The Best Guide to Motorcycle Roads, Rides & Events

Great River Road + ADD NEW ROUTE


4   in Illinois Illinois36 Miles

By Jim W.
on September 1, 2003

4.7out of 5

6 Riders rated

 Scenery

 Road Quality

 Roadside Amenities

Written Directions

Start
this ride in Alton
Illinois
. From Alton its pretty easy as you just stay
on IL 100 heading North past the towns of Elsah, Grafton
and on to Pere Marquette State Park. Keep in mind that the
Park itself has some GREAT twisty roads within it however
the speed limits are pretty slow. The distance from Alton
to the state park is only about 20 miles so if you want
to continue riding you can head up IL 100 which will cross
the Illinois River and put you in the town of Hardin, IL.
From there take Route 1 South (take a left) and follow that
as it takes you down south and eventually heads northeast
and leads you across the Illinois River by way of a FREE
FERRY and puts you back at Pere
Marquette State Park
.

Scenery

The Mississippi river is on one side, and typically there are bluffs, caves, beautiful farm fields, wetlands or something beautiful on the other side to see. The road is all paved and it takes you through a lot of small river towns. You'll see LOTS of bikes along the way as well as boats on the river. As far as wild life, you'll see plenty of birds and even bald eagles at the right time of year! At several places there are ferries that you can take west across the river if you are heading back to St. Louis.

The following addition was contributed by Sparks in March of 2014:
Soaring Eagles and the Piasa Bird are but two of the many rewards riders find on the Great River Road, North Saint Louis Branch. 15 miles of winding two lanes up and two lanes back along the rolling Mississippi River between Alton and Grafton, Illinois provide a feast for every human sense.
Most folks will begin and end their ride in Alton, Illinois. If you have folks coming in from other locations, a really good rally point would be in the parking lot under the cliff mural of the great Piasa Bird just as one passes the lime stone quarry at the very beginning of the Great River Road.

Road Quality

Nice sweeping curves but not too many twisties and no big hills yet the whole way is in good condition. NOTE - there are LOTS of side roads that connect to the River Road, there you will find a lot of twisties! You'll just have to explore the side roads if you like twisties - YOU'LL BE GLAD YOU DID!!!

The following addition was contributed by Sparks in March of 2014:
The ride from Alton to Grafton provides each rider at least 20 minutes of pure pleasure to all of senses. The sights, sounds, smells and tastes of this short but very scenic slice of blacktop guarantees to move your soul. Even the gentle curves in the road provide eye candy all the way up and you'll be eager to see it closer to the river on the way back.

Roadside Amenities

Plenty of bars and restaurants along the way and a good share of small town antiques stores and such. A bike path also runs along the road, so its great you those without motors too! Be sure and stop by Pere Marquette State Park as it has some great roads too. Although be careful of the park traffic as many of the tourists are focusing on the scenery and not the road.

The following addition was contributed by Sparks in March of 2014:
Just as you come over the hill and enter Grafton, you immediately know you are in for a day long treat. The main street through town has both sides full of funky gift and antique shops, restaurants, ice cream and fudge, pubs and grubs, and funky artisan shopping galore. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a couple of choices in ice cream and fudge shops, it's all good. For those who speak Chardonnay and Merlot, there is a winery to enjoy drink and dine on their patio overlooking the mighty Mississippi. I'm sure you may even leave with a bottle or two to enjoy once home. Bring your appetite because on the main drag and on the road closest to the river there are several bars and restaurants serving any and everything from burgers, biker BBQ, and fish and all things aquatic (yes, frog legs too) from the simple fish shack where you eat out of a basket on their patio overlooking the river to more formal dining in restaurants that have indoor aquariums where large fish stare at you eating their smaller cousins.

If you are not looking for a feast of fried fish goodness of Grafton, take the ferry over to the Missouri side of the river and do lunch at the Wittmond Hotel where you will enjoy a mess of fried chicken, roast beef and all the fixings served family style. If you want lighter fare, pack a picnic lunch and keep heading north of Grafton and have a picnic at the beautiful Pere Marquette State Park. You can spend the better part of the day walking, eating and shopping in and around Grafton. And you still have all of Alton to discover before and after your ride.

