Into The Wild: Hike or bike the Cherry Valley Path

The Cherry Valley Path is a 1.43-mile paved path between Swanson Parkway and Valley Woods Drive. Photo provided

As with “No Child Left Inside,” welcome to a new series of articles in partnership with Four Rivers Environmental Coalition (FREC) and

The Rock River Times. In recognition of the United Nations designation of 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity, the FREC presents this bi-weekly series to help readers discover the amazing array of plants and animals in the rivers, prairies and woodlands “in our own back yard.” FREC is an alliance of 35 member organizations “dedicated to educating and advocating for the plants, animals, natural resources and ecosystems of the Four Rivers Region.” Please visit

By Becky Stokes Lambert
Environmental Recreation and Education Manager, Rockford Park District

When in search of a high-quality paved multi-use path, most people head downtown to the beautiful Rock River Recreation Path. What many may not know is that a path of equal quality exists in the southeast area of the Rockford Park District. The paved trail that begins in Southeast Community Park is called the Cherry Valley Path and is fully accessible, offering a surface suitable for bikes, strollers, roller blades and dog walking. This path is part of a proposed trail system that would connect to the existing Perryville Path.

Opened in the fall of 1998, the Cherry Valley Path is a 1.43-mile paved path between Swanson Parkway and Valley Woods Drive. The hike can be extended by taking the tunnel under U.S. Bypass 20 and following the signs on the Village of Cherry Valley streets to connect to the 1.7 miles of pathway in Baumann Park.

Situated on land formerly used for farming, the path winds along a small creek lined with shrubby undergrowth, perfect for bird habitat. The once undulating farm fields are now being restored to prairie, and alternate paths lead one up a small hill into a stand of noble oak trees and down again or along the pond.

On a Friday evening, with dog and leash in hand, only three other users were visible. A stroll up the hill into the old growth revealed a well-placed limestone boulder pile suitable for climbing and viewing the vista below. Dog and walker rested for a time and then moved down to the pond.

On this hike, a red-tailed hawk, Canada geese, red-winged blackbirds and coyote evidence were easily spotted. Though located adjacent to U.S. Bypass 20 and across from CherryVale Mall, the setting is peaceful and quiet. One can still feel the openness of the vast farm fields that once claimed this land.

Illinois farmland is disappearing at the rate of 41,000 acres each year. These fields not only have provided food for countless humans, but also open space that provided migration corridors, animal habitat and safe harbor for prairie remnants. Best practices in farming ensured limited soil erosion and maximum water infiltration to recharge aquifers. As farmland is repurposed, it is essential to maintain open areas and provide for the continued benefit of those open spaces.

Rockford Park District welcomes leashed dogs and their owners to its properties. For an off leash experience, visit Canine Corners at Searls or Elliot parks. Do not forget to bring supplies for cleaning up after a pet, as this will ensure continued use by wild animals and a more pleasant experience for all.

Parking for access to this area of the Cherry Valley Path is limited. The path can be reached from Vandiver Road, south of Kegel’s Motorcycle Store and Diner.

For more information about existing and proposed paths, pick up the Rockford Area Paths & Recreation Site-Map at Rockford Park District offices and major facilities.

Cherry Valley Path/Southeast Community Park—3151 Perryville Road, Rockford. Maintained by the Rockford Park District ( Open to the public. Includes 123 acres, 1.43-mile paved path and trash receptacles. No restrooms.

From the March 31-April 6, 2010 issue

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