Get on your bikes and ride: summer biking guide
Published: Thursday, May 31, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
Summer is here, and when the sun is shining, Chicago's lakefront bike path is the heartbeat of the city. Runners, bikers and skaters alike emerge from hibernation to feel alive and breathe in the lakeside air. Unfortunately, the nice weather can create a clogged artery of two as the path becomes increasingly congested with with outdoor enthusiasts.
So what to do when you need a fresh air fix, but need a change of pace and venue?
Luckily, in 1986 the Trails-to-Rails Conservancy was established "to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people."
Since then, more than 16,000 pathways have been preserved around the country and many of these scenic trails are located a short distance from Chicago, providing a day or weekend escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Whether you are in the mood for a hiking or biking adventure, a new jogging path, setting out for a picnic or exploring small towns outside of the city, there is something for everyone just a pedal away.
Arie Crown Bike Trail
• Though it is not a part of the Trail-to-Rail network, this path is close enough for both drivers and public transit users to get away.
• Located just north of the Stevenson Expressway, it is about a 30-minute drive from Lincoln Park and located near the Willow Springs stop on the Metra Heritage Corridor Line.
• This 3.2 mile trail through the woods and rolling hills of western Cook County offers the perfect opportunity to enjoy a picnic, read a book and breathe fresh air away from the big city.
Busse Woods Trail (Trail-to-Rail)
• The Busse Woods Trail is about a 40-minute drive on I-90 just northwest of O'Hare Airport.
• The 11.2-mile trail winds through the 3,700 acres of forests and meadows in the Ned Brown Preserve and skirts the 590-acre Lake Busse in northwestern Cook County.
• Bring a lunch and enjoy fishing at one of the six fishing walls, relaxing by the water watching sailboats or observing the wildlife while exploring the bike trails.
Old Plank Trail (Trail-to-Rail)
• It is best to borrow a car from a friend to make it out to this bikers paradise; about 40 minutes south on I-57 will do the trick.
• The 22-mile trail follows the path of the Michigan Central Rail Road and connects seven towns in Will County between Park Forest and Joliet.
• Again, a perfect place to bring a pack lunch or stop midway through in Historic Downtown Frankfort for some ice cream and antiquing.
Deer Grove Trail (Trail-to-Rail)
• This 3.9 mile trail is located close to the city in Palatine and offers a ride through the 1800 acres of the Deer Grove Reserve's hills, wooded ravines and wetlands.
• Travel will require about an hour up I90 by car, or the Barrington stop on the Metra Union Pacific Northwest will drop you about three miles from the Reserve.
• Both paved and unpaved trails for all kinds of adventure seekers and links up to the larger Paletine Trail system.
• The Deer Grove Restoration Project is making an effort to protect the flora and fauna in the area by prohibiting off-trail use, so this trip is more biker, rather than hiker friendly.
The Great River Trail (Trail-to-Rail)
• Though it's a three hour drive from the city to the start of the trail, it's worth it if you’re looking for an exciting, affordable weekend away.
• For bikers looking for more than the casual ride, the 60 mile journey along the Mississippi River begins in Savannah, IL and travels though eleven different Mississippi river towns offering the opportunity to stop and take in the local shopping, food and people.
• With ample (and affordable) room and board to be found at either end of the trail, this makes for the perfect vacation from the concrete jungle.
• The trail is a combination of paved and unpaved paths, road-side bike lanes and small-town sidewalks and helps keep riders on their toes.
The Illinois Prairie Path
• Located about 20 miles west of the city, this was the first Trail-to-Rail conversion in the U.S. and offers 62 miles of biking, jogging, hiking and equestrian trails.
• The closest parking amenities are at Pioneer Park in Elmhurst, about a 30-minute drive from Lincoln Park.
• This path also links up with the Great Western Trail, an 18 mile trek of smooth limestone along the abandoned Great Western Rail Line from St. Charles, IL to Sycamore, IL.
• Stay to your right while riding, and pass on the left.
• Either ring your bell, or announce "On your left" when overtaking other riders.
• Safety first: Always wear a helmet and gear your bike up with a headlight and brake light.
• All trails are open from sunrise to sunset, so be sure to time your trip and reach your destination before nightfall.
• Be prepared for bumps along the road, bring along standard tools if you’re in need of a quick fix.
• Remember, paths are to be shared, so travel at a safe speed, try to bike single file, and always yield to fellow trail users.