Breaking News Bar
updated: 4/5/2015 10:11 AM

Top trails and roads to ride your bike in the suburbs

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • You'll need to be careful riding around walkers in Busse Woods, west of Elk Grove Village and Arlington Heights.

      You'll need to be careful riding around walkers in Busse Woods, west of Elk Grove Village and Arlington Heights.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer, 2013

 
 

It's time to get the bike out. Lucky for riders, the suburbs are full of good trail and road options.

Local choices are flat or mildly hilly and, because of our Midwestern terrain, lacking only in single- and double-track mountain-biking options. Still, some mountain-bike trails exist or are in the works. The Chicago Area Mountain Bikers, www.cambr.org, can help.

This list includes classic, new and improved, and smaller trails, plus beautiful roads, but focuses on paved and crushed-limestone or dirt options where road and hybrid bikes can easily go. Let the daydreaming begin ...

CLASSIC TRAILS

Fox River Trail:

It's more than 40 miles long, from Montgomery on the south to Carpentersville on the north, where it blends seamlessly into the Prairie Trail of McHenry County. Mostly paved. You'll love the river views and McHenry County landscapes. More at www.kaneforest.com and www.visitmchenrycounty.com.

Illinois Prairie Path:

The Illinois Prairie Path southern branch goes through Warrenville and out to Aurora.
  The Illinois Prairie Path southern branch goes through Warrenville and out to Aurora. - Mark Black | Staff Photographer, 2013
The Prairie Path's nonprofit organization, www.ipp.org, says the path stretches 61 miles through DuPage, Cook and Kane counties. The paths are almost all crushed limestone. The Prairie Path is really DuPage-based and remarkably weaves its way through the heart of suburbs -- the country's rails-to-trails effort began here.

Great Western Trail:

KANE COUNTY: The Great Western Trail out west from St. Charles will get you out in the country.
  KANE COUNTY: The Great Western Trail out west from St. Charles will get you out in the country. - Rick West | Staff Photographer, 2006
The older, western section in Kane County, 17 miles west out of St. Charles, is where this one started, and an eastern section from West Chicago east to Villa Park, linked to the Prairie Path, followed. All crushed limestone. The eastern Great Western weaves through suburbs, while the western portion is quieter out in the country. More at kaneforest.com.

Des Plaines River Trail:

The Des Plaines River bike trail, here just north of Independence Grove, takes you through forest and some prairie.
The Des Plaines River bike trail, here just north of Independence Grove, takes you through forest and some prairie. - Courtesy of Visit Lake County/Dick Schneider, 2012
The Lake County portion of this beautiful trail along the river covers more than 30 miles in a peaceful forest setting, and with few street crossings, from Lake-Cook Road to Russell Road just short of the Wisconsin border. The Cook County portion is more rough-and-tumble, though the city of Des Plaines has improved its portion. More on Lake County's portion at www.lcfpd.org and on Cook County's portion at www.fpdcc.com.

Busse Woods Trail:

The Busse Woods Trail west of Elk Grove Village and Arlington Heights is popular when it's nice out.
The Busse Woods Trail west of Elk Grove Village and Arlington Heights is popular when it's nice out. - Daily Herald File Photo, 2002
Its popularity in the middle of the Northwest suburbs makes the Busse Woods Trail a classic. It's about a 7.3-mile loop with no street crossings, and a couple of offshoots. All paved. Busse Woods is crowded on nice days after work and worse on weekends, so be careful and leave space around others. Go to www.fpdcc.com for more.

NEW AND IMPROVED

Poplar Creek Trail:

The Poplar Creek Trail in Hoffman Estates and Streamwood still is kind of a best-kept secret in the Northwest suburbs.
  The Poplar Creek Trail in Hoffman Estates and Streamwood still is kind of a best-kept secret in the Northwest suburbs. - Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer, 2012
Perhaps not so new anymore, but since this 9-mile loop through Hoffman Estates and Streamwood isn't too crowded, it's a nice little secret. All paved, a few major street crossings, and some little hills to keep you honest. There's an unpaved offshoot, too. www.fpdcc.com.

