The Best Scenic Bike Routes to Try This Weekend

With the Lakefront Trail, 606, and Riverwalk out of commission for the time being, Chicagoans are without two of their favorite recreation hotspots for exercise and recreation via bike. In the suburbs too, closures have affected forest preserves and other bike-friendly green spaces.

However, biking for exercise, relaxation, and to enjoy warming Chicago weather is an excellent socially distanced activity to partake in right now, so here are a few places to still check out.

312 River Run

This nearly two mile path along the Chicago River between Belmont and Montrose will soon become one of the most well-known bike paths in the city. The highlight is a bridge that flies along and over the River just north of Addison (pictured above). Because it just opened last November, however, it hasn’t caught on with the masses as much as it soon will. Now is a great time to experience this beautiful ride with less people around.

Illinois Prairie Path

The lengthy remains of a former commuter rail line, the Prairie Path stretches west from Forest Park to Wheaton, where it splits into branches to Elgin and Aurora. Following surprisingly straight lines through many populous communities, it alters between wooded forest or open space trail, running along streets and railroad tracks, sidewalks and residential streets. The impressively coordinated system, which stretches over 60 miles in total, is regarded as the first major rails-to-trails conversion in the United States.

Fox River Trail

Patching together stretches of abandoned railroad and purpose-built path additions, the Fox River Trail technically stretches over 38 miles from Algonquin all the way to Oswego. Running along one of the larger rivers in the region, this trail can offer truly spectacular views, especially in the popular stretch between Elgin and Aurora. While a few parts involve crossing surface streets, the trail’s continued popularity encourages further improvements: the City of Aurora closed a crucial mile-long gap a few years ago with a protected bike lane along River Street.

Cal-Sag and Major Taylor Trails

The 26 mile Cal-Sag, one of the region’s newest trails, ties together the south suburbs in a way no other trail can. It follows the small Cal-Sag Channel from near Lemont all the way to Calumet City near the state line. “If the Cal-Sag Trail were a health club, it would be a 3.7 million square foot recreational and fitness facility that serves everyone and costs nothing to join,” boasts the Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail group.

Near Riverdale, the Cal-Sag meets its older cousin, Major Taylor. A 1990s rails-to-trails conversion, Major Taylor runs straight northwest into the city from Riverdale through West Pullman and Beverly to the Dan Ryan Woods around 83rd Street. The majority of the trail is on a comfortable, paved off-street path, but there is a 10 block gap between 95th and 105th where you’ll be on standard surface streets.

None of these near you? Here are some great resources to find other bike routes throughout our region. In the city, a great place to start is the official Chicago bike map, which maps out all bike routes and infrastructure. Taking it a step further, the Chicago Reader’s “mellow” bike map suggests hundreds of low stress corridors for bikers — bike lanes or not. There are also useful bike maps to be found for the Cook County Forest PreservesLake CountyDuPage CountyKane CountyWill County, and the entire state of Illinois.