Top places to bike near Chicago

Two women biking across a bridge
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Who’s ready for a change of scenery? The good news is you don’t have to go far. Biking is a fun, active way to get up, get out, and discover all that’s naturally wonderful about suburban Cook County.

To get your wheels turning, we put together some top picks for nature-inspired biking paths in the Chicago area. Whether your idea of a great ride is a short loop on a padded seat or a 20-mile trek with plenty of twists and turns, we’ve got you covered.

These locations feature a variety of different landscapes from open fields to dense forests. Along the way, highlights include lakes, streams, tall trees, wildlife, and Instaworthy views.

These are just a few scenic pathways in and around Cook County waiting for you to explore. You can find a complete list-add link here. As they say: Life is a journey; enjoy the ride!

Lake Arlington

The paved trail around Lake Arlington in Arlington Heights is a two-mile loop perfect for families or anyone looking for an easy ride. It’s a sunny, breezy path with plenty of benches and grassy areas for breaks. If you’re looking for other activities to round out your day, there’s also a playground, adult exercise area, fishing pier, picnic area, and boat rentals in the summer.

Green Bay Trail

This tree-lined trail is accented with wildflower gardens. But don’t let the natural beauty fool you: charming restaurants, shops and community parks are just off the Green Bay Trail in a number of North Shore communities. You’ll find mile markers and signage for nearby points of interest, including Lake Michigan which is just about a mile away at any time. The trail is nine miles long, running along Metra’s Union Pacific/North Line from Wilmette to Highland Park.

 

Busse Woods

The 3,558-acre Ned Brown Preserve – popularly known as Busse Woods – is one of the largest and most diverse locations in the Forest Preserves of Cook County. What’s even better is there are 13 miles of paved trails, allowing bikers and hikers to explore it well. The focal point is the 7.3 mile Red Loop, which travels through the center of the woods and past three sections of Busse Lake. But there are several connecting trails and access points, allowing for different routes and lengths. Don’t miss: the Yellow Trail, where you just might spot some elk in the pasture.

Evanston Lakefront

Speaking of Lake Michigan, anyone looking for soaring views of the lake and the Chicago skyline will be happy to find a wide open trail along Evanston’s lakefront. The path, which runs from Lee Street Beach through the Northwestern University campus, gives you a front row seat to the majestic Great Lake. Bikers can take advantage of parks, beaches, and downtown Evanston along the way. You can also rent Divvy bikes in several spots.

 

John Husar I&M Canal Trail

The 9.1 mile John Husar I&M Canal Trail, which is largely leafy and quiet, was recently repaved for a smooth bike ride. You can access it at Henry De Tonty Woods or the John Husar I&M Canal Bicycle Trail Parking Lot, which is just 0.2 miles from the Willow Springs Metra station (Heritage Corridor line). Bring your bikes on the trail, or walk to nearby 2 Bici Bicycle Shop, which rents bikes by the day.

Cal-Sag Trail

Bikers on the John Husar I&M Canal Trail can also connect to the Cal-Sag Trail. It’s a 13-mile paved route, which runs from Sag Quarries Nature Preserves in Lemont to Freedom Park in Alsip. It’s a picturesque path that’s at times open or secluded, flat or hilly. Be on the look-out for wildlife, especially near Lake Katherine Nature Center and Sagawau Environmental Learning Center.

 

Palos Trails

If mountain biking is your thing (or you want to give it a try), don’t miss the Palos Trail System. Mountain bikers love the rolling hills, deep ravines, and stunning views. You’ll also find some designated single track trails. These routes, which are narrow and uneven, are designed specifically for mountain biking, hiking and equestrian use. (For this reason, e-bikes are not allowed.) The Chicago Area Mountain Bikers association – who runs their annual Palos Meltdown race here – calls the trails “flowy, fast and built for all levels of riders in mind.”