Illinois Prairie Path / Fox River Trail
Endless miles of mixed surface trails through the western suburbs.
Out in the west suburbs is a network of well maintained trails that is a welcome change from the Chicago streets (urban cyclocross is a thing). Once you reach Elmhurst the Illinois Prairie Path transitions to hardpack gravel, and stays that way until you reach the Fox River Trail. For the most part the Fox River Trail is paved, and will take you through all of the small towns that sit along the Fox River.
Pedestrian bridges, dedicated underpasses and overpasses, and tree canopies make the trails some of the better light gravel riding in the Chicago area. You can ride anywhere from 30 - 60 miles, depending on the route you take, and it’s great riding in all seasons.
My personal opinion is that the best stretch is the Fox River Trail from St. Charles up to Elgin. The mix of gravel and pavement, stunning river views, and stretchs of trail that get you well away from roads is well worth the effort it takes to get there from the city.
I would also recommend either driving or taking the UP-W Metra to around Glen Ellyn to start your ride. While getting to the official trail head in Forest Park is fairly easy, I found the trail sections through Maywood and Bellwood to be a chore to endure. It’s broken pavement and some risky road crossings. It really just isn’t worth it. If you don’t have a car with a bike rack it’s easy enough to board the UP-W at Ogilvie and bring your bike on the train. Just remember to bring a bungie cord to secure your bike to one of the fold down seats on the main level of the train car.
- Well maintained hardpack gravel. Gravel specific tires optional.
- Amazing scenery along the Fox River.
- Plenty of options for food and drink stops in Lombard, Glen Ellyn, Wheaton, Batavia, and St. Charles.