Chicago is a city of runners—the Chicago Marathon attracts more than 45,000 participants each year, and weekend warriors regularly fill the lakefront path. While outdoor jaunts may still seem like wishful thinking, now’s the time to map out where you’ll hit the pavement this spring. Here are five of the city’s best running routes.
The Riverwalk’s short, nine-block distance makes it ideal for a mid-day run. If you haven’t checked it out lately, now’s the time: When construction wraps up this year, the walkway will extend along the south bank of the Chicago River from Lake Shore Drive to Lake Street. Here you’ll find sleek walkways, fountains, and plenty of areas for people to sit—or for you to stretch your legs. Total distance: 2.5 miles
It’s easy to see why this waterfront path—with 18 miles of no traffic lights and serene views of the lake—is every Chicago runner’s go-to. These perks are also why the path tends to fill up on warm days, making it hard to get your miles in. Skip the crowds and head north starting at North Avenue. You’ll find shady areas and plenty of water fountains along the way (note: The water doesn’t start flowing until it’s warm out). Turn back at any point, or follow the trail 5.5 miles until it ends at Hollywood Avenue. Total distance: Up to 11 miles
This elevated trail opened last June—finally bringing a running path to the city’s western neighborhoods, including Bucktown, Logan Square, and Humboldt Park. Jump on at its eastern end, on Marshfield just north of North Avenue. The path runs 2.7 miles west for a 5.4-mile run. Sneak a peek at some amazing roof decks, art installations, and over 1,400 trees along the way. Plus, with plenty of places to enter and exit the former abandoned railway, you can easily sneak off and grab brunch. Hot Chocolate is just off the Damen exit. Total distance: 5.4 miles
To take in the city’s most famous sights, jog south on the lakefront path. Start at Buckingham Fountain and cross Lake Shore Drive to reach the path. You’ll end up on the sea wall that hugs the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium. Pause when you arrive at the Adler Planetarium, and take in an iconic view of the city. Then, head out to Northerly Island. The crowds will be thin by now, so you’ll have plenty of space to loop around the island. If you’ve got more miles in you, keep jogging south until you reach the off-the-beaten-path harbors, like 31 Street Harbor. Turn back at any time. Total distance: 5-10 miles
Take advantage of the city’s free zoo by running right through it. Start at Fullerton and Stockton and head south. You’ll spot the Lincoln Park Conservatory, followed by the entrance to the zoo. Step in so you can gaze at the animals as you jog, and pop out when you reach Café Brauer. From there, you’ll score a gorgeous skyline view. Continue south until the path curves just before LaSalle Drive. Follow it as it loops around to the east. On warm days, you might spot rowers in the South Lagoon. Before long, you’ll hit Fullerton—right where you started. You can stop there or keep heading north to where the path heads under Lake Shore Drive at Barry Avenue. Total distance: 2-4 miles