Chicago Lakefront Trail

Illinois

Chicago Lakefront Trail Facts

States: Illinois
Counties: Cook
Length: 19 miles
Trail end points: E. 71st. St. and S. South Shore Dr. (US 41) and W. Ardmore Ave. and N. Sheridan Road (Chicago)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Concrete
Trail category: Greenway/Non-RT
ID: 6032528
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking

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Chicago Lakefront Trail Description

The Chicago Lakefront Trail is aptly named; it spans 19 miles along the shore of Lake Michigan, going right through downtown Chicago and passing many cultural and tourist attractions throughout the city.

The trail starts at the south end of the South Shore Cultural Center, about 9.5 miles south of downtown Chicago. You begin your ride through Jackson Park and soon pass the Museum of Science and Industry and Promontory Point, a lovely peninsula that provides your first views of the skyline.

You’ll pedal through Burnham Park, which maintains a few nature sanctuaries and harbors. A bit farther north, you’ll catch a few more interesting sights, such as Soldier Field, Adler Planetarium, and Shedd Aquarium, just be-fore you enter Grant Park in downtown Chicago. You have reached the center of the city—and you can certainly tell! Tourists and locals flock to this portion of the trail, which provides direct access to Navy Pier, a former navy center that now maintains restaurants, shops, and carnival rides.

As you continue, you’ll find yourself surrounded by Lincoln Park, which is home to a zoo, conservatory, and nature museum. To your right, you’ll see one of Chicago’s most popular beaches, North Avenue Beach, which lines the lake. A few miles farther north, you’ll pass a couple more beaches—Montrose Beach and Foster Beach—and your ride will end as you hit Kathy Osterman Beach.

Throughout the trail, you’ll find ample amenities, such as restrooms, water fountains, and concessions. Do be wary of traffic as you near the center of downtown; there are a number of intersections to cross, as well as increased foot and bike traffic. And don’t forget your bike lock if you plan to stop at any of the numerous attractions along the way, and, of course, bring your camera.

Parking and Trail Access

To access the southern trailhead, take I-55 N to US 41 S/S. Lake Shore Dr. near mile marker 293. Merge onto US 41 S, and go 5.3 miles. Use the left two lanes to turn left onto E. Marquette Dr., which you’ll follow 0.5 mile. This will pop you onto S. South Shore Dr. Continue 0.5 mile and use the left two lanes to turn left onto E. 71st St. The trailhead will be on the left, along the wall of the South Shore Cultural Center. Look for street parking in this neighborhood.

To access the northern trailhead, take I-55 N to US 41 N/S. Lake Shore Dr. near mile marker 293. Merge onto US 41 N, and go 9.9 miles. Turn right onto N. Sheridan Road and in 0.1 mile turn right at the first cross street onto W. Ardmore Ave. You will see signage for the trailhead; look for street parking in this neighborhood.

Chicago Lakefront Trail Reviews

I rode the entirety of the trail on 8/21 from Rogers Park to the South Shore Golf Course and back, so a total of a little over 39 miles. While the vast majority of the trail is amazing, there are a few hang ups for anyone looking to take a serious ride. For one, the trail south of the center of the city is in poor condition. Pot holes and cracks are a constant hazard. Secondly, the trail kind of disappears when you get to Navy Pier, and picks back up on the south side of the Chicago River. No designated path for bikes who are forced to share the sidewalk with tourists, pedestrians, and other bikes. It can be a little frustrating. Lastly, the beaches are atrocious to navigate with clueless pedestrians and tourists looking up at the sky, down at their feet, but never behind them to see who is approaching. All that being said, being able to see the city coming from the south side is phenomenal and incomparable to other trails. I highly recommend taking this trail at least once, if only to see the full spectrum of Chicago.

No where I'd rather ride!

This is a great trail that runs along the lake. The only drawback is that it very overcrowded. Please be careful riding this trail because there are tourists, walkers, bikers and everything in between.

Accordion

I've been riding the Lakefront ride for quite some time. I've always had a great ride even during construction. Maybe it's because I generally go early or mid-day. However, I occasionally ride with a group at 6pm. Sometimes we encounter swarms of people especially around Navy Pier & other times we do not. I ride from the South-63rd street & has rode as far north as Irving Park, Fullerton, Hollywood, etc. I generally ride alone (female) & I always feel safe whether I'm riding north or south. Further, the views are magnificent. Now, not everyone will follow the rules of cycling but for the most part, it's a wonderful experience. I have taken friends & they agree it's a beautiful, scenic & pleasant route. I recommend the route to all cyclists (fast or experienced riders please go early--no later than 8am).

