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Bike Trails along the Metra Northwest Pacific Line

Enjoy Spring On One Of These Scenic Bike Trails

It’s time to get your bike out and discover new trails or revisit old favorites. We have listed a number of trails along the Northwest Pacific Metra line as well as some great biking resources and organizations. It is also a great time to get your bike tuned up and road ready, so we have also included bike shops near the train line.  Please be aware that a number of the trails do require biking on the street to access the trails. So get out and enjoy the weather and let us know of any trails we might have missed. Look for future post on biking in Chicago.


The Long Prairie Bike Trail is a paved 14.5 mile trail. It’s fitting that we start with this trail as a portion of the trail was once the Kenosha Division Rail Line. The path is mostly prairie, but there are shaded portions along the way. A number of small villages such as Capron, Poplar Grove and Caledonia are adjacent to the trail. The trail is fairly flat and there is signage providing information on native plants as well as the history of the region. There are a few places to stop and rest and get some refreshments.

For directions see link below


Moraine Hills State Park is a ways out of town, but worth the effort. This beautiful 2,200 acre park has 10 miles of trails surfaced with crushed lime stone. The park features the following 4 trails:  the 2 mile Fox River Trail, 3.2 mile Leather Leaf Trail, 3.7 mile Lake Defiant Trail and the 1.7 mile River Road Trail.  Approximately half the park consist of lakes and wetlands perfect for viewing waterfowl as well as other wildlife. We recommend bringing a picnic or packing your own snacks as the parks concession stand has limited hours. A number of water fountains available throughout the park as well as picnic tables. For more information and a map go to

To get to Moraines Hills State Park from the McHenry Metra Station head east on Main St., left on Green Street, right on W. Elm St., right on N. River Rd. The park is approximately 4.7 miles from the McHenry Metra Station. Please note that McHenry has a limited train schedule , so please plan accordingly. There are two bike shops in McHenry so check them out before or after your ride. See bike shop listings below for more information.

Crystal Lake

The Prarie Bike Trail

The Prairie Bike Path in a 26 mile trail stretching from Genoa City in Wisconsin south to Algonquin, linking 8 McHenry County Communities.  The trail is mostly flat except a portion in Sterne’s Woods in Crystal Lake that proves to be more challenging with both hills and curves. The trail is surfaced in crushed stone, asphalt, gravel or dirt depending on the stretch of the trail you are on. There are places to stop along the way to rest or for refreshments.

From the downtown Crystal Lake Metra Station head southeast to Railroad St., turn right on Main St., and you can pick up the trail at East Crystal Lake Ave. and S. Main St. From this point you can head north towards Genoa or south towards Algonquin. For a portion of the trail in Crystal Lake you will being riding on the road.  From the station to the trail is only .3 miles. Crystal Lake has a great bike shop right by the station, for more information check bike shop listing below.


On this ride we suggest you take the Palatine Trail to the Deer Grove Preserve. The trail will take you through Palatine neighborhoods and around the Palatine Hills Golf Course where riders wills find wooded sections before connecting to Deer Grove Preserve. The ride to the preserve is approximately 3.1 miles on paved trails but involves crossing busy roads. For information on the Deer Grove Preserve see previous post

From the Palatine Metra Station head east on West Wood St., turn left on N. Brockway,  turn right to enter the path. Follow the bike path to the left which runs parallel with N. Benton St. When you cross E. Heron Dr. take the trail to the left, follow the trail north at North Hawk St., turn left after crossing N. Smith St. and continue left at West Dundee Rd. At the intersection of N. Quentin Road and W. Dundee Rd.there is an entrance to the Deer Grove Preserve.

Arlington Heights

The Busse Woods Trail is a great biking destination, however getting to the trail from the station can be a little challenging, we reccomend that only bikers experienced in sharing the road with motorists should attempt this ride. Busse Woods consists of three major paved trails totaling 11.2 miles. Located in the Ned Brown Forest Preserve the trail loops through the park and will take riders past Busse Lake, an Elk pasture, and through meadows and forests. The trail intersections are marked and riders will find sheltered areas as well as rest rooms and water through out the preserve.

To get to Busse Woods from the downtown Arlington Heights Metra Station head south on N. Vail, right on W. Campbell St., left on South Dwyer Ave., right on W. Orchard Place, left on New Wilke Rd., cross Golf and turn left. An entrance to the preserve is on the left, and will bring you to the north end of the park. The ride to the trail is approximately 3.6 miles.

Des Plaines

DesPlaines River Trail

The Des Plaines River Bike Trail is a 30 + mile trail stretching from River Grove north to just below the Wisconsin border. The trail as you might expect from the it’s name follows the Des Plaines River through prairies, wetlands, and wooded areas. The surface varies and is primarily crushed stone and packed dirt. Many improvements to the trail have provided bridges and underpasses for safe and continuous biking. There are still portions of the trail where bikers will need to cross street to pick up the trail. For information on the cook county portion of the trail please check While researching  I found many riders advise against the use of road bikes on the trail.

From the Des Plaines Metra Station head southeast and turn left onto Pearson St, right on Miner St. and the trail can be picked up on the corner of Miner St. and River Road. The ride to the trail is about .2 miles.

For all the bike riders who enjoy using the train you have The Active Transportation Alliance to thank. This incredible organization works tirelessly on your behalf to make Chicagoland a better, safer and more convient place to bike, walk and use mass transit. Please consider supporting their organization with a membership. For only $30.00 you can enjoy discounts at many bike shops and receive a seven county bike map. For more information

Car Free Chicago is also a great “community-built-resource” with advice  on getting around the city car free. In addition this site has helpful information on shopping tips and a train stop guide.

Another great resource for the Chicago area is the chain link. This is a great site to connect with other biking enthusiasts and share valuable information.

An additional resource for Chicago riders is There is a lot of great information, be sure to check out the topics page.

Just Off the Tracks encourages everyone to review the following link to see complete list of guidelines concerning Bikes on Trains.

Bicycle Shops on the Northwest Pacific Line


Bike Haven
3318 Pearl Street
McHenry, IL 60050

(815) 385-4642

Crystal Lake

Wheel Werks
115 N. Main Street
Crystal Lake, IL 60014


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2 Responses to Bike Trails along the Metra Northwest Pacific Line

  1. Mark September 15, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

    I attempted to follow your directions from the Harvard Metra station to the Long Prairie Bike Trail but didn’t find your directions to be accurate.

    Ratzcliff St. does zig and zag, but it didn’t lead to Lawrence St. Rather it turned into Metzan St. which eventually leads to 173. From 173, I was able to find Lawrence and the path. I look forward to another trip to Harvard in the future with my bike. My parents live in Roscoe, and I like riding the trail. If you have any idea where i went wrong or if you have revised directions on how to get directly to to path from the station, please send them my way.


  2. Laura October 5, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    Thank you for the notice, we will have to get more accurate information and correct the post. If anyone has the correct information, please let us know.

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