15 Best Running Trails In Chicago You Can Visit Today

15 Best Running Trails In Chicago You Can Visit Today

Chicago is a vibrant and bustling city, loved for its food, architecture, and music scene. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer great spots to run!

Whether you’re new to running or not, you’ll be glad to know that Chicago boasts a number of incredible trails, walks, and loops that almost seem like they were made for running.  

So why not check out these 15 best running trails in Chicago?

And, let’s face it, nothing beats running outdoors – especially when you find the perfect running trail that has the right distance, terrain, and scenery.

If you live in or near the city, you can visit one of these awesome trails today!

15 Best Running Trails In Chicago

1. The 606 (Bloomingdale Trail)

First up, The Bloomingdale Trail – also known as The 606. The trail measures 8.9 kilometers and is a popular running spot in Chicago thanks to its flat, scenic route that runs through several neighborhoods.

It’s a nice green route too, passing trees, grassy spaces, and gardens.

As a result, it’s the perfect trail for training 10k runs. It has a bit of history as well, as the elevated trail and park used to be a railroad line before the ‘90s. So, no wonder it’s the ideal flat route for running in Chicago!

2. Chicago Lakefront Trail

The Lakefront Trail is one of the most popular running trails in Chicago, as it runs for over 18 miles along the shores of Lake Michigan.

The Chicago Lakefront Trail boasts lake views, city views, parks, and beaches, so it’s not hard to see why runners, cyclists, dog walkers, and picnickers frequent this waterfront hotspot. 

With 18 miles of flat paved paths to run with stunning views on either side, the Chicago Lakefront Trail sets the scene for any running distance.

Part of the trail runs over the water, making it one of Chicago’s most fun running trails.

3. Lincoln Park Trail

The Lincoln Park Trail is a 28.3-kilometer-long paved trail located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Like the Lakefront Trail, this trail runs parallel to Lake Michigan and offers stunning views of both the lake and the city skyline.

The trail begins at Ardmore Avenue and follows the shoreline south to Fullerton Avenue, passing Lincoln Park along the route.

It’s a popular location for runners, cyclists, and walkers, with plenty of spots to take a scenic water break.

4. Caldwell Woods Loop Trail

Inside Chicago’s Caldwell Woods Forest Preserve, the Caldwell Woods Loop is a 2.1-kilometer trail that will have you running through dense trees and picturesque picnic areas. You may even spot a few species of local wildlife!

While the Caldwell Woods Loop is popular among cyclists, it’s also a great trail for running. It’s a short run, sure, but it’s also perfect if you’re trying to increase your one-mile pace.

There is some elevation gain too, which can make the short trail more of a challenge than expected.

5. Des Plaines River Trail

Schiller Woods is a forest preserve located in northwest Chicago. The preserve covers an area of over 200 acres, and is a picturesque location for runners, hikers, cyclists, and lovers of the great outdoors, in general.

The most popular trail in Schiller Woods is the Des Plaines River Trail – a scenic trail through the woods that measures over 31 miles (50 kilometers) long.

For runners who like to explore, switch up their running routes, and take in natural scenery, it doesn’t get better than the Des Plaines River Trail.

6. Illinois Prairie Path

If you thought the Des Plaines River Trail was long, the Illinois Prairie Path runs for 61 miles. It consists of four main trail “branches”, including the Elgin Branch, Aurora Branch, Geneva Branch, and Fox River Trail.

Like The 606 Bloomingdale Trail, Illinois Prairie Path was converted from an old, unused train line.

Due to its sheer length, there’s a lot to explore and see while running the path, with trails for all abilities and, of course, cardiovascular endurance levels!

7. Chicago Riverwalk

The Chicago Riverwalk comes in at 4.3 kilometers long with flat paved routes that are perfect for running. The Riverwalk connects various landmarks, parks, and neighborhoods too, including Lake Michigan and Millennium Park.

As much as it is great for running, the Chicago Riverwalk is also a popular tourist (and cycling) destination due to its scenic skyline views, restaurants, bars, and small beach areas.

So, if you run with music playing, just make sure not to run into anyone or sidestep into a passing cyclist!

8. Fox River Trail

As mentioned above, The Fox River Trail is one of the four branches that makes up the Illinois Prairie Path.

