My Kind of Town

Mountain Biking
By Christopher Collier
Yankee Springs is a popular mountain-biking destination near Chicago.
Yankee Springs is a popular mountain-biking destination near Chicago.

Word of sweet single-track travels fast among trail hounds. Sure there'smountain greatness in the far northern reaches of Wisconsin, but that's aweekend away. The trick to mountain biking in Chicagoland is getting to thegood stuff without an entire day in the car. The joy of riding rolls of hillsor swirling to the bottom of a dry riverbed is a matter of knowing where togo. Here are the best places to mountain bike within two hours of the city.

Kettle Moraine

The southern unit of Kettle Moraine, a popular outdoor recreation region in Wisconsin, is without a doubt the best mountain biking within two hours of Chicago. You'll have to pay to play, but if you're serious about mountain biking, it's well worth it (parking fee, trail pass). Along the John Muir Trail, red, orange, green, white, and blue loops offer a variety of skill levels from beginner to expert. After your fill of thrills, a general store with beer, bottled water, and sandwiches is not more than a crawlaway. For more general information on Kettle Moraine, see "Driving America's Dairyland."


Palos is the most popular preserve for mountain biking in Chicago's Cook County. It's about half an hour outside of the loop, almost a straight shot west. Despite a few trails being closed due to erosion, many a hill and valley make for exhilarating runs through the wooded wonders of Illinois. It's easy to get lost in the tangle of trails, so bring a map and compass for sure.

Deer Grove

Deer Grove is about an hour north of Chicago. It's the Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde of bike trails. Through deep dark woods Deer Grove delivers down and dirty off-road rides; and through gentle slopes of prairie, pristine pavement is popular. As the name suggests, you may see a few deer cutting across prairie or grazing in the backwoods. Despite its close proximity to the 'burbs, it's some of the best mountain biking around. For more detailed information on Deer Grove, see "Mountain Biking in the Windy City."

Yankee Springs Recreation Area

Adventurous souls choose to motor around the southern portion of LakeMichigan, through the northern tip of Indiana, and on up into southern Michigan's Yankee Springs Recreation Area. They go for Devil's Soupbowl and the Pines, two attractions that draw a special breed of biker. The twelve-mile trail starts out flat and mellow, but the going gets tough towards the end as hills become steep and rocky. The scenery can't be beat, with pine forests, lakes, and ponds for all to enjoy. Helmets are, as always, recommended, bike shocks are helpful, and trails are open all year except during hunting season.


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