Illinois Bicycling Guide

No Gravatar

There may be no better place to bicycle than in Illinois. From flat prairie land, to rolling hills, to towering bluffs to breathtaking river and lakefront views — Illinois has it all. If you haven’t been on a bicycle lately, you don’t know what you are missing. Hop on and take in some of the best scenery Mother Nature has to offer.


Bicycling Favorites


Illinois Prairie Path 

One of the first rail-trails in the country, the 62-mile Illinois Prairie Path is a pitchfork-shaped trail in the heart of the Chicago suburbs. This hiking, bicycling, equestrian and nature trail in DuPage and Kane counties stretches from Elmhurst to Wheaton, where it splits into four spurs that lead to the Fox River in Elgin, Batavia, Aurora and Geneva.


Rock Island Trail

This 27-mile greenway on the former right-of-way of the Rock Island Railroad in Peoria and Stark counties is the first state-owned trail. The hiking, biking and cross-country ski trail set in the scenic central Illinois rural landscape extends from Alta, near Peoria, to Toulon, in Stark County and passes through the communities of Dunlap, Princeville, and Wyoming.


Moraine Hills Bike Trail

Eleven miles of trails meander through beautiful Moraine Hills State Park near McHenry. Exceptional scenic and wildlife viewing opportunities abound. Come see the remarkable work the great glaciers left behind.


Tunnel Hill State Trail

Located in southern Illinois, between the communities of Harrisburg in Saline County and Karnak in Pulaski County. The trail provides hiking and biking through farmland, hills/bluffs, and bottomland areas. One may travel through the Cache River Natural Area and Shawnee National Forest on the trail.


Vadalabene Bike Trail

Tour some of the most breathtaking scenery in the nation along this 14.5-mile trail from Alton to Grafton. Nine miles of the trip is along the Great River Road and an extension to beautiful Pere Marquette State Park is being developed. Travel along the Mississippi River, view the towering bluffs, and see bald eagles take wing. Don’t forget to stop in historic Elsah.


Great Western Trail

This 18-mile trail between St. Charles and Sycamore in Kane and DeKalb counties stands on the former site of the Chicago and North Western Railroad line. Enjoy the striking rural landscape, including the wetlands you will pass.


Illinois & Michigan Canal State Trail

Forty miles of trail await you at the historic I & M Canal. It begins at Channahon, southwest of Joliet to Gebhard Woods State Park and continues from Marseilles to LaSalle. The canal once was part of an important transportation network linking Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico.


Chicago Lake Front

This spectacular 20-mile shoreline bike path takes you through some of the best views Chicago has to offer. Visit Lincoln Park Zoo, the Shedd Aquarium, Oak Street Beach, Grant Park, the Museum of Science and Industry or any number of other outstanding places the city has to offer.


Fox River Bike Trail

Thirty-five miles of trail wind through the Fox River Valley from Aurora to Algonquin. You’ll bike through forest and nature preserves and some lovely communities to which you’ll long to return.


Bike Touring Information


The State of Illinois recommends that when planning a bike tour the Department of Transportation be contacted for county maps showing low-volume local roads along your selected route. A map catalog can be obtained from:

Map Sales

Illinois Dept. of Transportation
2300 S. Dirksen Parkway
027 Administration Bldg.
Springfield, IL 62764

Comprehensive bikeway maps of the Chicago metropolitan area are available for $7.00 plus $1.90 postage from:

Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission
400 W. Madison Street, Room 200
Chicago, IL 60606

For more information concerning other trail activities, please contact:

  • Illinois Department of Natural Resources
    Planning Division
    One Natural Resources Way
    Springfield, IL 62702



Bicycle Safety Tips and Laws


As a general rule, bicyclists must obey the same traffic laws as vehicle drivers. The following laws and safety rules are particularly important for bicyclists:


  • Always ride with the traffic flow, as close to the right edge of the road as possible.
  • Obey all traffic signals, pavement markings and directions given by police officers.
  • Use hand signals to let drivers know your intentions.
  • Bicycling after dark is very hazardous. Bicycles must be equipped with a front light that reaches 500 feet and a rear, red reflector.
  • Wearing light-colored, reflective clothing increases your visibility to other drivers during the day and night.
  • Learn to look over your shoulder without losing your balance or swerving left.
  • Do not pass on the right. Motorists often will not look for passing cyclists in that direction.
  • When moving the same speed as traffic, ride in the middle of the lane, especially at busy intersections.
  • Keep both hands on the brakes. Allow extra stopping time in the rain.
  • Be alert for cars pulling out and make eye contact with the drivers to ensure you have been seen.
  • Do not weave between parked cars.


In addition to state laws, many municipalities have ordinances restricting bicycles in certain areas. Contact local law enforcement agencies in the areas where you plan to ride.






Bicycle Maintenance Checklist


Inspect your bicycle for the following:


  • Wheels are securely attached, properly adjusted and spin freely with all spokes in place.
  • All reflectors are clean and intact.
  • The seat and handlebars are adjusted to a comfortable position with all nuts and bolts tightened.
  • Hand grips are secure.
  • Tires should not have cracks on the sidewalls, cuts in the tread or excessive wear. Using proper tire pressure, printed on the sidewall of the tire, prevents excessive wear.
  • Caliper brake pads are not worn and are properly adjusted.
  • Gear and brake cables move freely. Replace rusted or frayed cables.
  • The chain should be free of rust. Too much oil will attract dust and dirt, shortening the life of the chain.
  • Pedals are securely fastened, and pedal reflectors are clean and visible.


This checklist takes only a few minutes and may prevent you from having an accident or mechanical breakdown. If you are uncertain of the condition of your bicycle, visit a local bike shop. Most shops offer free safety inspections and books on do-it-yourself maintenance.

Always lock your bicycle when it is parked. Register your bicycle with your local police department if possible. Be sure to keep your bike’s serial number in a safe place.


Mountain Biking Opportunities


Illinois Mountain Bike Trails
Site Name
# of Miles
Argyle Lake
Newton Lake
Jubilee College
Illinois Beach
Jim Edgar Panther Creek
Red Hills
Rock Cut