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The 13.5-mile Lake Michigan Pathway keeps you in close touch with the sixth-largest freshwater lake in the world as it links rail-trails north and south of the port city of Racine. Along the way, the trail visits such attractions as beaches, marinas, parks, the zoo, and museums, as well as the revitalized downtown district.
The Root River splits the Lake Michigan Pathway where it empties into the lake, marking the location of a settlement that came to be known as Racine, French for “root,” in 1841. Danish immigrants who began arriving after the Civil War influenced the city’s culture and cuisine, specifically in its bakeries serving fruit- and nut-filled pastries called kringle.
Using the paved path alongside the lake as well as city streets, the Lake Michigan Pathway serves commuters as well as sightseers. In the north, it connects to the MRK Trail (named for the Milwaukee-Racine-Kenosha Electric Railway) at South Street and 3 Mile Road. In the south it connects to the North Shore Trail at Chicory Road.
The highlight for visitors is the 3.3 miles of off-street paved trail that runs alongside Lake Michigan. Beginning at Samuel Myers Park (parking is available here and along the lakeshore), you can hop on the pathway and follow it north toward downtown, passing Pershing Park on the left. In 0.6 mile, you’ll pass the Civic Centre and Festival Park concert and event venues. Together with the 900-slip marina, they make up part of the harbor revitalization project that got under way in the 1980s.
The pathway heads up Root River to the Main Street bridge. A left turn onto Main Street leads to a four-block side trip to the Racine Art Museum. A right turn crosses the bridge, where you can take another side trip upstream on the 4-mile Root River Pathway to a bird sanctuary. To stay on the Lake Michigan Pathway, follow the signs. Back on the off-road trail, you’ll pass a 0.5-mile gravel trail atop a breakwater that juts into the lake.
The white sands of North Beach, a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and trout and salmon fishing, stretch for a half mile along the lakefront north of the breakwater. The beach ends at the entrance to the Racine Zoo. About 0.3 mile north, the off-road portion of the pathway ends and continues as an on-street or sidewalk route marked by lake michigan pathway signs.
To explore southern Racine from Samuel Myers Park, take the Lake Michigan Pathway west as it becomes an on-street and sidewalk route on 11th Street. Turn left onto Main Street to head south. (About 0.3 mile south, you can take a side trip west on 14th Street for 0.4 mile to see the SC Johnson headquarters designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.) In 1 mile, you’ll arrive at the picturesque DeKoven Center, a church-affiliated conference center that was founded as Racine College in 1852.
The pathway splits at DeKoven Avenue for two mostly on-street routes to the North Shore Trail. The left pathway, built in 2016, heads south on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue through Dodge Park to a connection with Roosevelt Park Drive and Durand Avenue. The right pathway takes DeKoven Avenue west, and then left on Case Avenue, right on Gilson Street, left on Drexel Avenue, right on Maryland Avenue, and left on Knoll Place to a right on Chicory Road.
Parking is available at a number of locations along the trail. View the TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions.
I started from a local community center near the south end, (asking permission to park my car there first). Also gave them a small donation when I returned. Most of this trail hugs the coastline, though the last few miles is along city streets. At the northwestern end of the trail, I found it joined up with a local rail trail, which runs from 3 Mile Road to Layard Ave. paralleling Douglas Ave., though it is not on Traillink. So I took that a few miles south and rode some city streets until I rejoined the Lake Michigan Pathway. In several places, the trail is not obvious or well marked, so keep your traillink app open to see where you are if you aren't sure. I recall one spot that looked like an alley past an industrial area, but it went down to the marina and the trail. Once past that, there are signs periodically to point you the right way.
If you like roads then you'll like this trail.
My husband & I had a great bike ride along Lake Michigan. We thought it was going to be really hot out, instead it was misty with low cloud cover. It was 76* out, felt much cooler. Couldn’t see very far out into Lake Michigan, with the low clouds and mist but still a wonderful ride. I would recommend it. We started at Roosevelt Park, bike north to the end and came back. We will go back on a clear day. Nice ride!
Very scenic. Cozy. If you’re looking for a melow ride, this is it.
We rode from Gateway Technical College north. The path along the lake was fantastic and we rode out to the lighthouse out on the pier. The lighthouse is nothing special, but it was fun to ride out on the pier. We continued north along the beach. The couple of hills were do-able, though my wife struggled a bit with her 7-speed. We were soon dumped onto the streets and had to follow the signs to figure out where we were going. We eventually stopped at a gas station and thought about turning around. At that point we realized we were close to the Wind Pointe Lighthouse, so we left the trail and rode there. That was a detour that was VERY worthwhile!! It was one of the best kept grounds we've seen at an old lighthouse. While the roads didn't have wide shoulders to accommodate bikes, the people who were driving on the road were clearly used to folks biking out to the lighthouse and the traffic was light. There was a bike rack at the lighthouse to lock up, but volunteers were doing landscaping right next to the bike rack so we didn't need to lock up. The ride back was a little more comfortable since we knew that we'd have some road riding, though it felt like much less on the return trip. The trip south only had one uphill ride.
Apart from the road riding at the north end, we really enjoyed the trail. Taking the detour off the trail to the lighthouse was definitely a highlight and the best part of our ride.
Paved path with scenic views of Lake Michigan,long clean beaches,path meanders through Racine harbors with some challenging hills on the North side of the trail
I liked this trail. Good change of scenery along the way. Plenty of curves in the road and no overly difficult elevation changes. Just watch out for pedestrians on this multi-use trail.
It's a nice enjoyable ride along the Racing lakefront, but be prepared for steep hills you have to go up and it can be a challenge for some. You'll enjoy the ride down them though and it also goes past the Racine Zoo always interesting to go ride past there. You enjoy everything the lakefront has to offer and eventually it connects with the Racine county trail which is crushed stone or you can keep riding past the entrance and connect with the Root River pathway.
It's a nice ride and buzzing with activity and trail users and some nice sights to enjoy that make the ride enjoyable, but be prepared for the hills.
Happy riding everyone!
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