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The Robert McClory Bike Path runs the length of Lake County, knitting together a string of communities on the north shore of Chicago all the way to the Wisconsin border. In 1997, the trail was named after a Republican congressman who served the area for 20 years.
The 25-mile bike path primarily follows the route of the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad, which expanded all the way to Milwaukee in 1919 as an electric interurban freight and passenger railroad. It ceased operations in 1963 after ridership declined. The trail also uses low-traffic city streets. A Metra commuter railway connects Chicago to Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Union Pacific Railroad tracks that parallel much of the trail.
The trail surface consists of asphalt in the south; concrete where the path 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. It’s hemmed in by residential and commercial districts, though it does pass some parks and forest preserves. In the south, the trail connects with the Green Bay Trail at the county line, while in the north it meets the Kenosha County Bike Trail at the state line. US Bicycle Route 37 and the Grand Illinois Trail both occupy parts of the trail.
Beginning in the south at the Braeside Metra Station, you’ll ride 2.5 miles through a wooded linear park alongside the tracks until you reach a commuter parking lot in central Highland Park. You’ll then have to take St. Johns Avenue (there are sidewalks) 0.7 mile to Vine Avenue, turn left, and go one block to a ramp to return to the trail.
You’ll return to a parklike corridor for another 0.6 mile, then take a slight detour by turning right onto Bloom Street. Go 0.2 mile, turn left onto St. Johns Avenue, and go another 0.2 mile to return to the Robert McClory Bike Path adjacent to Walker Avenue.
For the next 1.5 miles, the trail skirts old Fort Sheridan, a historical garrison decommissioned by the U.S. Army and transformed into a fashionable neighborhood. You’ll find hiking and biking trails within the 230-acre historic district; another 250 acres is in forest preserve.
Crossing Sheridan Road, you’ll return to the old railroad right-of-way that runs through a wooded corridor next to Metra through Lake Forest and Lake Bluff (the junction for the east-west North Shore Bike Path is here) for the next 7.2 miles to North Chicago. Here the trail takes a ramp over a highway, loses Metra, and enters a warehouse and light-industrial district for a few blocks.
For the next 12 miles to the Wisconsin border, the bike path corridor is pleasantly wide. Mile markers are visible north of Waukegan. Another unique feature is the number of community gardens that appear mile after mile, adding a charming country touch to the urban atmosphere.
Parks and open spaces become more prevalent farther north. The trail meets the Kenosha County Bike Trail on a pedestrian bridge spanning Russell Road at the state line. That trail continues another 4.5 miles into Kenosha.
To reach the southern end of the Robert McClory Bike Path: From I-94 W, take Exit 29 for US 41/Skokie Hwy. In 0.7 mile, take the Lake Cook Road exit and head east. Go 1.3 miles, and turn left onto Blackhawk Road or St. Johns Ave. Look for parking at the Braeside Metra Station. (Parking is extremely limited and expensive; consider taking your bicycle on board a Metra train.)
To reach the northern end of the Robert McClory Bike Path at the state line: From I-94, take Exit 1 for Russell Road, and head east. Go 4.9 miles and turn right onto N. Lewis Ave. Go 1 mile and turn left onto W. Ninth St. In 0.4 mile turn right onto W. Broadway Ave. Look for parking on the left side of the road. The bike path crosses W. Ninth St. just around the corner; the state line is 1 mile north.
A gorgeously scenic trail leading from Wilmette to Kenosha that for the most part follows the Metra Union Pacific North line, which is handy to know if you plan to take the whole trail but only have enough gas left in the tank to take it in but one direction.
You'll want a decent, light weight bike with sturdy tires that guarantee you some traction, as you will encounter some loose, grainy gravel better suited to a hybrid than a road bike, especially in some parts of Cook and Lake County, though a bit less than half of the trail is smoothly paved. There's very little incline, though you will encounter a slight amount of uphill biking around the Waukegan area, heading southbound, though nothing steep.
The Kenosha portion of the trail is well kept and smooth riding.
One criticism I have is the lack of helpful signage. While the state and counties want to remind you at every cross street what the rules are (no equestrian or motor vehicles), there's little helpful signage to warn you of upcoming detours or divergent routes (that's government for you). For example, the road ends near the Great Lakes Naval Base, and picks up close by, but there's little to tell you where and how. There are a few times this happens and the best advice I can give is to consult your GPS regularly.
