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GITy Up: Off-Road!

  • Camp Bullfrog Lake 9600 Wolf Road Willow Springs, IL, 60480 United States (map)

GITy Up! is bite-sized, overnight bike camping & trail running adventure on one of the finest trail systems in the country, the Chicago area's beautiful Palos Forest Preserve trails. 

UPDATE: Mini mountain bike clinic and 5 brewery bike tour are new options! Select them under "Items for Sale" when you register (free for registered GITy Uppers). More info on the blog

Jump to the FAQ >>

It’s a Quick Fix! Inspired by the 450-mile Grand Illinois Trail and the 100-mile Hennepin Hundred Ultra Marathon, GITy Up! is a single overnight, supported tour for beginning bike campers, for runners, for families, for the expert with restless legs but only a weekend free.

You bring your tent, your sleeping bag, your family, your growler and guitar (for campfire songs!) out to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County's Camp Bullfrog Lake. Leave the freeze dried meatloaf at home; dinner and breakfast are prepared by local caterers. Limited cabins and area hotel rooms are available.

It’s crazy healthy happy fun! From Camp Bullfrog we'll explore the paved I&M and Cal-Sag Trails and miles of gravel and natural surface trails (weather permitting) of the Cook County forest preserves, plus you can kayak, visit the Little Red School House Nature Center, huff up Swallow Cliff, learn how the Palos trails get built, refresh at Imperial Oak Brewery and Ashbury Coffee much adventure you have is up to you! Check out what bike campers got into on past GITy Ups!

It’s only $85! Bring the tots: kids 6 yrs. old and younger ride & camp for free.

It’s limited! Registration opens February 28—only 250 spots are available. GITy Up! gets goin’ rain or shine; sorry, no refunds on registration fees.

Riding or running with GITy Up! helps Trails for Illinois make every home a trailhead. Thanks for your interest!

Frequently Asked Questions

2016 GITy Up: Off-Road!

Date: October 8-9, 11am Saturday to 2pm on Sunday with camping and rambunctious fun in between
Length: Up 50 miles total over two days; it's easy to shorten to fit your fitness/desire/kids' patience level
Route: From Camp Bullfrog Lake in the beautiful Palos Preserves, on Saturday we'll explore the easy-riding, fun-to-run gravel and natural surface trails with forays to the paved I&M Canal and Centennial Trails. On Sunday, we'll make our way south to Swallow Cliff and the Cal-Sag Trail. Riders and runners can choose their distance and trail skill level each day, with support available on the gravel multi-use trails.
Camping: Tent camping and limited cabins at Camp Bullfrog Lake, including awesome shower houses, pavilion and a camp store.
Cost: $85 per rider (limited cabins availble to groups for additional fee)
Rider limit: 250

UPDATE: Can we camp at Bullfrog Lake Friday night?
That's actually a great idea! Friday night's not included in the ride fee, but you can add Friday night when you register.

Runners AND bikers on GITy Up?
Ha, yes. The Hennepin Hundred made us realize that runners enjoy camping too, and no one sings campfire favorites like "Rocky Mountain High" and "Friends in Low Places" as raucously as trail runners. Trails for Illinois is a big tent trail organization; our events should be too.

What is the GIT in GITy Up?
It’s the Grand Illinois Trail, an amazing 500+ mile loop of regional trails and rideable roads across Northern Illinois, Chicago to the Mississippi River and back. Ride Illinois offers the Grand Illinois Trails & Parks (GITAP)tour, a truly grand, beautiful adventure for anyone with a week of 75 mile days stored up in their legs.

The Hennepin Hundred ultra-marathon race is along the Hennepin Canal State Trail which by itself is 1/5 of the GIT. 

Think of GITy Up! as a bite-sized taste of GITAP or the Hennepin Hundred, a stepping stone, a slippery slope (in a good way) toward multi-day running and bike camping adventures ahead.

Is GITy Up! entirely on trails?
Purt’ near. We might use streets for up to a mile to access the I&M Canal and Cal-Sag Trail; or you might explore a little on your own off of our route. And there are a few busy road crossings. We’ll know where all of them are at, and help you negotiate them.

Are the trails paved?
Most of our riding is on the gravel multi-use trails of the Palos Preserves. It's a good riding surface for a little bit wider tire and a mellower pace—not a bad thing on a leisurely naturey tour!. It's not great for road bikes with tires more narrow than 32mm. The Cal-Sag Trail, the I&M Canal Trail, and the Centennial Trail are all asphalt paved trails.

