Riding the Great River Road

Are you looking for your next Illinois road trip? We highly recommend the Great River Road. 

This road travels along the Mississippi River and passes through several states. However, the portion through Illinois makes for an excellent multi-day road trip through some of the state’s most beautiful river towns. 

Read on to learn more about taking a Great River Road motorcycle ride through Illinois. 

What Is the Great River Road?

The Great River Road is a collection of roads that closely follow the Mississippi River. This route spans over 3,000 miles and passes through ten states, including:

  • Minnesota
  • Wisconsin
  • Iowa
  • Illinois
  • Missouri
  • Kentucky
  • Tennessee
  • Arkansas
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana 

This road has received designations as an All-American Road and a National Scenic Byway. 

The Illinois portion of the Great River Road spans 550 miles. It begins in Cairo and ends in East Dubuque, passing through numerous river towns. 

Riding the Illinois Great River Road 

Riding the entire Illinois portion of the Great River Road will take you about nine hours without stops. However, you’ll probably want to stop at at least one or two attractions to break up the trip and experience some of the state’s best tourist destinations. As a result, we recommend splitting the trip up between two days if possible. 

The Mississippi River follows the Illinois border. As a result, as you travel along the Illinois portion of the Great River Road, you will be extremely close to Missouri and Iowa. You can easily cross into these states if desired. 

When you travel the Illinois Great River Road from south to north, you will pass through the following counties in this order:

  • Alexander
  • Union 
  • Jackson
  • Randolph
  • Monroe
  • St. Claire
  • Madison
  • Jersey
  • Greene
  • Calhoun
  • Pike
  • Adams
  • Handerson
  • Mercer
  • Rock Island
  • Whiteside 
  • Carrol
  • Jo Daviess

You can pick up the route in any of these counties. However, if you want to travel the entire length of the Great River Road within Illinois, you can begin in Cairo and follow signs for the route as you travel north. You can also reference these navigation directions.

Places to Stop On Your Illinois Great River Road Motorcycle Ride

One of the most enjoyable aspects of taking a motorcycle road trip is stopping at interesting attractions along the way. Thankfully, there is plenty to do and see along the Illinois portion of the Great River Road. You can easily extend this trip over several days or weeks and spend time in each of the following cities:

St. Louis, MO

St. Louis is just a short drive from the starting point of the Illinois Great River Road. As a result, you can easily check out this city before starting your motorcycle trip. 

St. Louis is home to Gateway Arch, a 630-foot arch built in the 1960s. It also offers numerous attractions, such as the Missouri Botanical Garden, the City Museum, and the Saint Louis Zoo. 

Grafton, IL

Grafton is a small tourist town that offers several attractions for visitors. You can hike at Pere Marquette State Park, grab a sweet treat at Grafton Fudge and Ice Cream, or take a Grafton Sky Tour at Aerie’s Resort.

Quincy, IL

Quincy is one of the larger towns along the Great River Road, with a population of around 40,000. You can stop at the Quincy Museum to learn about the city’s history, visit the Villa Kathrine to take in the Moroccan-style architecture, or hike along the Bill Klingner Trail to see some of the city’s scenic beauty. 

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