The changing leaves of autumn made this trail especially lovely. Approximately 50 miles, all told and worth seeing every bit.
I road my bike from the 1800 block of Glenn Drive to 33rd Street in Zion and found it to be a tiring yet exhilarating experience.
North Chicago and Waukegan isn't as bad as some people think it is. I've never heard of anyone being mugged or assaulted while biking, walking, running or jogging through North Chicago and Waukegan. AVON runners do an annual run on the bike path from Milwaukee to Chicago in the name of breast cancer awareness and to raise money for research. Ragnar runners also come through on an annual basis.
There are some really parts to the trail once you get into Waukegan and beyond.
Seriously. Where is all the hate for this trail coming from? I rode the whole thing from Kenosha to Wilmette, and thought it was great the whole way. A lot of people are saying that the north part of this trail is unsafe but that is not true. I felt safe the whole way, even in the Waukegan area. This trail really. I recommend it to anyone who wants to go for a bike ride!
Started the trail in North Chicago (It's a bit rough looking) but the people along the tail were nice. The tail was easy running and lots of great scenery. The more north you go the Bush gets thicker of to the side's. I found a doggy play ground for my dog along the way as well. this trail I give a thumbs and will use it frequently.
The beginning of the trail was awesome! Paved, people on the trail...everything was good. There was a turn that crossed the road and went underneath the main road, and then you start the limestone screening trail. This was a little scary - I'm a 26-year-old female, and I was in what looked like a neighborhood not in the greatest shape. There were no other women on the trail, and I kid you not, there was graffiti of a swastika. I went all the way up to the Kenosha Trail, which was beautifully paved, and did a few miles on that before turning back around.
Love this path! I was worried when reading about this trail that it would involve city streets but the trail actually runs parallel to the streets. The trail goes on for miles and miles and ends up in Wisconsin seamlessly connecting to the Kenosha Trail. Only thing I wish is it had a marker when you cross the state line. I assumed it is when the Robert Mcclory ended. I see myself riding this trail over and over again and look forward to completing the entire Kenosha trail.
I looked at past reviews and I was apprehensive about riding this trail on my ride from Chicago to Milwaukee on Tuesday afternoon, July 16. I really had no problems at all. Not even broken glass. Maybe it's not very scenic once you get past Great Lakes and the asphalt ends. But it didn't seem very scary to me.
I really want to give the northern part of this trail chance after chance. I ride it at least once a season to see if anything is improving.
Like another reviewer, I also had multiple problems with broken liquor and beer bottles on the trail. I also ran into rusted metal. Bring a patch kit with you. I used it the last time I went on the trail. I try to ensure that when I ride between Kenosha and North Chicago on this trail, I do it during daylight hours, as the trail goes behind old warehouses.
The trail is very flat and still feels like a freight line, including old power lines, city views and almost no trees. You can feel what it must have been like riding in an open boxcar while riding along this trail.
If you are able to ride a few miles to the west, the Des Plaines River Trail runs almost parallel to McClory. It also goes to the Wisconsin state line and has nice views without the problems of trash on the trail.
I ride the Robert McClory Bike Path every week during daytime, on weekdays and weekends, from Highland Park to Kenosha and back. In my experience: (1) Broken glass is an issue, particularly by Waukegan Marine (best to carry or walk the bike by the building) (2) Safety has been OK; never felt threatened or in a dangerous situation (3) Look for opportunities to ride on paved streets that closely parallel the bike trail, in Zion and Waukegan. Props to Kenosha folks who have a great paved and shaded trail just over the border from Illinois.
Echo to another reviewer, on last Saturday I biked with my father and three sons from Lake Bluff heading north all the way to Zion, after getting in the North chicago area, the scene and bike path both are not good, not worth to try indeed. Safety is another big isuue, for sure not for family activity.
Im an experienced trail rider and ill start off with the good first.
