North Shore Channel

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.

Terrain

Smooth pavement with a handful of street crossings. The northern most mile is crushed gravel.

Traffic

Despite a few busy cross streets, this ride is remarkably traffic free. It does include one very short stretch along a busy street.

Access

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.

Side Trip

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.

 

More Details

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.

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start at the trail as it passes north between the North Shore Channel and the parking lot on the east side of shopping center. The first couple of blocks are not pretty.
  • 0.3 Follow path left and immediately right to cross Devon Ave. Stay on main path with yellow stripe down the middle.
  • 1.3 Cross Touhy Ave. When the trail splits between two paths that both have a yellow stripe, either path is fine because they will join up again soon.
  • 1.9 Cross Howard St.
  • 2.1 Note the bridge overhead for the CTA’s Yellow Line.
  • 2.6 Cross Oakton St.
  • 3.0 Cross Main St.
  • 4.1 Cross Church St.
  • 4.4 Cross Emerson St, also known as Gulf Rd. Path turns to crushed gravel. On this gravel portion of the trail, always stay close to the street as opposed to the channel.
  • 4.6 Bear left around hedge.
  • 4.7 Bear left to stay on main trail.
  • 4.9 Go through International Friendship Garden and enter Ladd Arboretum parking lot.
  • 5.0 Cross Bridge St and pick up trail to the left around arboretum building.
  • 5.4 Turn around at Green Bay Rd and return.
  • 5.8 Cross Bridge St and pick up trail at end of parking lot.
  • 10.3 Cross Devon Ave, turn left on sidewalk and then immediately right onto path.
  • 10.7 Bear right along path and then turn left on sidewalk following sign for “North Shore Channel Trail Southbound.”
  • 10.8 Cross bridge over channel and cross Kedzie Ave, being very careful where the sidewalk joins the street. The road is bumpy and visibility at this intersection is very poor. Turn left along bike lane on Kedzie Ave.
  • 10.9 Cross Kedzie Ave going west and pick up the trail going south along east side of channel.
  • 11.0 Bike under Lincoln Ave, then Peterson Ave.
  • 11.1 Pick up the main path on right. Note the Legion Park Gateway Plaza Fountain on left.
  • 11.6 Bear right under bridge at Bryn Mawr Ave.
  • 12.2 Bear right under bridge at Foster Ave.
  • 12.5 Cross Argyle St.
  • 12.7 Turn around at compass rose in sidewalk. This is approximately where the North Channel ends as it joins the North Branch of the Chicago River.
  • 13.6 Bear left under bridge at Bryn Mawr Ave.
  • 14.2 Bear left under bridge at Peterson Ave.
  • 14.4 Make a U-turn to the right into the bike lane going south on Kedzie Ave.
  • 14.5 Turn right into bike lane on Lincoln Ave.
  • 14.6 Lift bike onto sidewalk to pick up path going north along west side of channel.
  • 14.7 End ride.
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    22.49 km / 13.975 mi

    Total Distance

    114 m / 375 ft

    Total Ascent

    115 m / 377 ft

    Total Descent

    185 m / 606 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Gravel
    Various
    Difficulty: Beginner (Green)
    Ride Duration: 1-2 hrs
    Fitness Level: Medium
    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: Limited
    Estimated Distance: 24.0
    Services:
    Water
    Food
    First Aid
    Toilets
    Bike hire
    Carparking
    Bike servicing
    Accessible by bike
    Accessible by car
    Accessible by public transport
    Accessible by shuttle / uber
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