Racine County's eastern edge is home to two rail-trails plus a stellar connecting trail between them. Because the county standardized its signs a few years back you won't see specific rail-trail names on display (look for Racine County Bikepath signs), but this description is for the MRK Trail as well as the Northshore Trail and Lake Michigan Pathway, spanning 15 miles from the southern county line to just shy of the northern county line. (This route is also known as the Northshore/MRK Trails.)
Start from the Northshore Trail, and head north on a crushed limestone surface. (You will also see signs for the Kenosha County Bike Trail that connects here and runs south through Kenosha to the Illinois line.) On the rail-trail, greenery surrounds you, masking residences that border the path. The trail quickly becomes classic Wisconsin farmland scenery. This is an easy flat and peaceful route for walking or biking. After crossing 19th Street, the Northshore Trail ends, but a seamless connection continues north on the Lake Michigan Pathway.
The Lake Michigan Pathway is not a rail-trail but a connector between the Northshore and MRK rail-trails. It is a series of on-road segments and paved off-road paths along beautiful Lake Michigan, through downtown Racine and its fantastic waterfront harbor, and to the famous Northshore Beach Park. There is plenty to do and see on this route, from shopping and dining in downtown Racine to the terrific playground (a fee applies) in Northshore Beach Park.
On the hill above Northshore Beach you will find the Racine Zoological Park. Following the path north, you will pass below the zoo and then have a steep climb back into a residential area. Several major street crossings end this section near the Layard Avenue entrance to the MRK Trail. The MRK Trail (named for the Milwaukee-Racine-Kenosha Railroad that traveled this route) winds up this trip with a 5-mile run to Six Mile Road. This section has an industrial feel to it: an active Union Pacific rail line shares the route, and power lines drape the trail. The surface here returns to crushed limestone. You will notice a very gradual incline as you travel north, which is good news for the swift trip back to the southern end of this county corridor.
Parking and Trail Access
To access the southern terminus of the North Shore Trail, take State Route 32 south from Racine to County Line Road KR. Turn right on County KR; the trailhead is on the right about 0.5 mile ahead. No parking is available.