5 colorful suburban bike trail systems to ride this fall, plus pretty roads for the more daring
Autumn is a great time to ride a bike. The air is fresh but not too cold yet, the suburbs have plenty of good places to ride -- and there will be a lot of colorful foliage to see.
So where are the best places to ride for fall colors?
You must go where the trees are, of course. Fortunately, that's where many of the best bike trails and routes are, too.
Just north of Independence Grove is one of the many places that will show great colors on the Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County.
- Courtesy of Visit Lake County/Dick Schneider, 2012
1. Des Plaines River Trail
The vast majority of this beautiful Lake County trail along the river goes right through forest. The well-maintained, crushed-limestone trail covers more than 30 miles from Lake-Cook Road to Russell Road just short of the Wisconsin border, with few street crossings. Cook County's more rough-and-tumble Des Plaines Trail goes through forest itself. More on Lake County's trail at www.lcfpd.org/dprt/ and on Cook County's trail at www.fpdcc.com.
2. Busse Woods Trail (Northwest suburbs)
This Northwest suburban stalwart trail in between Arlington Heights, Elk Grove Village and Schaumburg will surround you with bright, yellow leaves, and provide colorful scenes in the distances. 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.
The famed Fox River Trail will have its foliage moments along its more than 40 miles from Montgomery on the south to Carpentersville on the north, but it's where it blends seamlessly into the Prairie Trail of McHenry County that the trees shine most. As you ride north through McHenry County, you may see distant colorful scenes when you're not in forest. Mostly paved. More at www.kaneforest.com and www.mccdistrict.org.
4. Illinois Prairie Path (DuPage County)
The 61-mile Prairie Path is really DuPage-based and remarkably weaves its way through the heart of the DuPage suburbs -- the country's rails-to-trails effort began here. You'll have the best fall experience riding through Wayne, but there is plenty of colorful forest elsewhere -- the crushed-limestone trail goes through tree-lined Glen Ellyn, Wheaton and Lombard, for instance. See www.ipp.org for more.
• 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. And now a bridge connects the two.
• 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.
5. Millennium and linked trails (Lake County)
For the prettiest western Lake County trail rides, start up north at the Ray Lake preserve, on Erhard Road off Gilmer Road. The Ray Lake preserve has about 2.5 miles of gravel trail leading to the Fort Hill Trail, which runs another 2.5 miles or so to connect to the Millennium Trail at the Lakewood preserve. It's mostly crushed limestone. www.lcfpd.org.
Hit the roads
Ride around the neighborhood or on longer, bucolic roads on the outskirts.
• Barrington Hills: A tree and biking-road paradise. Check out Spring Creek Road; getting there is wonderful, too, but residents ask that you stay single file, please.
• Schaumburg: Long noted for bike lanes and paths through the village, and the older, southwest portion of the village will have plenty of trees changing colors. More at www.ci.schaumburg.il.us.
• Arlington Heights: It's bike-friendly and trying to get bike-friendlier, and there are plenty of trees. More at www.vah.com.
• Elk Grove Village: Proximity to the Busse Woods trail and a mayor who's been an avid bicyclist has inspired bike routes on village streets, and they're prettier closer to Busse Woods. More at www.elkgrove.org.
• Naperville: It's easy to get to and from downtown including via a paved trail along Hobson Road (east-west) and Washington Street (north-south) -- and the closer to downtown, the more trees. Not to mention the Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve off 75th Street. More at www.naperville.il.us.
• Kane County: The western portion of the county is great for more serious road cyclists and will offer plenty of color. Like on Silver Glen Road, Burlington Road, McDonald Road, Campton Hills Road and La Fox Road.
• Lake County: The best options for trees and scenes while road-riding are out west around Wauconda, Island Lake, Lakemoor, Long Grove and the Barringtons, such as Cuba Road, Old McHenry Road, Fairfield Road, Kelsey Road, River Road, Darrell Road and Bonner Road.