If you want to ride this trail start in Kenosha it's very nice and relaxing very friendly people as there always saying hello as you ride past and it's also been black topped so it's nice and smooth and you can ride on it anytime you like except when it snows I don't recommend that as snow ruins the bike. You ride into Kenosha you can ride along the the path that goes along Lake Michigan. There are a few hills to deal with along the lake path, but there doable and shouldn't cause much strain. It eventually connects to the North side path in Kenosha which will then connect with the Racine bike path and both paths are black topped as well so again it's nice, smooth, and relaxing all the way. The south part of the Kenosha path has some nice scenic views and plenty of shade and a park to rest at and a neat pond with a fountain that shoots up and of course a nice view along the lake path and the north side path well not much for scenic at the beginning as there aren't many tress just some houses off to one side or apartments, and food places which make for a nice rest stop which are just down one of the roads you cross from the trail. So nothing to worry about it, but as you keep going and get further down then you run back into the more scenic and tree filled areas until you get to Durand Avenue in Racine and I would recommend you keep going as just down the road from it you follow the signs and it brings you to Root River which is very nice to ride through and great for photography.
Now for the bad...
After the Russel Road Bridge it's still decent, but after you cross the next road after the bridge that is when you shoud start planning ahead and be more alert and cautious as you start to get further into Illinois and things start to get creepy and there are some strange characters walking around that I wouldn't trust and would just plain avoid so just keep on riding don't even think about hesitating to stop just keep going until you get to a more pleasent area which may take a while to get to. I would recommend riding in a big group when riding through this part as it's better to be safe than sorry. It's not best to ride through that area during the evening/dusk hours so try to go through it during the morning/afternoon hours, but still should be cautious.
There's alot of graffiti around some areas and junk just sitting around and glass either on the trail, or on the roads you have to cross to get to the next part of the path and sometimes there's glass in the grass so going around any of it can be a challenge so prepared to fix any flat tires you might get.
It's not very nice at all or comforting, but there are a few decent small areas where you can relax for a little while.
I would either ride through there as quickly as you can while still being careful while riding or if possible take any detours and scenic routes to avoid any problems or uneasyness even though you shouldn't have to think about any of that while on bike trails and that whole area should be improved somehow so it's better for everyone to ride through and to be more relaxing and enjoyable, but I don't see that happening anytime soon.
So enter at your own risk when you get down to that part of trail and goodluck.
The best part to ride through Illinois is the Des Plaines trail it's extremely nice and photogenic and one of the nicest, relaxing, enjoyable, trails you'll ever ride on and it's well taken care of through out the year and it connects with other multiple trails. It's perfectly safe to ride on and through as you view alot of wildlife and nice forest preserves and plenty of resting and shady areas and a cafe.
Those are the good things about the trail and the bad things about it. Happy safe riding everyone!
I thought that I might add in a new review, seeing how nobody has reviewed this trail in two years.
I picked up this trail in efforts to do a solo century. I easily connected from the Green Bay Trail to the south. Everything was going smoothly until I took that little dip under the road that dumps you (unceremoniously, at that) into Waukegan. The entirety of the north leg is pretty much a dump, aside from the small bit of Zion as you head into Kenosha.
There are very, very shady characters milling about on the Waukegan/North Chicago portions of the trail. And like the other user said, there is TONS OF GLASS. Actually, there is so much glass, you wonder how the heck it all got there. The issue I have with this is that it's of the clear variety (probably from handles of liquor) and it's EXTREMELY hard to scan for when the crushed limestone is of a white color. Thankfully, it's a little bit easier to avoid the broken beer bottles due to their color.
My return leg (from downtown Kenosha back home to Chicago) was equally as terrifying on this leg of the trail. I was extremely upset because as hard as I tried to avoid all the glass everywhere, I still managed to get a good sized shard lodged in my tire/tube, which required me to stop once I got to a better section of the trail (Highland Park.)
In all honesty, now that I've done this trail, I'm never going to do it again. I don't care to make detours around the shady parts, because honestly; I shouldn't have to. Like the once user said, the las portion is straight as an arrow with a crazy amount of street crossings.
I'm on a road bike with 23mm tires, so my experience wasn't that great. If it had been raining prior to me using it, it would be unusable, unless you had Cyclo-Cross or balloon tires.
It's a shame that Waukegan and North Chicago are such dumps, because they are a blight on an otherwise nice trail.
Proceed with caution, folks.
