Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Biking the North Shore Bike Path

The North Shore Bike Path is named for the the old electric interurban train route called the Chicago, North Shore, and Milwaukee Railroad (known by locals as the North Shore) whose right-of-way it follows for eight miles between Lake Bluff and Mundelein.

This western extension of the former rail line parallels Route 176 through Rondout, Knollwood, and Libertyville, ending in Mundelein, but if you bike west on Hawley Street you'll pick up the Lake County Millennium Trail along the Mundelein High School property and can bike to Lakewood Forest Preserve in Wauconda and 15 miles beyond. At its eastern end it connects to the Robert McClory Trail.

Be aware that there are no trailhead parking areas on the west section of the trail, and due to its proximity to Libertyville High School and Carmel High School, only residents with parking stickers may park on the side streets within many blocks of the two high schools. Obviously you would have better luck parking on a weekend or school holiday.

The western section of the trail passes Lamb's Farm, Marytown, and the Cardinal Stritch Retreat Center. The trail is alongside Route 176 except for the short section pictured here which is raised roadbed and goes over the railroad junctions in Rondout. There is a well marked trail connection to the lengthy and scenic Des Plaines River Trail as you cross the bridge over the Des Plaines River.

Remnants of the old traction (electric) railroad are obvious on occasion as you parallel Route 176. Though uninspiring scenery, it is a nice ride, and a side trail takes you briefly into a small forest preserve area to the south. There is also a spur trail to Old School Preserve where you can do the loop trail or access the Des Plaines River Trail.

The western segment ends when you reach Sheridan/McKinley Road in Lake Bluff. You can then go north to Wisconsin on the Robert McClory Trail. This section heading south parallels the active commuter railroad tracks, has more remote sections, and also travels through the Lake Forest downtown. Through Highwood and Highland Park you must work your way through parking lots and along various streets, but if you stay near the tracks, the trail resumes, passes the old Fort Sheridan army base property and Ravinia, and becomes the Green Bay Trail in Cook County.

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