Cycle Chicago, Sightseeing Ride, Chicago Lakefront Path (North)

The stunningly beautiful and strikingly busy Lakefront Path is one of Chicago’s greatest assets and one of the nicest urban bike rides in the world. This is the main event, a showcase for Chicago and a testament to the wisdom of our city planners who insisted on keeping the lakefront “forever free and clear.”

Terrain

Well-maintained paved path, but don’t be surprised to run into repair work, which appears frequently.

Traffic

Very little. There are a few street crossings that give cars access to the park; on all but a couple of them, bikes have the right of way, but don’t count on getting it!

Access

Take the CTA Red Line to Grand and the CTA #65 Grand bus to Navy Pier. Other buses also serve Navy Pier, including #29 State, #66 Chicago and #124 Navy Pier.

By car, exit Lake Shore Drive at Erie Street and turn left on Illinois Street, following signs for Navy Pier, where there’s usually ample parking.

Food and Drink

Too many options to list. You’ll find everything you need along this ride.

Side Trip

Check out the Chicago History Museum at North Avenue and Clark Street, one block west of the lakefront. Start or end your day at Navy Pier, Chicago’s most popular tourist destination.

Bike Rentals

Bike Chicago at Navy Pier. Bike and Roll at the North Avenue Beach House. And Lakeshore Bike Rental 4.8 miles into the ride.

 

More Details

The path hugs the lakefront, passing parks, beaches, harbors, restaurants, ball fields, tennis courts, beach volleyball courts, floor hockey rink, gym, skating park, ice skating rink (in the winter), sculptures, restored prairies, bird sanctuaries and so on. You’ll even see palm trees along the way, but only for about half the year, until the trees are taken indoors for the winter. And all along the way, you will enjoy great views of the lake and skyline.

With so much to do, the path is often very crowded. Watch out for skaters, kids, dog walkers, beachgoers, etc., some of whom won’t be paying attention to their immediate surroundings. And with so much to do, don’t be in a hurry. In addition consider visiting the Lincoln Park Zoo, Lincoln Park Conservatory or the little known but blissfully peaceful Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool on Fullerton Avenue between Stockton Drive and Lake Shore Drive. Meanwhile, Navy Pier offers great shopping, a variety of restaurants, a Ferris wheel, skate and bike rentals, various sorts of boat rides, Chicago Children’s Museum and Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

Of course, you could combine the northern and southern sections for a total roundtrip ride of about 38 miles, but if you do be prepared to share a crowded sidewalk along the lower level of a noisy bridge for a couple of blocks in the middle of the ride. Often this trail will be used for a triathlon, charity walk, bike ride or some such event. Plus, there are times when ice, water, sand or construction can block the way.

Therefore, make a habit of checking Lakefront Trail Conditions on the Active Transportation Alliance under Resources. But don’t let the winter keep you away. This trail gets plowed! Finally, despite the umpteen organized and commercial activities along the lakefront, remember that you can just “jump in the lake” to cool off during a long hot ride.

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start on northwest corner of Grand Ave where it meets Navy Pier. Facing west, you’ll see large bus shelters over your right shoulder. Bike west along path with yellow stripe.
  • 0.2 Bear right as path takes you north along east side of Lake Shore Dr.
  • 0.3 Watch out for pedestrians as you pass beach.
  • 1.0 Note palm trees on right - right here in Chicago!
  • 1.7 Bear left at Y. Note chess pavilion. (Path on the right leads to scenic lookout for the skyline but it’s pedestrian only.)
  • 1.8 Watch out for pedestrians coming and going on bridge. And that’s not a beached boat on the right. It’s the North Ave Beach House, where you can eat, party and listen to music.
  • 1.9 Cross road that serves beach house.
  • 2.1 Careful turning left where you rejoin the bike path, close to waterfront.
  • 2.8 Bike straight through intersection with a drinking fountain. Bear right to go around Theater on the Lake.
  • 3.9 Cross road at Belmont Harbor.
  • 4.0 Bear left to stay on bike path rather than biking on the pedestrian path closer to waterfront.
  • 4.7 After passing totem pole, cross road serving tennis courts.
  • 5.5 Bear left at Y, with native prairie grasses on right.
  • 5.6 Cross Montrose Ave. Note sledding hill on right.
  • 5.9 Cross Wilson Ave.
  • 6.2 Cross Lawrence Ave.
  • 6.5 Bear left at Y.
  • 6.7 Cross Foster Ave.
  • 7.2 Pink building on left is the Edgewater Beach Apartments built in 1928 - all that’s left of famous Edgewater Beach Hotel complex, an entertainment mecca at that time.
  • 7.5 End of path. Turn around at loop and return to Navy Pier. (Path continues north but quickly leads to an on-street bike lane.)
  • 10.4 Watch for cross traffic.
  • 12.9 Turn right to stay on bike path. The path straight ahead is pedestrian only.
  • 14.0 Bear left along lakefront to stay on main bike path.
  • 15.0 End ride.
  • Trail map

    Locate Me
    Get Directions
    Back

    12.158 km / 7.554 mi

    Total Distance

    86 m / 283 ft

    Total Ascent

    85 m / 280 ft

    Total Descent

    184 m / 603 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Difficulty: Easy (Blue)
    Ride Duration: <1 hr
    Fitness Level: Low
    Terrain:
    Shared Bike Path - Paved
    Shared Bike Path - Dirt
    On-Road Bike Lane
    On-Road
    Off-Road - Fire Trail
    Off-Road - Rail Trail
    Off-Road - Single Track
    Off-Road - Downhill
    Mobile Coverage: Excellent
    Estimated Distance: 12.0
    Services:
    Water
    Food
    First Aid
    Toilets
    Bike hire facilities
    Carparking
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber
    Loading comments...