As a single, female rider along the entirety of this path just yesterday (6/7/10), I ran into more safety issues than I care to admit while riding through the North Chicago/Waukegan/Zion section. As suggested by the other rider, on the way north I turned off the trail at MLK Drive in the North Chicago/Waukegan southern section and rode west to Lewis Ave. All seemed okay at first, as Lewis Ave is a two-lane in each direction so cars could move into the inner lane and I had plenty of space. The trouble with Lewis Ave is that it is littered with large cracks and potholes that make it less than pleasant to ride on, even with the additional lane. Closer to the middle of town Lewis Ave reduces lanes to one each way, making the pothole situation a little trickier and locals don't seem to be used to sharing with cyclists, as evidenced by the, "Hey, get on the sidewalk!" comment and a few honks. Eventually, Lewis Ave increases speed to 45 mph and drivers don't seem to hesitate to pass at full speed with a biker in the same lane. That spooked me enough to try to head back to the proper trail, despite other recommendations to bypass all of Waukegan. Unfortunately I chose a road that did not intersect the trail (Wadsworth Rd, I think) and instead I could painfully see the trail as it passed overhead as a bike bridge. I was forced to head back to Lewis Ave and continue north to 29th St. in Zion. The path from Zion up to Kenosha was fine, even good, but Lewis Ave was troubling enough that I knew I would stay on the trail when I returned south, no matter how poor the trail conditions.
To my chagrin, on my way south I was warned by a fellow biker that the north Waukegan section of the trail was full of policemen who were out to catch a robber. I felt I had no choice but to continue, as the Metra trains weren't running for another two hours, so I did. I was stopped by a cop who asked me if I'd seen the guy they were looking for. I was warned not to ride through that section by myself, as the robber was confronting females riding alone. Apparently he approaches nicely and when the ladies would stop, he would take their money. Thankfully, there had not been any reports of violence, only theft. I was also told that if I just continued riding, even if someone approached, the guy would not pursue. There were lots of cops around, so I made it the rest of the way without incident, but the experience was unnerving. I didn't find the trail itself to be that terrible, since sometimes urban areas have to have a lot of intersections. It seems that with a little planning, this path could be rerouted over to Lewis Ave as a full additional bike lane and much of the trouble with both traffic and crime would be avoided.
I just moved to the neighborhood, desperately seeking a trail to ride as I come from the subdivision within riding distance to DesPlaines River Trail. I find this path within minutes from my house and when I got about 5 blocks before the path in waukegan I started noticing boarded up, run down houses, and the such. I never made it to the path, I turned around. Maybe I'll take the far North end some day.
"The trail actually starts in Lake Bluff and goes until the state line. If you're interested in seeing different communites it's great, but the North Chicago and Waukegan portions are just a limestone screenings trail that goes streight with zero turns and over 20 street crossings. Not the most interesting, but as you get closer to the state line, it gets interesting."
"This is a flat, rails-to-trails conversion that follows UP rail tracks on the south, the old North Shore right of way further north. Trail is not completely continuous in northern Highland Park; follow signs. Partly limestone, partly paved. Lots of dog walkers in a.m. Restrooms available at train stations from N. Chicago south. AVOID WAUKEGAN SECTIONS of the trail. These are limestone, cross streets every block or so, and have LOTS OF BROKEN GLASS in the limestone last time I tried it. Best to head 0.5 mile west on Buckley or 22nd St and take Lewis Avenue through Waukegan. Pick up trail again in Zion. Trail connects on the north with Kenosha County trail to Kenosha, and on south with Green Bay trail (or 0.5 west at County Line Rd to Botanic Gardens and thence to North Branch Trail). Skokie Valley trail parallels this trail from Highland Park to Lake Forest and can be used for a nice loop; Sheridan Rd can also form a nice loop in most parts. "
"Trail begins just north of downtown Highland Park at Vine Avenue and the railroad tracks. Easy connection to Green Bay trail to Wilmette (1/2 mile south.) Some street riding in Highwood, then continouous paved bike trail along Union Pacific RR tracks from Fort Sheridan through Lake Forest and Lake Bluff to a junction with the trail west to Libertyville, then on north through North Chicago, Waukegan and Zion and into Wisconsin. There are overpasses over all busy streets south of North Chicago."
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