Its length is just under 26 miles, so there’s plenty of ground to cover here if you love to run for distance.

As a result, the Fox River Trail is great for marathon training (maybe for a Chicago Marathon?), as it’s mostly paved and flat. It’s also nicely scenic, with woods, bridges, and lakes to pass along the route.

Like to take breaks? There are several great spots to stop and top off your water at the various water fountains.

9. Montrose Harbor Trail

Montrose Harbor is a popular spot for running in Chicago, thanks to its views of Lake Michigan and Chicago’s high-rise buildings.

The trail, which measures at 5.4 miles long, connects Montrose Beach and Belmont Harbor – hence the name.

So if you love scenic runs, the Montrose Harbor Trail is worth checking out. You’ll run past Montrose Beach, Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Lincoln Park, and more along the way, offering a scenic tour of east Chicago waterfront.

10. Big Marsh Park Trail

Big Marsh Park is a large nature park situated in south Chicago, with a popular 3-mile trail called, you guessed it, Big Marsh Park Trail.

It offers beautiful views of wetlands, grassy expanses, and trees, with a mostly flat paved surface that’s perfect for all kinds of runners.

Because of its length, it’s ideal for 5-kilometer runs – no matter whether you are training towards your first 5k or just want to improve your pace. The bonus is the park’s local birdlife, with numerous species to see during your run.

11. Horner (Henry) Park Path Trail

Horner (Henry) Park is a large park in northwest Chicago, with playgrounds, benches, and open green spaces for sports and picnics.

It also has a winding path, the Horner (Henry) Park Path, which is popular among runners, walkers, and cyclists.

The Horner (Henry) Park Path is just over a mile long, so it’s perfect if you are looking for a short run in Chicago.

It’s paved and flat, making it an excellent trail for training your one-mile pace! Or you can simply run in peace – especially if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city!

12. Busse Woods Trail

The Busse Woods Trail is a popular multi-use trail that you’ll find in northwest Chicago in the Ned Brown Forest Preserve – also called Busse Woods.

The trail is approximately 11.2 miles long with a scenic route for walkers, runners, and cyclists.

Busse Woods Trail loops all the way around the Ned Brown Forest Preserve, so you’ll get to appreciate the woods and wildlife while you run. It’s ideal for 5k runs and 10k runs, as well as training towards half marathons.

13. 312 RiverRun Path

The Chicago RiverRun Path isn’t to be confused with the Chicago Riverwalk (listed above). It’s located in Downtown Chicago, and measures just under 3 miles for an ideal trail for clocking in 5k runs.

The 312 RiverRun Path is flat, winding, and scenic, so it offers a great change of pace from the surroundings of Downtown Chicago.

A lot of this new trail runs along the Chicago riverfront, and even over the water, which also makes it a fun trail to run!

14. West Ridge Nature Preserve Trails

West Ridge Nature Preserve is a 20-acre natural area in northwest Chicago.

The preserve features different habitats and wildlife, with multiple trails to explore if you’re looking for somewhere fun and unique to run in Chicago!

While running one of the trails in West Ridge Nature Preserve, you’ll pass lagoons, marshes, and woodland, and may even catch sight of the preserve’s local wildlife.

The 4-acre pond in the center of the preserve also makes for a perfect running circuit.

15. Burnham Promontory Point Loop Trail

The Burnham Promontory Point Loop is a short 0.6-mile running trail in Chicago’s Burnham Park.

Despite its short length, the trail offers picture-perfect views of Lake Michigan (especially from Promontory Point Peninsula) and the city skyline, with flat paved paths that run along the waterfront.

For that reason, the Burnham Promontory Point Loop Trail offers a beginner-friendly, scenic 1-kilometer run, which you can sprint or enjoy at a leisurely pace!

The Bottom Line

So there you have it: the 15 best running trails in Chicago that you must check out. These trails mostly offer flat terrain, which makes them great for runners of all abilities.

Best of all, these popular Chicago running trails offer stunning views no matter the distance you’re running.

As you can find from these popular running routes, participating in the Chicago marathon is not the only way to run in Chicago. Running along the marathon route is also a great way to experience and see the Chicago marathon.

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