The 9-mile Green Bay Trail runs parallel to Chicago's Metra commuter rail line north of the Chicago city limits. Stretching through North Shore towns such as Kenilworth, Winnetka, Highland Park and Lake Bluff, the corridor is flanked by restaurants, shops, community parks and beautiful homes. Because the trail stays generally within a mile of Lake Michigan, you can take any number of on-road side trips for beachfront views of the lake.
The Green Bay Trail runs along the east side of Chicago's Metra Union Pacific North line (UP-N commuter rail) almost entirely along the route of the former Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee (CNS&M) interurban electric railroad, from Greenleaf Avenue in downtown Wilmette to the junction of Saint Johns Avenue & Sheridan Road at the southern edge of downtown Highland Park. Here it turns into the Robert McClory Bike Path.
The trail is suitable for even the youngest of riders, although the route does use some sidewalks and even a very small portion of residential road in Kenilworth. In addition, the surface alternates between asphalt and crushed limestone. Inexperienced cyclists and those with young children should use particular caution at road crossings and with any road riding.
This is a true multi-purpose trail. Commuters take the trail to train stations along the way, bikes are allowed on the Metra in limited numbers; children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult when bringing a bicycle, and residents and tourists alike use the trail for exercise and car-free travel between communities.
From the southern trailhead in Wilmette you will immediately experience the fresh air and beach-front atmosphere that is comfortably juxtaposed with the business and commuter traffic. The trail itself is paved and well maintained, accentuating the upscale neighborhoods through which it travels.
Nearing Highland Park you may find people flocking to Ravinia, one of Chicagoland's best music venues. An open-air, covered pavilion is used for symphony concerts, dance and pop concerts, while smaller indoor theaters showcase chamber music performances and dance recitals.
By the time you reach the St. John's Avenue trailhead, and northern end of the trail, you will appreciate the many restrooms, public telephones, playgrounds and parks afforded by the proximity of the commuter line. Another bonus of the adjacent rail line: if you are tired after your one-way trip, just hop a Metra train for the return trip.
To get to the Wilmette trailhead, take Interstate 94 to Exit 34 (Lake Avenue) and head east for just over 2 miles to Green Bay Road. Head north on Green Bay and make an immediate right on Forest Avenue. You will see the trail crossing Forest Avenue, where there is limited parking. Additional parking can be found in any one of the many Metra parking lots that run parallel to the trail. These stations also offer restrooms, water fountains, and telephones.
To access the Highland Park trailhead, take US 41 to Highland Park and head east on Deerfield Road. After about a half mile, turn left on Central Avenue and follow it for just over a half mile. Turn south on St. John's Avenue and continue for 0.25 mile to the Metra parking lot on the right, which doubles as trail parking.