I live right at Addison and Lake Shore with easy, daily access to the trails. Myself and a hundred others get up at the crack of dawn and bike the trails. I've lost 20 lbs.!

Currently sections of the trail are being resurfaced. Thanks! But the notices that each section is closed doesn't show up until the last minute leaving the biker to turn around and look for the detour. And now an extremely long section is closed at Buena Park with no alternative route other than the street. Better plans could be implemented. I'll try to communicate with the Park District.

As for mile markers, a few exist but not enough markers to help one keep track of how far one has biked. I'll try the alderman's office.

Yes, there are crowds near Navy Pier...Just go slow if crowded. If you want to avoid the crowds, then go early in the morning and don't go on the weekends. The "power" bikers are dangerous. But...that being said, the views are spectacular. You'll want to take your time to take it all in.

This trail is nice but way too crowded north of Navy Pier. The worst part is with my fellow bikers who are too lazy to announce that they are passing. It's not hard to say-Passing on your left! But it was rare to hear these words uttered by the numerous road bikers we encountered. Add to this the multitudes of walkers and it is downright unsafe. I was passed while passing a walker while another oncoming biker was on my side. If you do not like heavy crowds, avoid this section of the trail during the evening and on weekends.

I recently rode the section south of Navy Pier to 63rd St. on a Thursday afternoon. It was not crowded at all. Overall it was a nice ride. Getting to 63rd St parking was a bit scary but once there, it felt safer. Of course, Chicago, needing every bit of revenue it can squeeze out of citizens, charges $1.75 per hour to park in a public parking lot. The south section of the trail has quite a few nice parks and overall is a very nice ride. If you park in the 63rd St. lot, avoid the outhouse on the south portion of the lot. It was the most disgusting sight I have ever seen. It had to have been months since a city worker visited this outhouse for a cleaning. Unfortunately, the utterly disgusting vision is etched in my brain. Aside from that, it is a good ride if you stay south of Navy Pier.

This beautiful scenic trail is greatly marred by the amount of people using it during the summer. Local news has estimated that 100,000 people are on it or close to it during ANY given summer day. Avoid it unless you like dodging, swerving, and dealing with other people. For me it adds stress to my ride.

Let me begin with the good things about this trail. As other reviewers have mentioned, this trail is well maintained, and beautiful. You can't beat the views of the city and the water. It's 18 miles of scenery that is unparalleled.

That being said, I hate this trail. I agree with shld2005 who wrote the review "not good for a legitimate workout... only for putzing around." There are walkers, dog walkers, joggers, in-line skaters, BBQ'ers, strollers, and other cyclists all using the trail. It's great that it's a resource for everyone, but it renders this trail unsuitable for anyone who'd like to get a real workout. I find that I can only ride this trail at about 530 am so that I can be done before 8 am on weekdays. Cooler temps generally makes it better for those who want to work on their fitness because the better the weather, the busier this trail is. Also, this trail is used for many organized runs and walks during the summer. I have not found a good resource for telling us when all of these events take place, so you may run into even more traffic because you were unaware of some event that is taking place on this trail.

I'd like to comment that the cyclists on road bikes who are exercising on the trail are not "training for the tour de france" just like the runners who are on this trail are not training for the Olympics. Let's all be tolerant please. That being said, for those who are finding it challenging to get a good workout on this trail, I'd recommend taking the new extension to the lakefront trail south to the Eerie Lackawanna trail in Indiana or the Burnham Greenway trail.

This is not a trail for running people over. It is a casual bike trail thousands of people use it daily.good views decently kept up and project ongoing. For the most part you will find it enjoyable at all points you ride. If you are training for tour de france go someplace else.

Anything north of Navy Pier is going to be filled with tourists, inconsiderate bikers, and way too many people. Avoid it. Go south of the Museum Campus and you will love it. The crowds dimish greatly thus leaving the ride better for views and stress levels.

A few years ago while doing the National Restaurant Show We put a few bikes on the tuck that toke all of our stuff to the show. This is one great trail as it has a great view of both the Lake and the City. There is a lot of both foot traffic and bike traffic so make sure you have a bell as it really works I am not a big fan of green ways but this is a great one. It is flat and wide with a good surface but it dose get windy.

