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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.
To find trail parking at Samuel Myers Park from I-94/I-41, take Exit 333 toward Racine onto SR 20. Go 8.1 miles—SR 20 becomes Washington Ave.—and bear right onto 14th St. Go 0.7 mile, and turn left onto Main St. After 0.3 mile, turn right onto 11th St. Parking is on the right in Samuel Myers Park or on the left along the lakefront. The trail’s southern endpoint is located about 4.4 miles south, following the easternmost section of the trail.
To find parking near the north end at Lake View Park/Racine Zoo from I-94/I-41, take Exit 329 east onto Northwestern Ave. Go 7.3 miles, and turn left onto Rapids Dr. Go 0.9 mile, and turn left onto Mt. Pleasant St.; then take the first right onto Goold St. Go 1.1 miles, and turn left onto N. Wisconsin St. Look for parking on the right in about 500 feet. The trail’s northern endpoint is located about 2.7 miles northwest along the trail.
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