Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Biking the Green Bay Trail of Lake County

In 1962, residents of Winnetka and Glencoe banded together and convinced their village boards to get control of the right-of-way of the old North Shore Railroad. In 1965, the property was purchased by the towns and leased to the Green Bay Trail Committee which developed the trail. In the 1970s it was extended north and south and now runs nearly 18 miles from Kennilworth, north of Lake Avenue, to Highland Park, and is managed by the four communities it connects, Kennilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe, and Highland Park. A good portion of the trail is adjacent to the active Metra/Union Pacific railroad line. The entire trail is a repeating patchwork of sections of trail through lovely wooded areas, commuter parking lots, village streets, and small parks with playgrounds, giving a good feel for the four suburbs it traverses. The trail surface alternates between asphalt and crushed limestone and is acceptable for road bikes.

Several miles of trail are below grade level with all roads crossing above you on bridges, giving a real feeling of being away from civilization despite the urban surroundings. The next section south finds the trail above grade, passing over roads and giving an aerial view of the suburb. North of Lake Cook Road, the trail is at times indistinct, often becoming a village street or a commuter parking lot, but if you keep heading north and stay near the tracks, it will reappear as a trail, and many find it interesting to ride through the old north shore towns and even past the world renown Ravinia Festival venue.

The North Branch Trail can be reached by heading east on Lake Cook Road (or the sidewalk on its north side) to The Chicago Botanic Gardens, where you bike into the parking area (no charge for bikes or pedestrians) and follow the service road south to Dundee Road. Across Dundee Road you can go right or left because both ways loop Skokie Lagoons. At Tower Road, the trail continues south for 20 miles to the Chicago intersection of Devon and Caldwell.

To the north, the Robert McClory Trail takes bikers as far north as Kenosha, Wisconsin.

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