As the largest city in the state of Illinois, Chicago is booming with world-class arts, culture, entertainment, shopping and culinary destinations. With so many things to do in the Windy City, you might find it odd to set aside some time aside to run. But if you’re an avid runner, you know that skipping a daily run can become not only physically but mentally detrimental, and finding the best, most scenic and most unique places to run becomes somewhat of a quest-for-the-Holy-Grail type of thing. So whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or someone who enjoys taking a leisurely jog every now and then, read on to find the best places to hit the pavement in Chicago.
North Branch Trail
If you’re looking for a place to run that’s just a little bit off the beaten path, lace up your running shoes and hit up the North Branch Trail, a quiet trail that begins at the corner of Caldwell and Devon Avenues in Chicago and continues roughly 20 miles into Lake County. As you run farther away from the city, you’ll soon find yourself within a dense and peaceful forest preserve. Don’t be alarmed if you encounter wildlife such as deer, who have become accustomed to humans.
Where: 6300 W. Devon Ave., Chicago, IL 60645
Foster Avenue Beach
While Chicago might not exactly be known for its beaches, the city contains nearly 28 miles of shoreline, meaning that there’s always the opportunity to escape the city for some time on the beach. Foster Avenue Beach is one of the less-crowded beaches in Chicago, as most tourists and locals tend to flock to the Montrose Avenue and North Avenue beaches, which means that you’ll have ample room for jogging.
Where: 5200 N. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60640
One of Chicago’s more unique trails, the Bloomingdale Trail is a three-mile trail and elevated linear park that connects several great neighborhoods, the Chicago River and the city’s park system. Built along a former railroad track, the trail allows visitors to run without being interrupted by traffic. As the trail is above street level, you’ll get many interesting rooftop views of the city as well as an up-close view of many elaborate graffiti murals.
Where: 1600-3000 W. Bloomingdale Ave., Chicago, IL 60651
Riverbank Neighbors Trail
If you ever find yourself in the Wrigleyville neighborhood, make sure to give this largely undiscovered gem of a trail a whirl. This small path, created and maintained by the kind folks at Riverbank Neighbors, a group that has also created a community-oriented sustainable local movement called Beyond Today, is only about one mile in length, but it’s worth adding this leg on to a longer run, as it runs parallel to the Chicago River and provides some scenic views.
Where: 2600 W. Berteau Ave., Chicago, IL 60613
Those familiar with Chicago know that Grant Park is a veritable oasis tucked into one of the busiest pockets of the city. This 319-acre lush green space contains a four-mile running path that offers beautiful views of the Chicago skyline. There are numerous sidewalks and additional paths for runners to take an unexpected but surprising detour, and the park’s spacious benches provide a nice spot for a brief rest.
Where: 331 E. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601
Chicago Lakefront Trail
Running along the eastern edge of Grant Park and continuing along the Lake Michigan shoreline, The Chicago Lakefront Trail is an 18-mile, multi-use path that runs past the Navy Pier, Monroe Harbor, Museum of Science and Industry and many of Chicago’s beaches. This trail offers one of the most invigorating jogs in the city, as the crisp, lakeshore air provides a nice contrast to the smoggy, downtown air.
Where: Lake Michigan and Congress Parkway, Chicago, IL 60605
While not an official running trail per se, this decidedly urban route that runs through the heart of downtown Chicago will lead you past some of the most-visited attractions, and is perfect for those looking to get a taste of the city. This three-and-a-half mile loop is bordered by the Chicago River and Lake Michigan and takes runners past numerous boutiques, restaurants and museums as well as offering great views of the Sears Tower.
Where: Lake Shore Drive and Wacker Drive, Chicago, IL 60606
Photo credit: iStockphoto/nycshooter