8 Beautiful Bike Rides in Chicago and the Suburbs

By mid-January you were ready to turn your kids loose on a bike – whether it was in the basement or your apartment hallway – just to get the energy out. Thanks to Mother Nature, the weather is finally a little nicer to let everyone escape the walls of the house.

Whether your kid is an expert on a mountain bike or still riding the Radio Flyer three-wheeler, there are great trails in and around Chicago to take in the smells of spring and the sights of the city once the stay-at-home order is lifted.

Morton Arboretum

Where: 4100 Ill. 53, Lisle

Best for: All ages

Cost: Free with admission; $18-$65 bike rental.

A great place to ease through a few trails and spy on nature is in Lisle, where Morton Arboretum lets flowers, trees, birds and nature shine. If you prefer to pack light for the trip to the Western Suburbs, bike rentals are available beginning in late April.

The 606

Where: Bloomingdale Trail between Ashland and Ridgeway, Chicago; the606.org

Best for: All ages

Cost: Free

Connecting six neighborhood parks, The 606 is the perfect trail for beginners or a family looking for long distances. You can stop at any of the parks, and learn something from the educational programming, check out the art installations or just explore Chicago.

Lakefront Trail

Where: Lincoln Park to Jackson Park, Chicago

Best for: Early elementary and older

Cost: Free

For a perfect ride on a perfect spring day, see the Chicago skyline from Lakefront Trail. The separation that was finished in 2018 allows for more space for both bikers and runners, and lets even novice bikers enjoy the busy trail.

Chicago Botanic Garden

Where: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe

Best for: All ages

Cost: Free with admission; $2.50 per half hour or $60 season pass bike rental.

Bikes are encouraged around the outer trail of the garden, through the prairies and past the aquatic garden. Watch for summer dates when the garden opens paths usually closed to bicycles and holds festivities for two-wheeled enthusiasts.

The Cal-Sag Trail

Where: Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve to Burnham Prairie Nature Reserve

Best for: Late elementary and older

Cost: Free

At 26 miles from start to finish, bikers can add to their mileage by stopping at any of the five public trails along the route. As the trail winds through communities in the South Suburbs, this is best traversed with experienced bikers who pass a road rules test.

Old Plank Road Trail

Where: Park Road (Joliet Township) to Western Avenue (Park Forest)

Best for: Late elementary and older

Cost: Free

Traversing 22 miles through seven communities, the trail runs parallel to Route 30 through the far South Suburbs. For families who want to travel even farther, a new addition allows bikers to connect to the Thorn Creek Trail system, adding Chicago Heights and its trails to the mileage.

Fox River Trail

Where: Algonquin to Oswego

Best for: Early elementary and older at parks, middle school and older for entire trail

Cost: Free

To go from top to bottom is more than 44 miles of former railroad trails that follow along the Fox River. The beauty of the area is unmatched, as families can travel through towns in Kane and Kendall counties, stopping where they choose along the way at libraries, farmers markets and even for lunch.

Meacham Grove Forest Preserve

Where: Circle Avenue, Bloomingdale

Best for: All ages

Cost: Free

The 2 1/2 miles of trail welcomes bikers and hikers. Bring a picnic to eat or a fishing pole to fish at Maple Lake (16 and older must have a fishing license).

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This article originally published in Chicago Parent’s April 2020 print issue. Read the rest of the issue here.

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