Algonquin Road Trail:

It started along Algonquin Road in Palatine and Hoffman Estates, but Cook County gave this trail about a 7.5-mile paved loop through the Paul Douglas Forest Preserve. What a nice surprise. www.fpdcc.com.

Millennium Trail:

The Millennium Trail weaves through the Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda and much of Lake County, as the forest preserve continues to develop it.
  The Millennium Trail weaves through the Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda and much of Lake County, as the forest preserve continues to develop it. - Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer, 2009
Lake County has been working on this for years, and it keeps getting better. The county says about 27 miles of a 35-mile regional trail are complete, from Mundelein to Lindenhurst, and it's working on the connections. You'll find crushed limestone and pavement. www.lcfpd.org.

SMALLER TRAILS

Deer Grove Trail and Palatine Trail:

One of the older trails in the Northwest suburbs, the Deer Grove Trail in Palatine offers a simple ride at about 4 paved miles. And you can ride more paved miles through Palatine on the Palatine Trail. Find them near Quentin and Dundee roads.

Hawk Hollow and Mallard Lake forest preserves:

If you're from Bartlett, you have easy access to these two forest preserves off Stearns and County Farm roads. They offer pretty rides through the forest and around Mallard Lake, a few miles each on crushed limestone.

West Branch DuPage River Trail:

In the Blackwell and Warrenville Grove forest preserves, Warrenville/West Chicago/Winfield: Go off the Illinois Prairie Path at Butterfield Road east of Route 59, and you can ride into this forested area, circling a loop a couple of miles in.

Herrick Lake and Danada:

Farther east off Butterfield Road you'll find these forested and lakeside trails, about 4 miles' worth.

Springbrook Prairie, Naperville:

About 7 miles of crushed limestone trails, most in a loop, offer a nice ride quite literally through prairie in this preserve between 75th and 87th streets.

ON THE ROADS

Schaumburg:

Bike route signs are all over Schaumburg, such as here at Weathersfield Road and Summit Drive.
  Bike route signs are all over Schaumburg, such as here at Weathersfield Road and Summit Drive. - JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer, 2012
Long noted for bike lanes and paths through the village. Get a bike map at www.ci.schaumburg.il.us.

Arlington Heights:

It's bike-friendly and trying to get bike-friendlier. Map at www.vah.com.

Naperville:

You can get a map provided by the city, www.naperville.il.us, where its bike routes are marked. It's easy to get to and from downtown, including via a paved trail along Hobson Road and 75th Street.

Barrington Hills:

Ridge Road will take you to Spring Creek Road in pretty Barrington Hills.
  Ridge Road will take you to Spring Creek Road in pretty Barrington Hills. - George LeClaire | Staff Photographer, August 2014
A road paradise. Check out Spring Creek Road; getting there is wonderful, too, but stay single file to keep residents happy.

Kane County:

The western portion of the county is great for more-serious road cyclists. Silver Glen Road, Burlington Road, McDonald Road, Campton Hills Road, LaFox Road, so many.

McHenry County:

It gets prettier in the western portion as you go north, like an introduction to Wisconsin's great landscapes. Ride around Oakwood Hills, Prairie Grove, McHenry, Johnsburg, Ringwood, Wonder Lake, Union.

Lake County:

The roads can get busy east, but there are options west around Wauconda, Island Lake, Lakemoor, Long Grove and the Barringtons, like Cuba Road, Old McHenry Road, Fairfield Road, Kelsey Road, River Road, Darrell Road and Bonner Road.

For more info

MikeBentley.com: Loads of links to maps and organized rides.

The Active Transportation Alliance, www.activetrans.org: This organization offers an excellent map showing all the bike trails and bike-friendly roads in the suburbs and Chicago.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.