails that are part of the MCT’s 130-mile network of nine interconnected trails, all of which are linked with public transit. This trail lies along an alignment of the old Illinois Traction System (later the Illinois Terminal Railroad) of electric trains that once connected St. Louis to Springfield. Other rail-trails in the state, such as the Interurban Trail in Sangamon County, also use this corridor, which the railroad stopped operating in the 1980s.
The route begins at a trailhead just west of Horseshoe Lake State Park in Madison, Illinois. You’ll head south on the trail about 0.2 mile until it picks up the old railroad corridor; it then crosses IL 203 on a girder bridge and heads east along the north side of the oxbow lake.
For a few miles, the trail shares this route with a utility corridor and passes industrial areas while Horseshoe Lake remains hidden. But be patient. At mile 3, the lake bursts into view when the path emerges from a pocket of trees. The lake offers excellent bird-watching, as nearly 300 species have been spotted here. The state park drains the lake’s southern portion in late summer, drawing snowy egrets and great blue herons to feast on clams and snails. Watch for a connection on the left to the MCT Nature Trail, which heads northeast toward Edwardsville.
Leaving the park, you soon cross IL 111, where the trail takes on a more rural feel, with farms on both sides. You’ll come upon the trail’s namesake, Schoolhouse Branch, just before you pass under I-255, roughly the halfway mark for the trail. About 1.1 miles past the interstate, you’ll arrive at the Metro East Park and Recreation District (MEPRD) trailhead on the outskirts of Collinsville. Just when it seems like more suburban sprawl will impinge your view, the trail plunges into woodlands behind very tidy neighborhoods. It is quiet through the hardwoods, disguising your proximity to a major interstate. The woods occasionally open up to offer glimpses of farm fields bordered by development.
As you enter the village of Maryville, a trail to the local YMCA joins from the right at 3.4 miles past the MEPRD trailhead. In an additional 1.2 miles, you’ll pass Drost Park on the left. Consider stopping here for restrooms and drinking water, as the trail’s endpoint has no facilities. It’s another 1.2 miles to the MCT Schoolhouse Trail terminus at a junction with the MCT Goshen Trail, which travels north 0.4 mile to parking and another 8 miles to Edwardsville. It connects with the MCT Ronald J. Foster Heritage, Nature, Nickel Plate, and Watershed Trails along the way.
To reach the western trailhead in Madison: From I-55, take Exit 4 or 4B and head north on IL 203. Go 1.9 miles and turn left onto Harrison St. The trailhead and parking are immediately on the left.
To reach the eastern trailhead in Maryville: From I-55, take Exit 18 and head west toward Maryville on IL 162/Edwardsville Road at the end of the ramp. Go 0.8 mile to Old Troy Road and turn right. Parking for the MCT Goshen Trail is about 500 feet ahead on the right. From the parking lot, go south 0.4 mile on the Goshen Trail to the junction with the MCT Schoolhouse Trail.
Loved taking this trail today for some rollerblading. I've had trouble finding paths that are smooth, flat, and not too crowded, but this is it! The beautiful scenery around the lake was an added bonus.
I really enjoyed the scenery here as well as the wildlife. There are tons of shaded areas along the way and plenty of interesting things to look at. We saw a large buck, doe and little fawn as well as some larger birds.
The ride is really flat and super well-maintained, and Horseshoe Lake was really pretty during golden hour. My one caveat: where we parked (the very west end of the trail) didn't feel very safe.When we arrived, there were no other cyclists in the area and there was a dog roaming around without a collar. I know this sounds awfully judgy, but I am a St. Louis City resident who lives just off Grand and have seen my fair share of crime. Next time we'll just park the car further up the trail near other people.
Don't let that dissuade you front trying this trail!
Madison County out did themselves with these trails. They are flat for the most part, clear, spacious and well maintained. You can get a short ride or get a nice distance ride in like my buddies and I did from Horeshoe Lake out to Marine.Highly recommend.
Started at the western end for my run today and did 7.5 miles out and back. The course was very flat and perfect for running. No obstacles to impede your run if you are trying to do a workout. There was only 1 stoplight to go through for at least the first 8 miles of the course. The first 3 miles on the western end were isolated so use your best judgment on safety- that being said, I felt safe on the course
While St.Louis has many places to ride with more every year, MCT Trail network is the best place to ride in the whole St. Louis Metro area. The trails are paved , well kept, scenic, accessible, and make it very easy to crank out 40,60, 80+ miles. There are many places to "refresh and refuel" after your ride. I give them an A and would rank them up there with any other trail network in the country.
Thank you Madison County!
My wife and I rode this trail today and we were very impressed with how well kept the trails are. Also several areas that have bathrooms and water. We parked in the middle of the trail at the headquarters area which had air and tools as well! They seemed to have gone out of their way to make everything as pleasant as possible. We will surely be back!
We decided to ride this trail and connect it with the Goshen Trail, and the Nature Trail for a total of 35.8 miles. It is a nice ride, Horsehoe Lake is very pretty. Was able to see some deer along the way on the Goshen Trail. Overall it was a very nice ride, the nature Trail provided the most scenic part of the trail in my opinion. I would recommend that you get the small foldable map from mcttrails.org It shows the complete trail system of over 100 miles.
..and this trail (by a schoolhouse of yesteryear) is one I liked, too. All except the west end's parking lot in kind of a rough section of town. We had a nice chat with some fellow trikers we met on the trail, and it was a special treat to visit the MEPRD rest area at the halfway mark. They do so much to promote trail recreation in this area! I was really glad someone told me before about the alternate route on Lake Drive. The constant, 1-mile view of Horseshoe Lake was really nice.
This is the first trail I took my son on and he loves it, particularly going through tunnels under roadways :)
This was our first visit to the Madison County Transit Trails (in July 2013). It was a lot of fun and so much to see. We rode about 9 miles of the trail and then back again (about a total of 18-20 miles). We saw, bunnies, deer, a momma crane and 13 baby cranes along the way and also saw some RC planes flying around (which our 10 year old son absolutely loved-we had to stop along the trail and watch a while). It was awesome. We cannot wait to go back and ride some of the other trails. We drove 1 hour and 45 minutes to get there and were not disappointed. In fact, we cannot wait to go back!!!!!
We came from Melbourne, Australia to sample a few cycling rail trails. We brought our tandem recumbent with us. We collected a very comprehensive map from the Madison County Transit One Transit Way
Granite City, IL 62040-7500. The staff there were very friendly, willing and informative. We started from Citizen Park 299 Daenzer Dr Glen Carbon, IL 62034, a very well situated car park close to a local library. We used its restrooms as the trail ones were closed. We cycled in a loop starting on the Nickel Plate Trail then onto the Nature Trail towards Granit City, turning to Schoolhouse Trail along the Horseshoe Lake, then Goshen Trail to Edwardsville for lunch and desert at famous Annie's Frozen Custard. Yummy!!! We pedaled back to the car park via Nickel Plate Trail.
The day was very enjoyable. This network of trails is fantastic. The surface is all concrete or asphalt, very smooth. Well mapped directions with maps on every intersection. Uninterrupted green views everywhere with deer and squirrels. Restrooms with pergolas and benches were well situated along each trail.
It was a hot and humid May day, but with sheltered pathways the riding was made easy and pleasant.
We highly recommend the Trails and leave few photos for posterity.
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