Morton Arboretum Ride

Cycle Chicago, Sightseeing Ride, Morton Arboretum Ride

Most people do not think of the Morton Arboretum in terms of bicycling, but this glorious outdoor museum in Lisle is one of Chicagoland’s most inviting and interesting places to bike. More than nine miles of quiet roads are open for biking year round. You’ll want to stop along the way to learn about trees and shrubs, and to explore gardens and a prairie.

Terrain

Smooth pavement over a surprisingly hilly landscape.

Traffic

Biking is allowed only on the main road, where you’ll find very little traffic during the week and significant traffic on summer weekends. The bike lane is not striped, but there are bike decals on the road to remind drivers to share the road. Also, the main road is oneway and traffic is limited to 20 mile per hour, so this is a safe place to bike, even for kids.

Access

Take Metra’s Burlington Northern Santa Fe Line to Lisle and bike about one mile north on Highway 53 (which does not have a bike lane). By car, exit Interstate 88 northbound at Highway 53. The entrance is on the right after half a mile.

Food and Drink

Water along the trails; restaurant and café in the Visitor Center.

 

More Details

At the Morton Arboretum, you will find more than 4,000 types of plants from around the world spread over 1,700 gorgeous, peaceful acres. Founded in 1922 by Morton Salt magnate Joy Morton, the arboretum’s mission is to collect and study trees, shrubs and other plants; to display them across naturally beautiful landscapes for visitors to study and enjoy; and to learn how to grow them in ways that enhance the environment.

A continuous Main Route through the East and West sides of the well-manicured grounds makes it easy to bike through all of the arboretum’s diverse areas, from Bulb Meadow to Hemlock Hill. Shortcuts and loops are open to bicyclists for anyone who wants to go beyond this ride. Several sites and visitor stations along the way offer places to lock up your bike so you can explore by foot. Short hikes are worthwhile, as the interpretive signage throughout the park is attractive, informative and entertaining - but difficult to read while zipping by on a bike!

Check out the hedge collection, children’s garden and maze. Temporary art and sculpture exhibits often complement the natural splendors. There are a few buildings, roads and utility lines visible in the distance as you bike, but they are partially hidden and hardly audible so they will not intrude upon your enjoyment of these rustic surroundings. This oasis of wonderfully tended trees and sculpted landscapes is open everyday. For hours, admission prices, membership information, to plan a visit and to become familiar with the arboretum’s bicycling guidelines, visit www.mortonarb.org.

The arboretum is especially accommodating to bicyclists. For example, on select summer days, either the East Side or West Side is closed to vehicular traffic after 5:30 p.m. and during weekends from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. The arboretum’s commitment to bicycling extends beyond welcoming visitors on bikes. Its Bike Patrol, a group of trained volunteers, periodically patrol the grounds to assist cyclists and monitor compliance with biking guidelines. A very pleasant aspect of biking in the arboretum is that drivers are especially polite and considerate of bicyclists. It must be the serene setting. Let’s plant more trees around the city and suburbs to transplant this tranquility to the entire region! 

 

Ride Log

  • 0.0 Start at the stop sign in the northeast corner of the main parking lot. You’ll be facing the main entrance with a picnic grove behind you to the right. Turn right.
  • 0.1 Bear right twice and pick up the Main Rte East Side, following the direction of the one-way sign.
  • 0.3 Bike straight through T.
  • 0.6 Bear left to stay on Main Rte.
  • 1.8 Go straight to stay on Main Rte.
  • 3.1 Stop on right at the Big Rock Visitor Station, one of two remote visitor stations with restrooms, picnic tables and interesting interpretative signage. There’s even a place to lock bikes.
  • 4.4 Bear right to exit the Main Rte East Side and to return to the entrance area so you can pick up the Main Rte West Side. The traffic is two-way through here.
  • 4.6 Continue past a couple of stop signs, pass the parking lot and Visitor Center on left and bear right to pick up the Main Rte West Side.
  • 4.8 Cross under highway bridge to enter West Side.
  • 4.9 Bear right to stay on Main Rte West Side. Cross small bridge.
  • 5.3 Thornhill Education Center, with bike parking
  • . 5.4 Bear left to stay on Main Rte. (Do not take the “Exit”.)
  • 6.3 Prairie Visitor Station on right, with bike parking.
  • 7.4 Continue straight but note short stretch of two-way traffic.
  • 7.5 Turn right to head back to the main entrance, Visitor Center and main parking lot.
  • 7.8 End ride at parking lot.
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    12.146 km / 7.547 mi

    Total Distance

    146 m / 479 ft

    Total Ascent

    146 m / 480 ft

    Total Descent

    237 m / 778 ft

    Highest Point

    Ride type:
    Sightseeing
    Mountain biking
    Road riding
    Commuter
    Kid friendly
    Rail Trail
    Gravel
    Various
    Difficulty: Beginner (Green)
    Ride Duration: options
    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: 12.4
    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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