galena tourism

Run the Galena River Trail

Our intern, Ally explored the Galena River Trail and beyond! Here is a recount of her adventure… 

Raise your heart rate, get a good work out and find mental serenity in Mother Nature. What better way to distract yourself from your own heavy breathing and running fatigue than the scenic trails and country roads found in Galena Country?

The Galena River Trail is located just steps away from the hustle and bustle of Galena’s Helluva Half Mile. Tucked away in the woods lining the Galena River, this serene 8-mile trail is the perfect place to reconnect with nature. It’s mostly flat terrain, which makes cycling and running a breeze.

In fact, running seems less horrific when you get to experience one of the best views of Galena. As I explored the trail, the diversity of scenery and people with dogs, bikes and grand kids who passed me was fascinating. With two knee surgeries and my personal preference, this trail is especially perfect for me because it is flat. No hills or inclines, just a nice, relaxing path to get those steps in.

As I walked, calmness came over me. There are spots on the trail with great views of the river but also with stretches of lush greenery and timber. For runners who might need a quick break or breather, there are benches perfectly located throughout the trail. Each bench is surrounded by a unique collection of colorful plants.

I didn’t make it to the end of the trail but I plan to ride my bike to the end next time. The trail follows the Galena River all the way to the backwaters of the Mighty Mississippi. Lush marshland plants and river species of all sorts call this beautiful landscape home and the trail continues to the bottom of Chestnut Mountain Resort.

From there, I plan on riding the ski lift to the top of the “mountain” to enjoy a light meal and drink at Sunset Grille. From the top, I’ll also be able to take in the view of the Mississippi, with sights of Iowa and Wisconsin in the distance. The best part about taking the lift is that I can load my bike and ride up to the top for free.

Another unique feature about the Galena River Trail is the landing and boat launch. With picnic tables, it’s the perfect spot for a quick lunch with a view of the Galena River and downtown Galena. Not a runner? Anyone can use the landing for kayaks, canoes, paddle boats and as a great fishing adventure launch.

Speaking of Chestnut, they’ve got some great wooded trails worth exploring. With more than 143 acres, their grounds are perfect for family hikes, solo runs or endurance mountain biking and hiking. I decided to check out the trail by foot and stayed close to the main lodge. The front desk was helpful in providing guidance on which trails led where, so I chose the Yellow Trail Loop. It starts in the woods and ends at North Grandview Pointe. More on that in a minute.

As I began my hike, I heard what sounded like machines. A few seconds later, a group of Segways zipped by. They all seemed to be having a lot of fun and it was definitely something I wasn’t expecting to see. I learned later that Chestnut offers guided Segway tours. How cool!

After the group was out of sight, it was just me and my thoughts. I couldn’t believe how the trails reminded me of paths I have hiked in upper Michigan and Wisconsin. The thick canopy of trees was just what I needed but the best was yet to come. As I approached the end of my trail, I noticed the beginning of one of the best views I have ever laid my eyes on. I’m talking about the panoramic view of the Mississippi River that was waiting for me. My trail ended in an open, grassy knoll overlooking the river valley. I don’t know if it was the sheer surprise or the timing of the sun beginning to set but I suddenly found myself breathless, completely lost in the moment. It was an experience I will never forget and one I hope you can find on your own journey to Chestnut Mountain Resort.

Galena River Trail Picnic Area

For those more interested in road running, I have a few suggestions. After my hike at Chestnut, I drove the more scenic route home, exploring the country roads between Galena and Hanover. It was filled with scenes straight out of a movie with everything from immaculate horse ranches to classic red barns and historic cemeteries to old farmhouses. The winding back roads of Galena Country are well worth exploring with a long run or bike ride.

  • Irish Hollow Road will lead you by babbling brooks, hidden train tunnels and limestone cottages covered in vines. It’s a setting pulled straight out of a Thomas Kinkade painting.
  • Pilot Knob Road winds by endless fields of prairie grass and climbs up and down bluffs on its way to Casper Bluff Land & Water Reserve.
  • Devil’s Ladder Road has a few tight curves with limited vision for vehicles but if you’re a runner up for a challenge, it warrants some of the best views of Galena Country farmland you’ll ever see.

For even more road running ideas, check out the Galena Geo-tag on Map My Run.

Those who have conquered the trail by foot, a post-run recovery and one of the spas in Galena Country is an option. A relaxing massage is a great way to reward oneself for hard work and effectively treat sore muscles to prevent injuries.

Barefoot Adventures in Galena Country

Our intern, Ally, jumped in with both feet as she experienced Galena Country mostly barefoot! Here is a recount of her adventure… 

“I can’t keep my foot in my mouth any longer about my time at Apple River Canyon State Park. It was a muggy morning but Pine Trail was completely shaded, which made for a nice, cool hike. There are a variety of trails, but we chose this one as it was only 1 mile and the sign promised some things along the way. We buckled up our fanny packs and entered.

It was quiet and peaceful as we made our way through the trail. You realize why it’s named Pine Trail when you see a host of beautiful pine trees lining the walkway. After storms rolled through a few days prior, the timber was lush and filled with beautiful plants and flowers.

Once we found the river, I ditched the shoes and went barefoot. The mud felt sweet between my toes and it made the experience feel extremely natural. The water was off the trail a little but the natural bluffs carved away by the river are a must-see. Before I knew it, we were sitting on the edge of the trail, resting in the grass and listening to the sweet sounds of nature.

It was just what the doctor ordered – a decent dose of sunshine and relaxation.

To add to my natural, holistic foot adventure, I stopped by Sacred Sole and Massage. Most people cringe when I tell them I was getting massaged by someone’s bare feet. I set them straight right away because not only was the massage the most amazing one I’ve ever had but the woman was also even more beautiful. Inside and out, Theresa Young was so great that I had to give her a hug at the end of my session because it wasn’t just a massage. She informed me of why she practices the way she does, background information about the Fiji-style massage and made it a unique experience.

I do CrossFit, which puts a lot of stress and soreness on my body, and she said she massages 3-4 other CrossFitters who come to her regularly, which made me feel even more at home. So, whether you’re an athlete, parent, grandparent or anyone looking for a “not-too-soft” but “not-too-much” pressure massage, go to her!

What she does with her feet, I doubt anyone could do with their hands. Like I said, Theresa has me wanting to come back for more. And if you want to leave a session feeling brand new, choose Sacred Sole & Massage located in the heart of Galena’s Helluva Half Mile.

If you’re not into the idea of a massage from feet but you like the idea of being primped, foot massages and pedicures are another great option. Galena Country is home to top-notch spas, all specializing in a variety of pampering experiences. Treat yourself to an afternoon of bliss and book a spa foot treatment. Soon, it’ll be time to find the perfect pair of sandals to show off your new pedicure.

That’s right. Make it a shopping adventure and explore the Helluva Half Mile for the perfect pair of kicks. Honest John’s is just one of many shops who carry top-quality brands, including my favorite sandals, Birkenstock.

Other barefoot adventures in Galena Country include kayaking and canoeing. While you’ll want to wear shoes while loading your vessel in and out of the water, during your float, you might just find yourself kicking off those shoes and dipping them into the cool current of the Galena River. You can float all the way to the Mississippi River with your toesies hanging out.

So, quit tiptoeing around the idea and #GetToGalena Country to experience these barefoot adventures.”