Lake County is filled with beautiful parks and natural open spaces. One of the best ways to take in the beauty of Lake County is by bike. There are miles upon miles of options for all types of families, whether your little one is just along for a ride in a trailer, on training wheels, or has graduated to a two-wheeler and ready to add on the mileage.
We know that nothing entices a little passenger or rider better than the promise of a great playground and perhaps a picnic along the way, so we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite Lake County bike paths, and made sure to note the play areas that will make you want to stop and play. We also know that safety is a top priority for families, so we’ll also focus on bike trails that are separate from major roadways.
For a comprehensive list of all bike paths in Lake County, check out this amazing map provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Another useful tool is the Lake County Forest Preserves Trail Map website, which lists all the trails within their forest preserves, along with parking areas and amenities.
Best Bike Trails for Families in Lake County
Buffalo Grove Bikeway System–Willow Stream Park: The Buffalo Grove bikeway system consists of 32.9 miles of paved paths throughout all of Buffalo Grove. A particularly family-friendly path within the system surrounds Willow Stream Park, with an approximately 2-mile path around the soccer fields, pool, tennis courts and two playground areas with turf play surfaces.
Des Plaines River Trail: The Des Plaines River Trail features 31 miles of crushed gravel paths along the Des Plaines River, running almost the entire length of Lake County and through 12 forest preserves. You can park at any of those preserves and hop on the trail for a short ride, or take a longer trek. This is not a loop, so just remember, however far you go, at some point, you’ll need to turn around and make your way back. Along the Des Plaines River Trail in Lake County, there are forest preserves with playgrounds at Half Day Forest Preserve, Old School Forest Preserve, Independence Grove Forest Preserve and Van Patten Woods Forest Preserve. If you do decide to go for a longer ride, this path may require that you cross some major roads, so be aware if you are bringing along the little ones.
Greenbelt Forest Preserve: A 4-mile bike path is part of this beautiful forest preserve in North Chicago, which is hidden in the middle of an urban area. In addition to a playground, this preserve is special, as it is home to Green Youth Farm, an innovative organic farm that provides opportunities for local high school students.
Hastings Lake Forest Preserve: This Forest Preserve in Lake Villa has a 2-mile paved path and a 1-mile gravel path that loop around the main lakes. Plus, the playground at Hastings Lake is a Little Lake County favorite, with amazing toddler friendly play areas. This pathway is even great for kids riding scooters.
Heron Creek Forest Preserve: A 2.5-mile, crushed gravel bike path circles this wide open preserve in Long Grove, with a large multi-level playground with a sand pit. Check out our recent review of Heron Creek playground at Little Lake County.
Independence Grove Forest Preserve: Part of the larger Des Plaines River Trail, Independence Grove Forest Preserve in Libertyville is one of the most popular bike paths in lake county, with roughly 6.25 miles of trails. There is plenty of parking, beautiful views, long and short options for riding, as well as both paved and crushed gravel trails. In addition to the bike paths, there is a large playground for the kids, a beach, and lots of great nature exploring to be had at Independence Grove. Check out Little Lake County’s full review of Independence Grove.
McDonald Woods: This Forest Preserve has a 3.8-mile gravel path with plenty of shade in Lindenhurst.
Nippersink Forest Preserve: Nippersink Forest preserve in Round Lake has a three mile bike trail with a fairly large hill, making it more challenging for young riders.
Vernon Hills Bikeways: Vernon Hills Bikeways consist of ten miles of paved trails throughout Vernon Hills. The trail that winds 1.5 miles through Deerpath Park, is especially great for families, with four separate playgrounds spread out along the path. If you’d like to make it a longer ride, the path does loop around and back through the Vernon Hills Arbotheater without ever needing to cross a major road.
Rollins Savannah: Rollins Savanna in Grayslake provides a short, flat loop of crushed limestone perfect for younger riders, or a longer, 3 plus mile loop for a greater challenge. There are sweeping views, but little shade, so it can feel very warm on sunny days, even when the temperature is not too hot.
Lake County is fortunate to have an abundance of well-maintained paths throughout the county for bicycle enthusiasts to pedal the day away. It’s so easy to get outside and spend some quality time with your family, get some fresh air, and add in a little exercise too. A bike ride, picnic and day at the park on a warm spring day is a the perfect recipe for free family fun!
What’s your favorite family-friendly bike trail?