By Emma Sarran Webster| September 6, 2016 |
Summer is certainly great for all sorts of outdoor activities, but fall’s not-too-hot, not-too-cold weather and colorful foliage is primed for running. Whether you’re experienced or you’re looking to take advantage of Chicago’s autumn weather to start a new routine, we’ve found five running paths perfect for fall fitness.
The 606 was initially conceptualized in the 1990s as a way to convert an old train line (the Bloomingdale Line) into some much-needed green space in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood. More than two decades later, a plan was finalized, and The 606 officially opened last year. The 2.7-mile elevated park and trail system includes parks and greenery (particularly beautiful when the leaves change in the fall), art, and historical points of interest to keep you occupied when you need to pause and take a breather.
There’s a reason the Lakefront Trail is likely the most popular running path in Chicago. Make that several reasons: At 18.5 miles, it’s long enough to prevent distance runners from going in too many circles and keep sprinters from getting bored with the same stretches. It has countless access points spreading from the south all the way to the north side of the city. It drops you off at any number of cool destinations, like the museum campus, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and Soldier Field. And then there’s the minor detail that the entire thing runs along Lake Michigan, which makes it inherently beautiful.
If you prefer a quieter running path, the North Shore Channel Trail offers a respite from the overcrowded Lakefront path. The trail starts at Chicago’s Ronan Park, near the intersection of Lawrence Avenue and Francisco Avenue (and the Chicago River’s North Branch), and extends 6.7 miles, all the way to northern Evanston. Passing through areas like Albany Park and Skokie, the trail—which is made up of a combination of crushed limestone, asphalt, and dirt paths, depending on the section—features no lack of trees and open space that make for a perfect fall setting.
Like The 606, the Illinois Prairie Path was converted from a railroad line to become the trail it is today—the first successful “rail-to-trail” conversion in the country. (It follows the old Chicago, Aurora, and Elgin electric railroad, which became obsolete with the creation of the Eisenhower Expressway.) Unlike The 606, it’s an absolute behemoth of a trail, at 61 miles long. The Prairie Path is a hike from Chicago, in three far west suburbs, but once you’re there, you’ll have a nearly endless span of trail for your run. The route is split into three branches—the 17-mile Main Branch in Wheaton, the 13-mile Aurora Branch, and the 14-mile Elgin Branch—each with its own character.
If you’re looking for an easily accessible alternative to the Lakefront path for some quick workouts, check out the Valley Line Trail (also known as the Sauganash Trail). At only 1.1 miles long, it’s probably not the best for full-on marathon training, but it provides a great outdoor path for quick sprints and drills—plus, there are plans underway to connect it to the nearby two-mile Skokie Valley Trail. The route runs between Bryn Mawr Avenue and Devon Avenue, roughly in line with Kostner Avenue, in Chicago’s Sauganash neighborhood.