Alton offers plenty of pre-ride or post-ride options for before or after the trip to Grafton is complete. Downtown Alton hosts some great pub and grubs as well as some additional shopping options in and around the downtown streets. At the base of "the hill" you cannot miss a brightly lit place called the Alton Belle Casino. Good parking lot with so-so in and out access over some railroad tracks, but that's not a deal breaker for those experienced with going over the rails. If you are looking for some video or table action, or a show, they usually have a good crowd no matter the hour. They even have penny slots so if Grandma is with you and she doesn't want to make the ride up to Grafton, just drop her off with a sack of coins and she'll be set for the day. Up the hill from the casino there are several choices for pubs and grills. Further up the hill are some half a dozen or so antique shops, coffee shops, pie and bakeries too. Head over the hill and you'll find some additional bars as well. Keep heading down the hill and you'll see the adult toy store and a couple of blocks past that, you'll notice pink lights of a different kind. Fast Eddy's Bonaire is a kick-ass rock and roll bar with cheap eats and advertises the coldest beer in town. Good food, great music and having their "bike only parking area" (to the left up the hill from the corner entrance is nice. For Fast Eddy's you must be at least 21 to enter, no exceptions, at anytime, for anyone, ever.

Additional Info

The following addition was contributed by Sparks in March of 2014:
There are a few good spots to pull over and take great selfies with your bike along the river. However, most of those money shot spots will be on the southbound leg of the river road heading back to Alton from Grafton. You may find some spots along the river in and north of Grafton, but those spots may not be pristine depending if the river recently flooded or if the water level is really low. You may want to take a photo of your ride in front of any of the "high water" marks alongside the buildings alongside the river to show just how high the river can get when it floods.

Bring a swimsuit! You may want to try noodling during your ride, though do so at your own risk, there are no lifeguards anywhere along the river. Speaking of lifeguards, if you are so inclined, take some time to cool off at a really cool water park that overlooks the river. I won't mention their business name here, but if you search for water-park around Grafton, IL, I'm sure some kind of "river water park" will pop up. Lots of slides for the kids and patio chairs for us old farts. Neat place to get wet and enjoy some off-bike time and take in a view or two.

On perfect weather weekends, expect to share the road with hot-rods old and new who also use this strip to show their rides as well. Be prepared to give a constant biker wave as literally hundreds of bikes end up on this stretch of road on any good riding day, even more so on the weekends.

Fair warning:
Watch your Pipes and Speed! Past indiscretions of a few have left the rest of us to pay the price of their fun. Several jurisdictions including but not limited to, Alton P.D., Grafton P.D., Jersey County Sheriff's Department, and the Illinois State Police routinely perform mobile and stationary sound and speed checks in both towns and all along the road both ways. They just doing their jobs, enforcing the laws, of which include overly loud pipes. Do not rack your pipes anywhere at any time. Do not do a burn out anywhere and do not go over the speed limit or you will be pulled over, I know this first hand. (No, not me, but my friends who I was riding with where ticketed for speeding. Yup, that's my story and I'm stick'n to it.) Make full stops at all lights and stop signs through Alton and Grafton. Respect begets respect; respect the laws of these towns and you get to enjoy the beauty and bounty of the area.

Dealerships & services: There is a combination Harley, Honda and Can-Am dealership about 10 minutes down the road located in East Alton and a Suzuki dealership around the Wood River, IL area not too far from Alton. Gas is plenty in Alton, and only a couple of choices in Grafton. All things being equal, I would probably gas up in Alton and skip the long waits at the pumps in Grafton. Premium is available in both cities if needed.
Closing Summary: This stretch of road is a gem and is only about 25 minutes from the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis, MO. This is probably "the best day trip ride" in the Metro Saint Louis area, at least in my humble opinion. My perfect riding day would be to start early to mid-morning in Alton, grab some coffee, maybe some breakfast and do some shopping at the top of the hill. Make the run to Grafton, have some fish at one of the shacks that overlook the river. Do some shopping on the main drag then spend the evening back in Alton. End up either at the casino or at Fast Eddy's... just depends on how the wind blows.


- View the weather forecast for this area from Yahoo weather . - Check out the Great River Road - Grafton IL info - Alton IL info - Guide to the River Road

Nickname (optional) : Jim W.

What Riders Say About this Route Add Review & Rating

By Guest
on April 26, 2009 5 out of 5 members found this review useful.

No Rating Provided

Motorcycle Year 2005

Motorcycle Make Harley-Davidson

Motorcycle Type Touring

I have been down there and rode the free ferries-it is a beautiful part of our state and I can't wait to do it again! Come on down, you won't be sorry!-ultraman05

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By Guest
on May 17, 2010 1 out of 11 members found this review useful.

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By chammocks
on June 13, 2016 0 out of 0 members found this review useful.

5.0out of 5

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Motorcycle Type Touring

Its wonderful road for driving motorcycle.I also want to drive this road....
__________
Re@! classyHammocks

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By Guest
on October 12, 2010 0 out of 9 members found this review useful.

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By Guest
on May 27, 2010 0 out of 9 members found this review useful.

4.5out of 5

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on May 24, 2010 0 out of 10 members found this review useful.

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