Weekend Wheeling in Chicago

The Lebaugh Woods Trail
By Michael Roeser
  |  Gorp.com

The Lebaugh Woods is a small parcel of forest preserve on Chicago's far Northwest Side. The trail runs for a short distance through dense forests along the north branch of the Chicago River. It is technically challenging and includes steep climbs to railroad embankments, surprise head ducks under low branches, and riverbank trails so steep that you're sure you'll wind up with wet feet. The entrance to the track is at the forest preserve at Foster Avenue east of Cicero Avenue.

From the first few cranks of the pedals, the trail crashes down a steep rocky slide to the forest floor and you glide to a landing along the river on hard packed dirt. After a half-mile of smooth pedaling, a steep climb leads to a railroad embankment. Carefully cross the tracks and ride down the other side. Soon after, another obstacle is encountered in a renegade creek that empties into the river. Over the years, makeshift bridges and fallen logs have been placed over the creek, but they don't seem to stay put for very long. At the very least, a well-placed rock in the creek will help you along if you and your shouldered bike can't jump across.

Pedal on through tight turns, under fallen tree branches, and through high marsh weeds. The trail will force you into a climb at the top of which you will find that you're street-side. After the crossing, you've entered a surreal mixture of urban and primeval as you ride under a roaring expressway overpass.

Not far ahead there's another railroad crossing with an even steeper embankment. Get in your lowest gear and pump wildly, but you'll still finish this loose climb on foot. On the other side, there's more single-track to reward your effort.

The crown jewel of the Lebaugh Trail is a patch of BMX hills known to the local kids as Ramp World. Fifteen-foot rounded hills have been piled up offering a roller-coaster track to the 20-inch wheelers. Mountain bikes also do well on these hills, but the BMXers do it with more style.

The trail ends at Central Avenue east of Foster Avenue. From here, you can ride half a mile north on Central Avenue to the beginning of the beautifully paved 20-mile North Branch River Trail.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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