When your summer spent eating all the carbs along the Magnificent Mile has seen its last sunset, it’s time to revamp your fitness routine. The good news is that working out during autumn in the Windy City is fun and easy. In the few precious months between summer’s end and the fall of snow, the trails in and around Chicago are better than ever. Biking during the fall in Chicago means touring near changing leaves and enjoying crisp air. Here are some of the best Chicago bike trails for an autumn adventure:
Distance: 100 miles
This is an organized ride put on each year by the Evanston Bike Club. The full ride extends 100 miles, but the event also features distances of 25, 50, and 62 miles if you’re not up for the full century. You’ll begin your journey at Clark Street Beach and go all the way to Wisconsin and back if you tackle all 100 miles. Late September is the perfect time for a ride this long; the humidity will be manageable and you may catch some of the earliest falling leaves.
Distance: 7 miles
One of the best bike trails in Chicago is along the North Shore Channel Trail, which weaves in part through the city’s Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park. Not only is the park rich in foliage and paved trails, but you can take a self-guided tour of the diverse array of outdoor artwork. The part of the trail between Touhy Avenue and Dempster Street has more than 60 sculptures displayed to the public. Fall is a great time to visit this trail because the crowds are thinner and the leaves begin to thin, allowing you a better view of many of the sculptures from the trail.
Distance: 13 miles
In the mood for a loop? Bike trails that don’t require any backtracking are more fun because you’ll get unique scenery for the entire trip. When the temperatures begin to drop this fall, visit the 3,700-acre Ned Brown Forest Preserve. You’ll have a chance to pull over and watch elk grazing in a pasture and watch birds preparing for their winter flight as you loop around the reservoir. Your journey through oak and maple groves will also feature a bright display of yellowing leaves.
Distance:18 miles (round-trip)
This trail is about 8.9 miles each way, taking you from Wilmette to Highland Park and back again. The Green Bay Trail runs parallel to the Metra rail on the north side of Chicago, and the trailheads are named after Metra stops – so you always know where you’re headed. The paved and gravel path is one of the best bike rides in Chicago on a cool autumn day. You’ll weave through North Shore communities like Kenilworth, Winnetka, and Highland Park, and it’s easy to take a side trip to the lake if you want to check out some water views.
Distance: 20.6 miles (round-trip)
The distance between these two Chicago landmarks is about 10.3 miles, making the round-trip journey the perfect distance for an adventurous fall journey or biking in a Chicago winter. You can make your way along Sheridan Road near the lake or take the Green Bay Trail to North Branch Trail. Along the way, you’ll weave past the Skokie Lagoons before you land at the gardens. Take your time exploring the autumn exhibits at the 385-acre botanic garden before you head home; you won’t regret it. If you don’t want to pedal back, hop on the Braeside Metra stop.
Distance: 36 miles (round-trip)
One of the best known Chicago bike rides is the namesake lakeside bike trail, which runs between the north and south sides of the city. Along the way, you’ll pass places including Lincoln Park, Soldier Field, Grant Park, Navy Pier, and Belmont Harbor. You’ll have lake views on one side and some of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Chicago on the other. It’s a wonderful fall bike ride because it allows you to soak up some final views of Lake Michigan’s blue waters before winter rolls into the city.
Biking in Chicago never gets old, and the boldest cyclists will continue their adventures all winter long. Still, autumn is a fine time to hit the trails and soak up the transition from sweltering summer to brisk winter. Whether you’re a cycling newbie or a seasoned biker, sixthreezero has a ride for you. Seek out the best commuter bike for rides across a variety of terrain or look at our best city bikes for short adventures on paved trails.
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