Robert McClory Trail Ride

Cycle Chicago, Sightseeing Ride, Robert McClory Trail Ride

This bike ride through Highwood, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff is attractive and easy. The pavement is smooth and in good repair so the path attracts a lot of riders, especially on weekends in the summer. The bike ride passes through a few residential areas.

Terrain

Straight and flat over smooth pavement.

Traffic

Very little cross traffic.

Access

Take Metra’s Union Pacific North Line to Fort Sheridan. The Pace #472 bus also serves this train station.

By car, exit Highway 41 eastbound at Old Elm Road. Park south of Old Elm Road on Western Avenue or Hyacinth Place, just west of the Metra station. Those streets have dozens of 12-hour parking meters that charge only $0.25 for two hours. How quaint, but don’t forget to bring quarters.

Food and Drink

Plenty of food options along the way, in particular near the Metra stations in Lake Bluff and Lake Forest.

Side Trip

Visit Fort Sheridan, an attractive residential area at the southern end of this ride. You’ll enjoy its bike trail and scenic lake lookout. Remnants of the area’s military days include an antiaircraft gun installation. Several interpretive panels cover the fort’s history, as well as environmental topics. At the northern end of this ride, visit the Great Lakes Naval Museum.

 

More Details

The Robert McClory Bike Path is named after the U.S. Congressman who represented Lake and McHenry counties 1962-1982. A strong cycling advocate, he lived to be 80 years old, which must have been due to all his biking. Prior to 1997, the path was known as the north-south section of the North Shore Bike Path as well as the Lake County section of the Green Bay Trail.

This trail connects with both of those bike trails as well as others farther north, including trails in Lyons Woods, Zion and the Illinois Beach State Park. This ride does not go that far north, however, since the Robert McClory Bike Path is not well maintained through the industrial areas in and north of North Chicago. Nevertheless, you could pick up the northbound trail in Waukegan (at which point it’s crushed limestone) and ride all the way to Kenosha, Wis.

At one point on this ride, you’ll have to bike through a Metra station parking lot. Otherwise, the trail is straightforward, pleasant and lined most of the way with trees that provide a pretty canopy and welcomed shade. Inadvertently, this ride has a military theme. It starts near Fort Sheridan, today a residential neighborhood with only a faint military presence. Named after Civil War General Philip Sheridan, the fort was garrisoned with federal troops in 1887 to quell labor unrest. Indeed, troops stationed here were used to suppress the Pullman Strike of 1894. When the main fort was closed in 1993, most of the property was sold to land developers.

The area still has the feel of a military base, however, because many of the original structures have been saved. For example, Fort Sheridan’s water tower and barracks complex, built in 1889, is a National Historic Landmark. At the northern end of this ride sits the Great Lakes Naval Station, the largest military installation in Illinois and the U.S. Navy’s largest training center. The self-contained base has 1,153 buildings on 1,628 acres with 50 miles of road. About 50,000 recruits pass through the training center annually with 15,000 recruits on the base at any given time. The Great Lakes Naval Museum tells the stories of “boot camp” training and the expanding role of women in the Navy.

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start at the entrance to the trail on the north side of Old Elm Rd, just west of Sheridan Rd.
  • 1.4 Nice big park on right with water and toilets, as well as ball fields and tennis courts.
  • 1.7 Cross a quiet residential street.
  • 2.4 Bike straight through the parking lot for Metra’s Lake Forest station.
  • 2.5 Turn right following the sign for Bike Route, cross McKinley Rd and bike north in the street, passing Lake Forest train station on the left.
  • 2.6 Cross Westminster Rd going north, then cross McKinley Rd going west. Turn right to enter the continuation of the Metra parking lot, following sign for “Bike Route.”
  • 2.9 At the end of parking lot, pick up trail straight ahead and cross the bridge.
  • 4.4 Bear right at Y to stay on Robert McClory Trail. The trail on the left will take you to the North Shore Path.
  • 4.5 Pass Lake Bluff Metra station on left. Check if the station’s art gallery is open.
  • 6.4 Turn around at the Great Lakes Metra station.
  • 8.3 Pass Lake Bluff Metra station on right.
  • 9.9 Enter Metra parking lot for Lake Forest station.
  • 10.2 Turn left, then right onto McKinley Rd and bike south in the street, passing Lake Forest train station on the right.
  • 10.3 Turn right then left to continue through the Metra parking lot.
  • 10.4 Pick up the bike trail at the end of the parking lot.
  • 12.8 End ride.
  • Trail map

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    23.089 km / 14.347 mi

    Total Distance

    87 m / 284 ft

    Total Ascent

    87 m / 284 ft

    Total Descent

    215 m / 704 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Gravel
    Various
    Difficulty: Easy (Blue)
    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: 23.0
    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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