Cycle Chicago, Sightseeing Ride, North Shore Channel
This pleasant pedal along the North Shore Channel starting on the Northwest Side of Chicago and continuing into Lincolnwood, Skokie and Evanston is a city ride with a suburban feel. It’s best known for the large attractive outdoor sculptures that line part of the path. In addition, the southern end of the ride runs through city parks and the northern end runs through gardens. The result is a ride full of variety with plenty of sights and beauty.
Smooth pavement with a handful of street crossings. The northern most mile is crushed gravel.
Despite a few busy cross streets, this ride is remarkably traffic free. It does include one very short stretch along a busy street.
Take the CTA Brown Line to Kimball and bike 1.5 miles north on Kimball Avenue. Cross Lincoln Avenue, enter the shopping center and head to the eastern edge of the parking lot, which borders the path.
By car, exit Interstate 94 at Peterson Avenue going east. After two miles, turn left at Jersey Avenue into the shopping center and park on the eastern edge of the lot.
Food and Drink
Other than occasional gas stations, there’s no place to stop for food. There are, however, many drinking fountains in the parks, where in the summer you’ll find food vendors.
Visit the parks along the way and the Ladd Arboretum between Emerson Avenue and Green Bay Road at the northern end of the ride. Or, explore colorful Lincoln Square centered at Lincoln and Lawrence avenues, less than one mile west of the southern turnaround.
The channel was completed in 1910 to divert into the North Branch of the Chicago River suburban waste products that would have ended up in Lake Michigan. Thankfully, the channel hasn’t carried sewage since the 1930s. Today, the flow of water helps keep the slow-moving Chicago River running southward into the Des Plaines River. The land along the eight-mile channel from Wilmette Harbor to Lawrence Avenue is owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.
Over the years it became an eyesore. In the 1980s, the Village of Skokie landscaped some of the land, and a newly formed nonprofit created the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park, which is the highlight of this ride. Extending for two miles from Dempster Street to Touhy Avenue, it displays over 60 sculptures by local, national and international artists. North of this is the long, thin Ladd Arboretum, which was founded in 1959 and covers 23 acres of reclaimed land. South of the sculpture park, the trail is muddled for a couple blocks passing behind parking lots and over sidewalks and streets.
After that, however, the ride becomes delightful as the path runs through city parks lining the channel. The parks are not crowded but pleasantly full of people walking, biking, picnicking, playing soccer, etc., creating a sense of safety and community. The best part of this section is the relatively new underpasses at Peterson, Bryn Mawr and Foster avenues – something you rarely see in the affluent suburbs.
These underpasses let you ride two green miles without having to deal with any traffic. Wouldn’t it be nice if the city would build underpasses at Lincoln and Devon avenues and if the suburbs would build underpasses at their street crossings? In the meantime, use pedestrian crossing signals everywhere you can. Finally, a logistical detail: The path often splits, only to come back together after a short distance.
North of Devon Avenue, it’s best to always bear one direction, either right or left, on both the way out and back to see all the sculptures. South of Devon Avenue it’s best to always take the path closest to the channel. The other paths in the city parks are not designated for bikes.
22.49 km / 13.975 mi
114 m / 375 ft
115 m / 377 ft
185 m / 606 ft