Chicago is known for a lot of things–its magnificent skyline, deep-dish pizza, and signature toppings for the all-American hot dog. It’s safe to say, we can also add excellent mountain bike trails to the list, thanks to active MTB groups like the Chicago Area Mountain Bikers (CAMBr) and their supporters.
While Palos Hills is one of only two recommended mountain trails within 25 miles of The Loop, it might be the only one most visitors need to know about. The trail system boasts upwards of 30 miles of varied singletrack, and according to CAMBr’s Joe LoPresti, “you can really ride many different styles of trail in [this] one system.” But don’t think Palos is great just because it boasts a large number of trails to choose from; it’s also home to some of the highest quality singletrack in the state. Joe adds that “recent updates are really focused on adding fun to the ride and [delivering] excitement for a vast range of rider [abilities].”
Big Marsh Bike Park
Big Marsh Bike Park is located within a 20 minute drive of the Chicago Loop, and the park will eventually encompass up to 40 miles of trails, if everything goes according to plan. The beautiful pumptrack and several jump lines are already open and are worth the visit alone. Check the Friends of Big Marsh website for more info and to keep up with the latest developments.
The following trail recommendations will take riders a bit further out of the city, yet they are generally within the wider Chicago metro area.
Imagination Glenn / Outback Trail
The Outback Trail at Imagination Glenn is located in Indiana, though depending on traffic riders have been known to make it there in under an hour. This 10-mile trail system is well-maintained by members of the Hoosier Mountain Bike Association (HMBA), who have built trails that cater to all skill levels. Singletracks reviewers all seem to agree that while the trails at Imagination Glenn are great, the community of riders they encounter here is even better.
Raceway Woods is named for the former racetrack that was located on the site, not the spandex-clad riders you might expect to encounter here on the weekends. The trail system is located on the far northwestern outskirts of Chicagoland suburbia, though even without traffic it’s still more than an hour’s drive from the city center. CAMBr has done an excellent job creating an 8-mile trail system of fast, flowing trails punctuated by short, steep climbs. Singletracks reviewer Greg Wolf gives Raceway Woods five stars, saying the place offers “awesome trails, good speed, tight turns, challenging jumps, and gorgeous scenery.”
Saw Wee Kee
Melissa Musick of CAMBr tells us, “every trail [in Saw Wee Kee park is] named after a roller coaster because SWK is like an amusement park for [mountain bikers.]” The 10-mile trail network has its fair share of short, steep climbs and is also one of the more technical rides in the region. Getting to Saw Wee Kee from Chicago might be a bit of a hassle–it’s about a 50-mile drive–but it’s fairly accessible from the southeastern suburbs.
Looking for more trails in the Chicago area? Here is a list of bike trails within 25 miles of Chicago.