Chicago's Most Scenic Bike Trails

Cover new ground in the city and 'burbs

Spin class is great for clearing your conscience. (Adios, salted-caramel cupcakes.) But could it be any darker or louder? This weekend, break out your real bike--the one that moves--and log some miles on these leafy, scenic trails that’ll get you outdoors, off the city streets and back into pedaling your own way.

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Lakefront Trail (south)

The full 18-mile trail is a gem, but the crush of humanity on the path’s northern sections can trigger bike rage you seriously don’t need. South of Museum Campus, though, things open up all the way to Hyde Park and beyond. Don’t miss the absolute best skyline view from Promontory Point.

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Green Bay Road Trail

This nine-mile path takes you through some of the toniest zip codes on the North Shore. Stop to shop in downtown Winnetka, Lake Bluff or Highland Park, then zag over to the lake for a beach picnic.

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North Branch Trail

On this jaunt toward the northern ’burbs, you’ll hug the north branch of the Chicago River, beginning on the Northwest Side near Devon and Milwaukee avenues and winding up through the Skokie Lagoons and Erikson Woods on your way to the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe.

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Kal-haven Trail

Road trip! Most Chicagoans spend at least part of their summers in southwest Michigan anyway, so why not do it on two wheels with a 34-mile ride through small towns, orchards and farms between Kalamazoo and South Haven?

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Illinois Prairie Path

Pack a big lunch if you’re planning to cover the entire length of this 61-mile rails-to-trails path, which stretches across portions of Cook, Kane and DuPage counties and rolls through open meadows, dense forests and several western suburban communities.

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Palos Forest Preserve

Break out the fat tires and head southwest to enjoy more than 50 miles of rugged trails, including the only legitimate mountain-biking routes in the metropolitan area.

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Morton Arboretum

Head to the western suburbs with or without your own bike to cruise among towering oaks, maples and ash. Rentals are available, and the paths are car-free all summer long on Fridays from 5:30 p.m. until sunset and on Saturdays and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. (admission charge applies).

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Des Plaines River Trail

Get out of town on 31 miles of crushed gravel that will lead you through the ecosystems (think wilderness and wetlands) of several forest preserves on your way from Chicago all the way up to Wisconsin, if you’re feeling ambitious.

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The 606

Opening June 6, the Bloomingdale Trail will be the bicycle/pedestrian equivalent of the “L,” a nearly three-mile conduit of recreational access and parkland built on a long abandoned railway that stretches out above the urban fray of Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square and Humboldt Park.