The Cal-Sag Trail (Calumet-Saganashkee) is one of Cook County’s newest trails. The first section opened in July 2015, and construction is still underway on the rest of the trail. This is scheduled to be wrapped up at the end of 2017. Following the I&M Canal for its current whole length, the Cal-Sag has a number of lovely sights to offer its users. I’m sure that when the trail is complete, I will be riding it frequently.
At time of publishing, there are less than 20 miles of contiguous trail. I have ridden the trail between its western end in Lemont and Alsip. The trail gets off to a kind of bad start with a sketchy bridge crossing in Crestwood and some traffic lights, but unlike the Prairie Path, the Cal-Sag manages to avoid street crossings every 30 yards. This trail also exceeds the quality of the IPP by being paved for its whole length. The trail also sees mostly cycling traffic, and far less use in general than most similar trails closer to city limits. With that said, you can certainly get going pretty fast on this one.The trail is mostly straightaways, but does feature a number of adorable curved road warning signs, miniaturized so you know they’re for cyclists. These are nothing to worry over, mostly turns as you dip under major roads. This trail is significantly hillier than the North Branch or North Shore Channel Trail, but I’d still hesitate to tell any of your western friends about Chicago’s hilly trail as all the slopes are gentile and possibly not worth shifting for. The path provides a number of garbage receptacles and benches to rest roughly every mile.
What this trail sorely lacks in is water (you win this one, IPP). There are NO water fountains along any stretch of this trail. Even the few parks you pass through which would seem to have water somehow don’t (looking at you Lake Katherine). So far the only place I have found to fill up is about 3 blocks off the trail in Palos Heights at their community pool (where you will also find flush toilets). Get it together Cook County.
The trail’s current terminus makes this pretty annoying. I think there are 3 real options that don’t involve driving there.
- Take the Metra to Blue Island.
- Pro: Least amount of garbage road conditions to ride through, least amount of riding to get to trail
- Con: costs money, dealing with taking bike on Metra, semi-infrequent schedule
- Ride to Willow Springs.
- Pro: An established riding path, Culver’s on the way, water stops
- Con: No bike infrastructure, 30 miles to get there, roads can be intimidating if you don’t ride in traffic a lot
- Ride Halsted to Major Taylor Trail, ride through sad suburban times.
- Pro: Least stressful bike only option, beautiful scenery
- Con: Long and not very shaded, 2 medium horrible road-crossings
This trail is pretty nice already, but I’m definitely looking forward to when they’ve finished more of it. The connection points are really lacking right now and seriously, put some water on this trail! Definitely go check it out, but know what you’re signing up for in getting to it.