As the final Illinois component of the length of trail from Chicago to Kenosha, the Robert McClory Bike Path picks up close to the end of the Green Bay Trail and jogs north closely following the Metra UP-N line to Greak Lakes, where the trail turns slightly and remains west of the Metra off of the lakeshore by about a mile.
This trail has a bit of everything. The first few miles are on a painted sidewalk through Highwood. It’s not very heavily trafficked through this part, which considering the scenery, is not very surprising. If your load isn’t well distributed or is at all loose, this part can drive you crazy with all the cracks in the concrete.
Following the sidewalk portion of the trail, you ride through some prairie. I was out taking photos in early April, and the scenery was pretty bleak. One of the other times I was on this trail was in July and even then I definitely found this stretch to be a snooze fest. Fortunately, this portion of the trail is paved and sees a light to moderate amount of traffic. You won’t find any benches or water stops though.
A little further north up the trail near Lake Forest, the trail becomes more wooded. There are a moderate number of users on this section, but it’s definitely still clear enough that you can really build up speed if you’d like to. This section is blessedly cooler than the prairie portions with the trees providing some degree of relief from the sun and humidity. You will also not find benches along this part of the path, but you’re still pretty close to Metra stations every few miles.
Just after the Great Lakes Metra stop, you cross the road (there is a light, but it takes forever to change) and are met by my favorite landmark on this trail. The hill that the sign speaks of is a steep drop off onto the sidewalk very near to pillars for the overpass for the road you just crossed. Braking is advised, but I still think “hill” doesn’t really describe this situation. It’s also at this point that there are mile markers on signs every half mile. They count down to the distance to the Wisconsin border.
Immediately after the hill, you are dumped onto a brief section of trail through an industrial area that seems to scream that this isn’t where you were supposed to be. Soldier on, you’re still on the right path. I suggest being alert on this section as there frequently seems to be gravel, glass, and other assorted debris on the path through this area.
After you round a corner, you are abruptly deposited onto the gravel section of the trail. This segment continues until you reach the end of the path at the Wisconsin boarder. It gets pretty hot through the Waukegan stretch of the gravel portion of the trail.You’re rolling through sad playgrounds and the edges of people’s backyards. There are never very many people using the trail, but there do start to be more trail users at you move north to Zion. There are also frequent patches of broken glass from bottles commingled with the gravel of the path. You’ll want to pay attention, and possibly consider a tire liner. While there are not water fountains immediately off of the path, there are a few parks that appear to have them. There are also benches to rest at every 3 or so miles. The trail continues much the same all the way to the boarder, with the only other point of note being the turn for the Illinois State Beach campground being around mile marker 4.
When you finally do reach the end of the trail, you cross a wooden bridge and are suddenly on pavement again. The trail is paved heading north to Kenosha once you reach the Wisconsin side. From Logan Square to this point via The North Shore Channel Trail, the Green Bay Trail, and the Robert McClory Bike Path, you should have traveled about 46 miles. If you continue north on the trail for a few more miles, you will eventually end up in a bike lane that ends right in front of a grocery store where you can purchase WI beer and cheese to your heart’s content, feeling good about yourself for having completed a century (or 50 miles and a well-earned Metra trip home).