Chicago Lakefront Path (South) & Riverwalk

Cycle Chicago, Sightseeing Ride, Chicago Lakefront Path (South) & Riverwalk

Our world famous, world class lakefront is quintessential Chicago and a glorious place to spend a day. This ride covers the less crowded southern section that’s just as beautiful, safe and scenic as its northern counterpart. We start at the new Chicago Riverwalk because it links the two waterways that define Chicago. Also, the riverwalk is sure to please and surprise since it keeps getting extended and improved.

Terrain

Mostly flat paved paths with occasional bumps and cracks.

Traffic

A few busy street-crossings with cars turning in and out of lakefront parks.

Access

This ride is easy to get to by transit. By “L” there’s the Red Line to Lake; Blue Line to Clark/Lake; and Brown, Purple, Pink, Green or Orange lines to State/Lake. Several CTA buses and Metra lines serve the area, as well.

By car, exit Lake Shore Drive at Wacker Drive and drive to Wabash Avenue. Several parking facilities ring the start point.

Food and Drink

Umpteen food and drink options. Try to hold out for Cyrano’s Café and Wine Bar, a charming outdoor restaurant on the riverwalk near the end of the ride. Your 22 miles of biking will be well rewarded.

Side Trip

Plan your day around Sunday brunch at the Parrot Cage Restaurant in the South Shore Cultural Center or take a rest near the end of the ride with a tour boat, several of which leave from Museum Campus and the riverwalk.

 

More Details

While the northern section of the Chicago Lakefront Path is notoriously crowded on summer weekends, the southern section is refreshingly uncrowded. As such, the joggers, skaters, walkers and cyclists here seem friendlier and less aggressive. This ride is guaranteed to provide a good workout, but it’s also stress free and relaxing. The path is well maintained, beautifully landscaped and lined with trees, flowers and statuary through a stunning parade of parks: Millennium, Grant, Burnham and Jackson.

The only problem you’re likely to have is a desire to stop all along the way at museums, parks, lookouts, bird sanctuaries, beaches, boat rides and historical spots. Don’t race; enjoy the sights and sites. One highlight is the Museum Campus, home to the Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum and Adler Planetarium. Farther south, the Museum of Science and Industry has a magnetic pull. And Promontory Point Park offers some of the best views of the city.

One reward for biking the entire ride is seeing the South Shore Cultural Center, an underappreciated treasure built in 1916 as a private country club and purchased in 1975 by the Chicago Park District with plans to demolish it.

Fortunately, the opulent building (which includes a restaurant, theater, art gallery and elegant colonnade) was restored and granted Chicago Landmark status. In 1992, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama held their wedding reception here. The center is open to the public. While the lakefront is a great place to enjoy Chicago’s natural beauty, the Chicago Riverwalk is a great place to take in the city’s magnificent architecture, canyons of skyscrapers and boat traffic.

This relatively new attraction keeps getting better as the city keeps extending it westward and adding new attractions, restaurants, seating areas and activities. Save time at the beginning or end of the ride to visit the McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum at Michigan Avenue, which offers information on the history of the river and a rare view of the inner workings of Chicago’s bridges.

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start at Wabash Ave and Wacker Dr on south side of Chicago River. Bike slowly down incline going east as there are likely to be pedestrians, strollers and other bicyclists at the bottom.
  • 0.1 Merge onto the Chicago Riverwalk and continue going east.
  • 0.8 Bike through Riverwalk Gateway, an elegantly decorated underpass under Lake Shore Dr. Follow path to right.
  • 0.9 Turn right and then left to merge onto Chicago Lakefront Path going south. Cross small bridge.
  • 1.5 Careful crossing Monroe St. Wait for pedestrian signal since drivers are typically aggressive at this busy intersection.
  • 1.8 Buckingham Fountain on right; Queen’s Landing on left.
  • 2.3 Slow down on incline since there will be a lot of bikes ahead as path turns to the left of and then behind Shedd Aquarium.
  • 2.6 Bear left and slow down as you bike under Solidarity Dr.
  • 3.1 Cross Waldron Dr.
  • 3.2 Sledding hill on right.
  • 7.0 Bear right to “climb” small hill. You can do it!
  • 8.1 Bear left onto side path into Promontory Point Park. Circle park along edge of lake.
  • 8.6 Rejoin main path going south.
  • 8.8 Museum of Science and Industry on right.
  • 9.6 Cross Hayes Dr with pedestrian signal.
  • 10.1 Turn left and follow path along Marquette Dr. Pass La Rabida Children’s Hospital.
  • 10.3 Cross La Rabida Dr.
  • 10.6 Path continues south along fence beside golf course.
  • 11.2 Turn left 135 degrees at South Shore Cultural Center’s gate. Bike up to entrance, lock bike and visit center.
  • 11.3 Turn around and return.
  • 11.4 Turn right at gate.
  • 12.4 Bear left and go up the path that leads to the Lakefront Path.
  • 13.8 Bear right onto side path into Promontory Point Park.
  • 14.3 Rejoin main path going north.
  • 15.3 Take the hill! There are precious few in Chicago.
  • 19.7 Slow down as you bike under Solidarity Dr.
  • 20.1 Turn right to stay on main path.
  • 21.0 Careful crossing Monroe Dr.
  • 21.5 Cross small bridge and turn right following sign for Chicago Riverwalk. Then immediately turn left. Do not go down to the sidewalk along harbor.
  • 21.6 Bike through intersection and follow path as it curves left under Lake Shore Dr through the Riverwalk Gateway.
  • 22.3 Bike through arcade on left to take ramp up to Wacker Dr.
  • 22.5 End ride.
  • Trail map

    Locate Me
    Get Directions
    Back

    35.126 km / 21.826 mi

    Total Distance

    143 m / 470 ft

    Total Ascent

    143 m / 470 ft

    Total Descent

    185 m / 608 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Gravel
    Various
    Difficulty: Intermediate (Red)
    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: Excellent
    Estimated Distance: 36.0
    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
    Loading comments...