Chicago North Branch Trail sign

Best Bike Route from Downtown Chicago to the North Branch Trail

What is currently my favorite bike trail to ride in Chicago? Definitely the North Branch Trail. If you’re someone that likes the Lake Shore Path, but can’t deal with the crowds of people that make it nearly impossible to ride your bike, then you need to venture north of downtown. The North Branch Trail starts about 11 miles northwest of downtown Chicago, and it winds through parks and forest preserve while crossing low traffic streets a few times along the 15 mile trail. At the northern most point, the trail loops around and passes by the entrance to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

How to Get to the North Branch Trail from Downtown

It took me a couple trips, but I finally got it figured out. If you read my previous post about how difficult it was to get to the North Branch Trail, well don’t worry, it’s a lot easier now!

First of all, where do you live in Chicago? If you actually live downtown and ride a bike frequently, then you know which streets have bike lanes and which streets don’t. If you have no clue, then go to the City of Chicago website and you can look at bicycle maps online or even request they send you a bike map.

Now that you know what streets have bike lanes, you just need to make it to one of these streets:

  • Elston Avenue
  • Lincoln Avenue
  • Milwaukee Avenue
  • Lawrence Avenue

All of these streets have bike lanes going both directions. Elston and Milwaukee bring you right to Caldwell Woods (corner of Milwaukee and Devon) where you can easily find the start of the North Branch Trail. Lincoln and Lawrence are good streets to take in case you live closer to the lake and need streets with bike lanes to get to Elston. Living in the Lincoln Park area, I take Lincoln Avenue north to Lawrence and then head west until I reach Elston.

Let me know if you have any questions about getting to the North Branch Trail, or if you have any additional suggestions on how to get there. Leave your thoughts in the comments, or send me an email. Good luck!

I’m planning a trip from Chicago to Milwaukee in the next couple weeks, so I’m hoping to find the best possible bicycle route in the process. I’ll be sure to blog about my experience!

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