With winter finally in the rearview mirror, it's time to shed the heavy layers and enjoy spring. In honor of National Bike Day on April 19, 2015, consider planning a leisurely bike ride with your family in the Chicago area. While you may have already traveled on the city's Lakefront Trail and enjoyed the sights of Lake Michigan, there are a number of other bike trails that everyone in your family can enjoy in the Chicago area. Grab your helmets and your favorite bike gear, and keep these family-friendly bike trails in mind the next time you want to plan an all-ages and abilities excursion.
Chicago Park District
When it comes to bicycling, the Chicago Park District offers a number of amenities for those who like to travel on just two wheels. From short trails around parks to the stunning 18-mile Lakefront Trail, you can find a number of paths and bike trails for your family, and often right in your own neighborhood. Highlights of the park district's bike paths include the Major Taylor Bike Trail and Sauganash Trail. The park district's bike paths are often situated near playgrounds and the perfect spots for a picnic, so you can relax on a warm sunny day and have an impromptu lunch while exploring a new-to-you part of Chicago.
Illinois Prairie Path
The Illinois Prairie Path is a staggering 61 miles in length, but you certainly don't have to travel the entire length in one go. The path, which is the "first successful rails-to-trails conversion" in North America, includes plenty of access points in several different suburbs so you and your family can come and go as you please. The path also has creature comforts along the way, including bathrooms, porta-potties, parks and benches to cool your heels and catch your breath. Keep in mind the trail has a crushed limestone surface.
Arlington Heights Park District
2201 N. Windsor Drive
Arlington Heights, IL 60004
Families with younger children probably do not want an overly ambitious bike trail that stretches for miles and tires out little legs. If that's the case for your family, then consider spending part of the afternoon at Lake Arlington in the northwest suburbs. The bike-and-walk path around the man-made lake is about two miles and includes plenty of benches so you can stop and catch your breath or grab a quick snack. If you'd like to make a full afternoon out of your trip, then consider renting a boat or climbing in the playground. The lake's trail has several access points from the neighborhoods, so you can park your car and start your ride at any entrance.
Millennium Trail And Greenway
Lake County Forest Preserves
With about 27 miles complete and open to the public, Millennium Trail and Greenway through the Lake County Forest Preserves offers families a number of options for bike riding. For a shorter ride, you can pick up the trail at preserves that include Marl Flat Forest Preserve and Fourth Lake Forest Preserve. The trail connects with regional trails that include Fort Hill, North Shore Path and McClory, further expanding your bike riding experience. For a list of open trail sections, take a look at the Lake County Forest Preserves' website.
North Branch Bicycle Trail
Forest Preserves of Cook County
If you're looking for an epic bike ride for your family, then consider tackling the North Branch Bicycle Trail of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. The 20-mile trail starts in Chicago's Norwood Park neighborhood and takes you all the way to the doorstep of the Chicago Botanic Garden in suburban Glencoe. The trail winds through a number of different suburbs, allowing you to explore nature and neighborhoods that surround it. You can also stick closer to home and bike a mile or two before heading home.
Related: Best Dog Walking Trails In Chicago
Megan Horst-Hatch is a runner, reader, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in "-er." She is also the president of Megan Writes, LLC. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
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