Okay, Chicago. This is not a drill. We are well into spring and summer is right around the corner. We have about one hundred days to enjoy the exceptional temps that summer promises. And, we plan on helping you use every single one of them to the fullest. On the top of the list, dust off those bikes, grease the chains, strap on a brain bucket and get those legs pumping on a bike path. From the shores of Lake Michigan to the furthest reaches of the suburbs, here are our favorite spots to cycle as a family in Chicago.
What was once a former elevated train line is now Chicago's 606 trail. Connecting six neighborhood parks at ground level with numerous art installations along the route, the 606 gives kids a sweet (rooftop) view of the city. The trail runs along the Bloomingdale Trail for 2.7 miles, between Ashland and Ridgeway, and has a total of 12 access points at approximately every quarter-mile. All access points are accessible for people with disabilities.
1805 N. Ridgeway Ave., Chicago; Online: the606.org
Morton Arboretum is a stunning place to visit, no matter the season. The Arboretum has 9 miles of paved tree-lined roads that keep things nice and shaded on hot summer days and their always-cool exhibitions give you great excuses to take a break from pedaling.
Keep an eye open for their Human + Nature exhibit, which opens sometime this spring. The exhibit features 5 massive outdoor sculptures that use thought-provoking human forms paired with elements of nature to bring attention to the deep connections between humans and nature.
4100 IL-Rte 53, Lisle; Online: mortonarb.org
Chicago Lakefront Trail
Chicago's Lakefront Trail is a combined-use path with an 18-mile bike trail and an 18.5-mile pedestrian trail. The southern-most access point is at 71st Street in South Shore, and the northern-most entry point is Ardmore in Edgewater Beach. Hopping on this trail is an excellent way to bask in the beauty of our city, as you get lake and city views and easy access to our beaches.
From 71st to Ardmore; Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com
North Branch Trail / Chicago Botanic Garden
The North Branch Trail System offers 20 miles of unpaved and paved trails along the North Branch Chicago River, with an estimated total length of 36.7 miles. It's most notable for connecting Chicago to Glencoe's Chicago Botanic Garden and includes trail loops through ecological restoration sites with diverse wildlife. Couple this ride with a visit to Chicago Botanic Garden so you can stop to smell the roses. . . and stretch your legs.
Chicago, Glenview, Morton Grove, Niles, Northbrook, Northfield, Skokie & Winnetka; Online: fpdcc.com
The Forge: Lemont Quarries
The Forge: Lemont Quarries (aka The Forge) is a 300-acre adventure park featuring the largest aerial adventure course in North America. Along with ziplines, hiking trails and paddlesports, they have a biking skills course and pump track. Their setup is fit for new and experienced riders and they have bikes you can rent if you don't want to haul your own.
1001 Main St., Lemont; Online: forgeparks.com
Chicago Park District Trails
Besides the gorgeous Lakefront Trail, Chicago Park District maintains paths that run through many of the parks for walking, jogging or biking. A favorite is the 6-mile Major Taylor Trail that runs through Brainerd, Gresham, Beverly, Morgan Park, Roseland and West Pullman. Most of the trail is off-street and takes you through the Cook County Forest Preserve's Dan Ryan Woods and Whistler Woods.
Throughout the City of Chicago; Online: chicagoparkdistrict.com
Illinois Prairie Path
You likely won't cover all 61 miles of the Illinois Prairie Path in one ride, but you can make it a goal to conquer it a few miles at a time, perhaps. This multi-use nature trail was the first U.S. rail-to-trail conversion in the 1960s and has access points in Cook, DuPage and Kane Counties. Most of the path is surfaced with crushed limestone, which is easy on little feet and bike tires and sheds water quickly.
Cook, DuPage & Kane Counties; Online: ipp.org
— Maria Chambers