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Home » Illinois Scenic Drives and Road Trips

Stagecoach Trail

Picturesque route from Galena to Lena

Mileage37 miles (61 km)
DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.47 minutes
SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.Spring, Summer, and Fall
RoadwaysField Street, and Stagecoach Road
ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, pharmacies, etc.Galena, IL, Hazel Green, WI, Elizabeth, IL, Stockton, IL, Browntown, WI, and Martintown, WI
3.4 average from 57 votes
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Elevation Graph for Stagecoach Trail

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This picturesque drive travels from Galena to Lena along the Stagecoach Trail, originally established in the mid-1830’s to connect Galena to Chicago. Today, the gently curving and hilly two-lane road is especially loved by motorcyclists as it passes through charming, historic towns and bucolic dairy country. The drive can be done in either direction and is just 2.5 hours from Chicago, and a hop, skip, and a jump from Dubuque, making it an easy day trip or weekend getaway.

Main Street Galena
Main Street Galena

The town of Galena is a vibrant blend of the past with modern amenities. Stroll the historic main streets with Victorian-era architecture, art galleries, antique shops, exceptional cuisine, local wineries, craft breweries, and distilleries.

Named for the mineral Galena (lead sulfide), which was mined here in the early 1800’s, Galena was a prosperous mining town, and an economic and political hub. Over 85% of the buildings in Galena are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1855, the DeSoto House Hotel (A3) is the oldest hotel in Illinois, and it is still operating. Even if you don’t stay here, walk into the lobby, have a coffee, or a glass of wine, and revel in the fact that you’re standing in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.

The Dowling House (A6) was built in 1826 and is Galena’s oldest home. Observe from the sidewalk or take a narrated tour and explore a slice of early American living. Once a trading post, the home is filled with period furnishings, mining tools, pottery, and more. Tickets can be combined with the Belvedere Mansion or Trolley Tours.

Tour the Belvedere Mansion and Gardens (A1). Commissioned by self-made merchant J. Russell Jones, this 22-room residence built in 1857 is lavishly furnished and decorated, and features an exquisite Italian hand-carved marble fireplace, velvet drapes from Gone with the Wind, Tiffany lamps, artifacts belonging to Marie Antoinette and Liberace, sculptures, art and more. The mansion is privately-owned but open for tours. There is an entrance fee.

Ulysses S. Grant lived in Galena, working at his father’s leather goods shop before entering the military and eventually becoming the 18th president of the United States. The Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site (A7) is the home presented to General Grant upon his return from fighting the Civil War. Learn more about the man, his family and U.S. history through knowledgeable docents, period furnishings, paintings, personal effects. The home is a National Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. Entrance is free, but a donation is suggested. Closed Mon.-Tues. Grant’s birthday is April 27, and the weekend surrounding this date are celebrated with special events.

There are many other historic buildings worthy of a visit, such as The Washburne House and the Old Market House constructed between 1845-46 in the Greek Revival Style.

Recreation opportunities abound. Located at the south end of Depot Park and following an old railroad spur, the 4.5-mile Galena River Trail (H1) is perfect for biking or hiking.

The drive leaves Galena heading east on W Stagecoach Trail.

Drive up to Horseshoe Mound Preserve (H2) for beautiful views of Galena, Bellevue, Dubuque and the Mississippi River. The park offers hiking trails, a butterfly garden, and in summer, sky-viewing events. The short road is narrow and unpaved.

At the Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery (A4), relax on the patio and take in the views with a glass of wine, or do a wine tasting and tour. Check their website for hours and special events.

The Old Stagecoach Trail passes the small town of Scales Mound, where most of the town buildings are on the National Historic Register. Just north of here, is Charles Mound. At 1,235-feet, it is the highest point in the entire state of Illinois. Note, it is on private land and is only open to the public on the first weekend of June, July, August, and September.

At the Stagecoach Trails Livery (A8), relive the stagecoach era with a ride on a replica Concord Stagecoach pulled by Belgian draft horses.

The road continues to Apple River. Here, we highly recommend a detour to Apple Canyon State Park by turning right on N Canyon Park Rd. At Apple River Canyon State Park (H3), discover incredible limestone buffs carved by Apple River. This area is rugged due to the lack of glacial episodes. Known as the Driftless Area, glaciers bypassed this region while flattening other parts of the state. Mosses and ferns cling to the canyon walls. Ravines and streams are a draw for wildlife where you can enjoy birding and fishing for smallmouth bass, crappie and carp. Consider getting on the river, local outfitters rent canoes and kayaks. Or hike or bike the trails that traverse the lush forest featuring more than 500 species of plants and nearly 200 types of flowers. Make it an overnight with year-round tent and RV camping. The hilly landscape is a boon for winter sports, featuring cross-country and snowshoe trails. There is no entrance fee for state-owned parks though there may be a small fee to use sites with beaches.

Nearby, the town of Stockton is famed for being the birthplace of Kraft, with the first cheese factory opened in 1914 by J.L. Kraft. Kraft developed a revolutionary process, patented in 1916, for pasteurizing cheese so that it would resist spoiling and could be shipped long distances. Visit the Stockton Heritage Museum (M1) to discover exhibits about the Chicago Great Western Railroad, model trains, Kraft history and then stroll the historic downtown.

Back on E Stagecoach Trail, the drive continues to Warren. The small town features historic buildings and is host to the oldest county fair in Illinois, held in late July/early August, and an Annual Warren Pumpkin Festival in September, replete with antique tractor pulls, parade, rides, live music and pumpkin-themed games.

With so many dairy cows, you know you’re in cheese country. In Lena, stop in the Torkelson Cheese Company (A9) retail store for fresh cheese. The famed Apple Jack cheese developed by cheesemaker John Bussman is now made here.

Your cheese and other goodies will be perfect for a picnic at Lake Le-Aqua-Na State Park (H4). Enjoy swimming, boating, and fishing, hike over 8-miles of trails through forest and wildflower-laden meadows. In winter, trails are open for cross-country skiing. The park makes a great base for exploring the region offering camping for tents, RV’s, equestrian, and youth group campgrounds.

Ready for adventure? Have park and forest passes before you get there.



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