Burnham Greenway

The Burnham Greenway through Eggers Grove

This is not my favorite trail. The Burnham Greenway runs between Chicago’s East Side neighborhood and Munster, Indiana. While the Burnham Greenway is somewhat useful as a connection between other trails, it definitely has one glaring 2 mile hole and not a lot of excitement on either side.

 

What most of this trail looks like

The Burnham Greenway is entirely paved, and in pretty good condition overall. I would call it a real snoozefest for sure. It’s almost completely straight, and very, very flat. In certain circumstances, that could also be okay, but the Burnham Greenway also suffers from a lot of road crossings. A couple of the crossings around 121st are pretty annoying to get through with cross traffic that really doesn’t want to stop for you. I doubt you’ll be able to get any intervals in on the trail, even if its mostly empty pavement makes  you tempted.

 

Greenway through East Side

My most frequently ridden stretch runs from 100th to 112th where I pick up the much nicer Wolf Lake Trail into Indiana.  The stretch mostly runs adjacent to alleyways and doesn’t provide a lot of water opportunities. On the last occasion that I rode through the forest preserve section of this trail, none of the water fountains were working. This was September, so it seems that this may be an ongoing issue.

Shortly after leaving the forest preserve, the Burnham Greenway abruptly ceases to exist for approximately two miles. Normally, this is just a moderate inconvenience; however, the reason the trail abruptly stops also points to why there are no non-terrifying workarounds. Due to rail right of way, the only place to cross the tracks is Avenue O/ Burnham Ave. This is a four lane and almost entirely a gigantic and semi-winding overpass. I rode this with a friend on a holiday weekend afternoon and it was pretty okay if you just took the lane, but there is no way this is a viable option during any amount of traffic. The sidewalk is nice and wide up there and I bet no one would ticket you for riding on it, but it’s not a good option. Once you clear the overpass, you’ve got about 3 blocks on either end of moderately busy streets before the trail picks up again. While I would love if they ever built a trail overpass here, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Northern trail ends in blue, Southern trail access point in red

While getting off at State looks like a good option, it’s a really weird interchange to access it from the bridge and also listed as an arterial route. I just opted for Sibley. The good news is from Sibley to the trail’s southern end, the Burnham Greenway is continuous with just road crossings to contend with.

Getting there

This is pretty straightforward. Take your favorite route to the Lakefront Path, ride that all the way south, choose one of two established routes, swear a lot at the highway and you’re done.

My Preferred Route

My usual route follows South Shore Drive from where the Lakefront Trail ends to 83rd and Burley and then remains of the South Chicago Velodrome at 87th. I then pick up Mackinaw for a few blocks south to reach the river crossing at Ewing. This bridge is a diamond shaped open grate bridge. Taking the sidewalk here is generally a pretty viable option, but part of the concrete on the southbound side of the walkway had fallen into the river over summer 2016. I’m not sure if that has been fixed yet. Ewing then takes you to where the Burnham Greenway picks up on the east side of the road; just after some sort of sketchy viaducts, around 100th St. Those traveling with less confident riders may wish to take Ave L, a block west, from 95th to 100th.  If that’s too many turns for you, you can also just take South Shore Drive from the end of the Lakefront Trail all the way to Ewing instead, but if it’s at all windy, you’ll probably regret that choice.

Overall Impressions

The Burnham Greenway is a decent length and is a pretty good access point to other trails that I like more. It’s well maintained and pretty easy to get to. The trail itself is in no way challenging or particularly crowded, so it could certainly provide a relaxing ride for anyone in the neighborhood. For all of the good features of this trail, it can’t escape its geography. The trail is flat and monotonous, and that 2 mile middle finger to active transportation around the railroad tracks really brings the overall experience down. If you’re looking for a way to get to 3 Floyd’s, I’d take the Wolf Lake and Monon Trails instead and have a nicer time. I’m glad this trail exists, but I really, really want a long term solution to the rail problem. The current situation is not even trying to accommodate anything other than cars.

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