Area residents may be surprised to discover McLean County’s Comlara Park has 29 trails around Evergreen Lake offering hikers beautiful outdoor adventure. 36+ miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails await nature enthusiasts. Volunteers and County Staff work year-round to keep the trails in good condition.
Friends of Everbloom, a group of outdoor enthusiasts, is sponsoring a Comlara Park Hiking Challenge to see how many individuals can complete all 29 trails in one year.
Some trails, like Shady Hollow and Hillside, are rated among the top hiking trails in Central Illinois on the All Trails App. Step on a trail and instantly find yourself in the woods, climbing hills, crossing creeks, and seeing beautiful views of Evergreen Lake. You can choose to walk grassy, mowed paths through meadows or take the narrow trails used by runners and bicyclists to feel wrapped in the woodlands. Some trails are “out and back” rather than loops, so factor that into the time you set aside for your hike. The John English Memorial Trail on the east side of the lake is over four miles one way. If you hike there with a friend you may want to park a car at one end and drive to the other trailhead to start. Most trails have good signage making it easy to navigate and find your way back to the parking lot. Trails have small brown signs indicating the trailhead.
Bloomington/Normal residents who want to get into nature, can be at a Comlara Park trailhead in about twenty minutes. Once away from traffic and noise, hikers will enjoy bird songs, towering trees moving in the breeze, cool shade, quiet, and soothing lake views.
Trails are open year-round, closing only for a few weeks during hunting season. I’ve seen deer bound across a path, swans swimming in the lake, a barred owl fly overhead on a trail named for him, and turtles sunning themselves on a log while out on the trails. Central Illinois hikers don’t have to worry about deadly animals while hiking, but it’s a good idea to wear a hat and bring insect repellent between May and November. (Check for ticks when you get home.) Stay on the trails to avoid poison ivy.
Comlara is a County Park, only about 12 miles north of the Twin Cities. Take I-39 North to Exit 8, Lake Bloomington Road, and turn left at the stop sign. Comlara Park is about a mile west, on the left side of the road. Follow the signs to the Visitor Center. You can also find maps of the trails online and get off I-39 at Hudson Road to reach the trails on the south side of the lake.
To take the Comlara Park Hiking Challenge, come to the Visitor Center to sign up. Return to the Visitor Center every time you complete a trail to add a stamp to the form. (During the Covid-19 situation, you can print off your Challenge form and note the date you hike a trail on the form. Get the form stamped when you are ready to visit the park offices.) Finish all 29 trails and get a Hike Comlara Patch. See trails and directions at the McLean County website.