The Robert McClory Bike Path is notorious for its conglomeration of names over the years. At any given time—and depending on whom you ask—it has been called the Green Bay Trail and the North Shore Bike Path, although those names now refer to separate trails in the area. The trail’s formal name, given in 1997, honors a bike-friendly government official. The Green Bay Trail now generally refers to the southern extension of the Robert McClory Bike Path to Wilmette; the two are seamlessly linked in Highland Park.
The path strings together the communities of Highland Park, Highwood, Fort Sheridan, Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, Naval Station Great Lakes, North Chicago, Waukegan, Beach Park, Zion and Winthrop Harbor before seamlessly melding into the southern end of the 18.6-mile Kenosha County Bike Trail at the Wisconsin state line.
Despite its modern-day identity crisis, the Robert McClory Bike Path's past is clear. The majority of its route follows a historic Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad corridor. This railroad, popularly known as the North Shore Line, was an interurban railway, and many of the old towers supporting the electric cables are visible along the trail. The trail surface consists of asphalt in the south; concrete where the trail leaves the rail corridor and follows city streets; and a finely-screened limestone that offers a good, hard base for most trail uses in the north.
Starting in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, the smooth, paved trail travels through picturesque suburban communities (many of them among the most affluent in the Chicago area) that dominate most of the trail's first half. Leaving Highwood, you parallel active railroad tracks for most of the next 7 miles to just south of North Chicago. The trail and the tracks are separated by about 20 to 30 feet of thin forest most of this time.
Entering Lake Forest, the trail briefly detours onto streets, as well as through large parking lots that service the Metra station. This route is well marked and easy to follow. The section between Lake Bluff and North Chicago still parallels the Metra tracks, on the left, but this stretch also opens up and quiets down, with expanses of woodlands and a golf course. Just south of the Lake Bluff Metra Station, the North Shore Bike Path branches off to the west, providing access to Mundelein, the Skokie Valley Trail and the 56-mile Des Plaines River Trail.
North Chicago's section of the Robert McClory Bike Path is very wide, housing the trail, utility lines and the old electric towers from the railroad days. Mile markers are visible north of Great Lakes. Another unique feature along this section is mile after mile of community gardens. A lot of the trail's open space has been tilled, and gardens sprout up everywhere, adding a charming country touch to the urban atmosphere.
As you head north, the subdivisions increasingly give way to fields. The trail meets the Kenosha County Bike Trail on the bridge crossing Russell Road; this is the state line. The southern 3.5 miles of that trail take you through Wisconsin, and this stretch is distinctly more rural, with a beautiful, tree-lined finish to the Kenosha trailhead.
To access the Highland Park trailhead, take US 41 (Skokie Highway) to Central Avenue and head east for just over 1 mile. Turn right onto St. Johns Avenue and park in any lot on the right. The trail starts along the west side of St. Johns Avenue, where it meets Laurel Avenue.
To reach the Kenosha trailhead from I-94, take 104th Street east for 4.25 miles. Turn left onto Springbrook Road and travel just over 0.5 mile. Turn left onto 39th Avenue and continue for 1.1 miles. Turn right onto 89th Avenue. The trailhead is 0.5 mile ahead on the right, at the intersection of 89th Avenue and 30th Street.