Great view of the lake and city the entire route. Some of the pavement is pretty rough.

I come to Chicago often to enjoy the city and this time I brought along my bike and rode the Chicago Lakefront Trail. It was amazing. The views were great, the people and the accessibility to food, drink and restrooms. I found it very exhilarating. I plan to return and do it more.

One of the best places to be in the Chi. Well maintained, simply love it!

While visiting Chicago, we ran and rode bikes on the Lakefront Bike Path. It is a fantastic representation for the incredible City of Chicago. It is well maintained, has many working water fountains, beautiful views, beaches and many people using the path. I absolutely fell in love with the accessibility to the path and used it as often as I could!!

If you visit Chicago, using this path is a MUST!!!

There is usually some traffic on this trail of various types - foot, bike, etc. I was out recently on a pretty cold day with high winds so it was not crowded at all. Lake Michigan was (literally) *right* there. On a windy day it can be very up close and personal in spots. It is a very scenic ride; the views are just spectacular. The view of the water makes you feel like you're on vacation, even if you're not. I ended up at Navy Pier. This is a nice day out. Would not normally be a difficult ride (not hilly) unless it's a windy day in which case half the ride will be really easy and the other half not so much.

this is still a great path to ride. i only ride beach cruisers and this is just perfect. i know the hard core bikers think it is too slow, but keep in mind there are 100,000 people out and about. between the beaches and the dog parks, tons of stuff to see and do. stop and play a game of chess or watch a volleyball game. there are clean bathrooms and plenty of water fountains along the way. the pace is not for speed training even tho some stubborn types think so. if you are in it to train for the tour de france, you are in the wrong area.
so many people to see and watch out for actually makes it the most enjoyable path in chicago. at any moment
you can just stop and relax and take in the action. after all, everyone needs to stop and smell the roses once in a while.
the only warning i can give is do not park at the montrose lot. even with the tennis courts, and the bike repair shack right there, you will have your car broken into. last week i counted 8 vehicles with the side window smashed. it is almost inconceivable that someone has not been caught yet. about once a month it seems to happen again and again. not sure why this area is so nasty, but needs attention.

A busy, noteworthy Trail. Enjoyed the scenery on this autumn day, lucky that the high rise apartment buildings sheltered the trail from a strong west wind. Noel Keller 14 Oct 2011

North of Navy Pier this path is full of dogs, cell phone talkers, iPod listeners, strollers, inattentive bikers/ runners, roller bladers etc etc. and only good for getting to point B from point A slow-ish-ly (and not a legitimate workout). Be careful and pay attention!

The views on this trail are amazing. Chicago's skyline at night is just superb! You should try this trail!

This path suffers from really one thing, being exposed to the elements nearly the entire ride. True, there is some coverage farther south, but it never lasts long.

It's great though, even on hot days the lake is so close there is a nice cool breeze. At the "end" there is a nice shaded spot to stop and have a quick bite and get back going again. The trail is paved the entire length, though sometimes it's falling apart. There are a few parts where it does get pretty tight and that is usually where its also the busiest - so be careful. Great views nearly the entire ride, that is for sure.

I live on the lakefront and ride this trail virtually daily. It is one of the best things about living in Chicago. You can ride a sunrise and enjoy the breathtaking view of the sun rising over Lake Michigan. Also, since Meigs Field, the little airport by the lake was closed, the mayor has planted a genuine Chicago Prairie there, AND a 1.5 mile bike path. It is gorgeous riding and the views of the Chicago Lakefront at superb. You can also look south and east along the shoreline. They have changed the name to Northerly Island. Highly recommended.

"This is a great trail, well maintained, clean, and fast. The city of Chicago takes excellent care of this trail and surrounding areas. I ride it all of the time."

"For the past 30 years, my friend D. and I either walked or biked this trail every Saturday morning at 7:00 a.m. We take a break and walk into the city, have breakfast and then return to the trail.

Individually, we exercise on teh trail during the week as well. On the weekends the ""traffic"" can be unbearable. On weekends during the summer, many 10k runs are held, as well as organized training runs, so it can not be the escape it is during the weekdays.

Nevertheless, this is a treasure. The trail from around Irving Park to Oak Street is the busiest on the weekends. The south side end is not so busy, although the area around Hyde Park is well used.

Even if you just visit Chicago, this trail is a treasure to explore. Bikes can be rented at Navy Pier and elsewhere."

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