Why is GITy Up on dirt trails this year?
Pavement without cars is a glorious thing, but the paved "bike path" is just a fraction of the trail experiences Illinois offers. We're introducing folks to dirt trails this year because if we can hook you, we just doubled the amount of opportunities to get you outside on a beautiful trail, into undiscovered (by you) natural areas, moving under your own power. And if you want more natural surface trail, they happen to be the least expensive, most flexible (in terms of where they can go and still be fun) trail to build...and they can be built entirely by volunteers, like lots of the Palos system we'll explore.

Didn't Chicago Area Mountain Bikers build some of those trails?
Yes, CAMBr is a big reason why Palos has the reputation as one of the finest Midwest mountain biking destinations, and one of the 25 best places in America to run. To express our thanks, we'll donate up to $1500 from GITy Up to CAMBr for their trail stewardship efforts.

I have a road bike and/or don't like trail running. Mind if I ride the roads or drive to the I&M Canal or Cal-Sag Trail each day?
Ha, not at all. We want you out on GITy Up with us however you make it work for you. 

Can a beginner do GITy Up!?
All sorts of beginners can do GITy Up! You can ride or run up to 25 miles each day, on trails that fit your skill and comfort level. The ride's fully supported with route marshalls, rest stops and a SAG vehicle.

Do you carry my gear?
No gear to carry—we'll (park &) camp at Camp Bullfrog Lake, riding and running out from there.

Does this event have rest stops, course marshals, and on-route support?
Yes! GITy Up! is fully supported by Trails for Illinois board members, volunteers and partners. 

What gear do I need?
For riding: Your helmet, cycling gloves, eye protection; tube repair kit.

Riding & running: Water bottles; money for shopping, snacks, drinks and lunch; mobile phone; sun block; bug spray; a song in your heart and a ticklish spot for adventure.

For overnighting: your own gear suitable for one night of camping—this may include tent or bivvy sack; sleeping pad; pillow; guitar or other musical instrument (campfire appropriate—probably not a trombone); a camp chair and an overnight bag.

What kind of bike do I need?
You're not carrying any camping gear, so this is simple: bring the bike that you love riding the most. Make sure it’s in good repair and can carry at least one water bottle—your local bike shop is an expert at getting your bike GITy Up!-ready. Bikes with not-skinny tires (32 mm/1.25 inches wide or more) will work well on the gravel trails for most folks (but skinny tire riders still welcome—we'll help you find pavement).

Can I bike one day and run the next?
Duh, yes. :-)

Where are we camping?
Camp Bullfrog Lake in the heart of the Palos Preseves, 9600 Wolf Road, Willow Springs. [get map]

What does the fee include?
$85 (two-day, overnight ride) - A spot for your tent, T-shirt, rest stop fuel stations & route support, supper on Saturday, October 8 and breakfast on Sunday, October 9.

How about a cabin?
We have a few cabins available for groups from 4 to 10 people for an additional fee. First come first serve! Gather your cabin mates and select a cabin when you register.

Do I have to pay for my kids?
If they’re 7 or older on October 8, yes.  

Is the fee refundable?
No. Trails for Illinois hosts the GITy Up! to raise funds towards connecting Illinois people and communities with a network of non-motorized trails. Your ride fee becomes a donation if your plans fall through. We’re a 501c3 non-profit, so you might be able to deduct it from your taxes; check with your state laws.

Are T-shirts included?
Yes, and they are COOL, with COWBOYS on them, and EVERYTHING.

Does GITy Up! get going rain or shine?
You bet! That’s what bike camping is about! In 2013, our bike campers huddled through a thunder storm against 50 mph winds for 20 minutes…then we made s’mores and ogled a night sky blown clear and bright. It’s become part of the GITy Up! legend.

Not so into camping. Can I get a hotel room?
Yes! The closest hotels are just 10 minutes away in Burr Ridge. You make your own reservations, and your GITy Up! fee doesn’t change.

I’ll arrive for GITy Up! on Friday. Where should I spend the night?
At Camp Bullfrog Lake, or use the Visit Chicago Southland website to find fantastic accommodations and attractions in the area.

Where will I park my car while I’m riding?
Everyone parks at our campsite, Camp Bullfrog Lake.

Have another question? 
Post in comments below and you can help share the answers with everyone. You can also mail or call Steve at 708/365-9365.