Gravel Biking: 6 Best Gravel Trails In Chicago

Cycling is a great way to unwind after a busy weekend. Many people use bikes to keep fit, reduce their carbon footprint, and care for their mental health. The best way to do this is to go for long, fun, and challenging rides.

Gravel Biking: 6 Best Gravel Trails in Chicago


If you live in Chicago, there are many biking trails to explore, including paved and unpaved, and some tracks combine the two. Unpaved trails are fun as they are filled with obstacles that let you put your biking tricks to good use. These are the best gravel trails in Chicago that every cyclist should try.

Before hitting a gravel trail, you must ensure you are well-prepared by using this checklist

Gravel bike: Ensure that you have a quality bike and that it’s well-serviced to avoid malfunctioning while on the trail.

Helmet: Riding on a gravel trail is challenging, and you might fall once or twice. Therefore, you must be well protected by wearing a helmet, solidifying your experience and making riding fun.

Knee and elbow pads protect your knees and elbow when you fall.

Sunglasses: Most gravel paths pass through the forest where there are a lot of plantations and trees, and the branches may pierce your eyes, so wearing sunglasses keeps your eyes safe. Also, if you plan on riding when the sun is up, the glares may obscure your vision; therefore, the sunglasses help you see the path properly.

Gloves give you a firm grip on the handlebars and protect your hands from getting sore.

Water: You must carry plenty of drinking water as riding will have you sweating buckets. Thus you will need to keep hydrated.

Snacks: If you plan on hitting the biking trails for several hours, carry some snacks, such as energy bars, bananas, dried fruits, and nuts, to refuel and provide your muscles with the required nutrients.

First aid kit: There are high chances of falling, so ensure you have a small first aid kit with all the items you need to treat a scratch.

Repair toolkit: Gravel paths are full of surprises, and it’s not a wonder to have flat tires or any other malfunction, so pack your repair toolkit for minor repairs while out on the trail.

8 Gravel Trail to Try in Chicago

1.  Waterfall Glen Gravel

This is the best gravel trail for cyclers looking for a challenging ride. This preserve is approximately 700- acres with plenty of trees interspersed with dolomite and prairie habitats, and it’s also home to rare plants and wildlife.

The trail is found in the Waterfall Glen Forests and loops around the park. The preserve is beautiful and great to ride and walk as it features glacier-like carved rock ridges, ravines, and wetland potholes.

It is a limestone-covered path with lots of twists and slightly hilly gravel. Throughout your ride, you’ll appreciate the wonders of the forest, such as wildlife, oak and maple trees, pine groves, prairie, and grassland habitats.

2.  Timber Ridge Trail

This biking trail is found on the eastern side of the Timber Ridge Forest Preserve. The preserve has loads of activities that people can engage in, including hiking, fishing, picnicking, and animal watching. The trail is made of gravel, thus suitable for gravel and mountain bikes.

The trail intersects 12-miles long Great Western Trail on the northern side and a prairie path at the southern end. Other things to do on the Timber ridge trail include hiking and horseback riding. However, horses and bikes are not permitted to enter Kline Creek Farmstead.

The trail can be accessed from the Kline Creek Farm, which has a parking lot holding around 70 cars.

You can also access the trail at the southern end, where the trail intersects with the prairie path, but the parking lot can only accommodate about ten cars.

3.  Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve

This trail comprises gravel and brick-paved paths ideal for beginner to experienced cyclers and is also popular among hikers, bikers, and runners. The preserve is large and filled with wetlands, prairie, and plenty of plants and animal species.

The preserve also organizes many activities throughout the year, including races and workshops where people can have fun with their families.

You can start on the eastern side of the preserves on a fine gravel trail and traverse through the preserve’s edges near coffee creek. You’ll enjoy the fresh air, see all sorts of wildlife, and bask in the sound of birds.

As you progress with your ride, you will pass by a bridge that acts as a great viewpoint. You can opt to turn around at this or ride on through the brick-paved route, then loop past the last pond and follow a short boardwalk. Then a gravel path leads you back to the parking lot. Since this trail is popular among walkers and joggers, maintain speed control to avoid accidents.

4.  Des Plaines River Trail

This is also a great hiking trail. It is near the Wisconsin border and follows the Des Plaines river from Elmwood Park to the Russel community in Illinois. The path is 56 miles long and traverses through forests and parks. Cyclers can enjoy the fresh air and plenty of flora and fauna as they pass through the Gurnee Woods Forest and Adler Memorial Park.

The train combines asphalt, dirt, crushed stones, and gravel.

5.  Palos Trail System

This path is accessible via train, but the best is going by car as it will allow you plenty of time to ride on the dirt. The path is made of crushed limestone and gravel, thus suitable for gravel and mountain bikes. This unpaved trail is narrow and primarily used by bikers and hikers.

The Palos Trail System is quite long, estimated at 42.1 miles. The path traverses through the rolling hills and ravines, offering riders a beautiful view of the nearby landscape.

6.  Buffalo Creek Trail

The trail is mostly used for hiking and biking. Buffalo Creek Trail is also ideal for gravel biking as it features a crushed stone, dirt, and gravel surface. The path loops around the scenic Buffalo Creek Forest Preserve, and riders enjoy the wildlife and prairie habitat along the way. The path is 3.2 miles long and ends at Arlington Heights or Checker Road.

Cycling is fun, especially when done with friends and family. Chicago is home to some of the best biking trails you’ll ever find. So, if you are a fan of gravel biking, above are the best gravel trails in Chicago to explore with your bike.

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