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North Branch Trail
Sweet ride: a new boardwalk on the trail.

You’ve biked the lakefront path all summer. But after last weekend’s near miss with a guy on this contraption, you’re ready for something new.

As summer segues into leaf-watching season, put in some miles on the less-traveled North Branch Trail, a 20-mile route that follows the Chicago River.

A just-opened section at the trail’s northern tip now links it to the Green Bay Trail near the Chicago Botanic Garden--and makes a day trip from downtown a lot more enjoyable.

Start at the trail’s southern end at Devon Avenue (at the Caldwell Woods Preserve in Norwood Park). 

You’ll wind through forests along the way, and when you get to the new addition, you’ll cross a serene boardwalk that makes a selfie-worthy pit stop. The route is mostly flat--though you’ll get in a little hill work when you come to the moraine--and you’ll see seasonal goldenrod, witch hazel and aster as you ride.

Rest your legs over lunch at the garden’s newly renovated café--we love the smoked turkey sandwich with Wisconsin cheese and cherry marmalade ($10). You’ll burn it off on the way back.

Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd.; 847-835-5440 or

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