Tell folks that you were out riding the Robert McClory Bike Path, and you’ll likely to get a “huh?” While you can argue the merits of naming the trail after a bike-friendly politician, the name hasn’t really stuck since it was changed in 1997. Most people still call it either the Green Bay Trail or the North Shore Trail, which it still exists as separate paths in the area. In fact, the Green Bay Trail now refers to the bath from Wilmette to Highland Park. Cross Lake Cook Road the path basically changes in name to the McClory Bike Path. You can understand why people might get confused.
But just because they may not know the official title of the trail, that doesn’t stop people from taking advantage of this trail that offers cyclists a great way to get in plenty of miles from Highland Park to Wisconsin.
And if you include the Green Bay Trail—another 10 miles—and Kenosha County Bike Trail once you cross the state line, you have access to more than 50 miles of path through northeastern Illinois.
But let’s stick to the McClory Bike Path to start. The 26.5 mile trail begins in Highland Park, just south of Ravina. In addition to the Green Bay Trail, you can connect to it via the North Branch Trail, which runs through Skokie Lagoons and the Chicago Botanic Gardens before connecting to the McClory Path.
You’ll continue north through the towns of Highwood, Fort Sheridan, Lake Forest, Lake Bluff, Naval Station Great Lakes, North Chicago, Waukegan, Beach Park, Zion and Winthrop Harbor before crossing the state line.
For the most part, the trail follows an abandoned railroad line. Initially created in 1836 for stagecoaches to transport people from Chicago to Green Bay, Wis., the Green Bay Trail later became the route for the Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad. It was eventually abandoned in 1955, and in the 1960s it became a multiuse trail running parallel to the Metra rail line.
The trail is mostly asphalt on the southern end, although it does detour through some surface streets on occasion. As the trail moves its way north, you’ll get some crushed limestone thrown into the mix.
Even when you do exit the trail, as you will in Lake Forest, it is well-marked on city streets and the Metra parking lot. You don’t stray far from the train tracks in this section, but you do get some more tree-cover and open spaces.
The trail gets increasingly rural as it approaches Wisconsin. When you cross the bridge over Russell Road, you’ve entered the Badger state. The trail turns into the Kenosha County Bike trail, and you’ve got another 18 plus miles before reaching the end.
What Makes It Great
Easy access and a flat, well-maintained trail make this one of the more popular cycling routes in the northern suburbs. You get a some tree cover along the route, which is helpful in hot or windy conditions. There’s not much of a challenge to the trail—it is after all a former rail bed—but it does offer lots of amenities along the way.
Who is Going to Love It
It’s an accessible trail to put in miles. Mostly for locals, but if you’re in the area it’s a good place to ride with limited interruptions.
If you like trains, you’ll certainly get an up close look at the Metra as it runs by. This is any easy trail for anyone, so beginners will find it accessible—and close to lots of restaurants and coffee shops. It’s a multipurpose trail, so you’ll find lots of cyclists, runners and walkers, especially near the downtown sections. It’s also very family friendly. Expect to see Baby Joggers and Burleys on route. It’s proximity to the Metra Line also allows for a point-to-point ride. Just make sure you read Metras rules for when bikes are allowed on the train.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
You can pick up the trail anywhere, but at the start in Highland Park, you can park in a lot on St. Johns Avenue, which is just north of Lake Cook Road and immediately east of the trail.
Have you ridden on the Robert McClory Bike Path? What did you think? Leave your comments here or post a photo.