Deep Routes

September 2019 View more

Whalon Lake Loop

While many people tend to think of biking as strictly a summertime activity, true enthusiasts know it can be a year-round passion—with fall being one of its most comfortable and scenic windows of opportunity. So don’t sentence that two-wheeler to an off-season on the garage ceiling hooks just yet—get out there and pedal the ’burbs on one of these great trail recommendations from a few biking veterans.

Whalon Lake Loop

With almost 33 miles of well-maintained and scenic pathways accessible from multiple points throughout several suburbs—and with plenty of great stops along the way—the DuPage River Trail is one of the area’s true standard-bearers for bicyclists of all ages, abilities, and interests. Naperville Bicycle Club member Umesh Tawari has been riding parts of the trail for the past several years, and his favorite portion, the 3.5-mile loop around Whalon Lake, is likely high on the list of many area riders. 

“The river trail to Whalon Lake is a particularly pretty ride with a lot of shade,” Tawari notes. “And the nearby Knoch Knolls Nature Center is a fun stop for kids and adults.”

Greene Valley Forest Preserve to Warrenville Historical Society 

As a member of the Downers Grove Bicycle Club for the past 10 years, Susan Hayse has worked out a number of favorite routes across the western suburbs, but one of her go-to options has long been this roughly 12-mile street/trail combo trip over parts of the DuPage River Trail north through downtown Naperville. 

“This route is good for new riders, good for families with older children, and fun for experienced riders looking for a ‘rest’ day,” she says. “And Naperville offers plenty of nice spots for refreshments along the way!”

Waubonsie Creek Trail

Despite having biked over 100,000 miles in his lifetime, it’s extremely rare for Ed Barsotti to load up his bike on the car and drive somewhere for the sole purpose of going for a ride—almost all of his rides tend to start and end at his house, thus dictating his “favorite” routes. But portions of several of those favorites do take the chief programs officer of Ride Illinois ( on popular area trails, including this almost-daily trip:

“My favorite route is a short 7.2-mile round trip, six miles of which are on the Waubonsie Creek Trail in Aurora,” Barsotti says. “I ride it at the end of my work day at the home office, or for a short ride on weekend days when I don’t go for a longer ride somewhere else. I ride this trail five times a week, and maybe three times per week during winter (when it’s not covered by snow). Over 17 years, I’ve probably been on the trail over 3,000 times.”

Springbrook Prairie

Other Area Favorites

Springbrook Prairie

Don’t be fooled by the seeming ease of the six-mile crushed-gravel loop—several challenging uphill stretches help turn this short-distance ride into a really decent fall workout.

Fox River Trail

The portion of this 43-mile trail that hugs the river and passes through Batavia, Geneva, and St. Charles offers ample opportunities to stop for a relaxing coffee—or, better yet, a cone at the iconic Batavia Creamery. 

Illinois Prairie Path

The mother of all area rails-to-trails efforts is this 61-mile, three-county behemoth skirting Naperville’s northernmost sections and connecting to dozens of nearby (and not-so-nearby) communities.

Photos courtesy Will County Forest Preserve and by Chuck Berman/Chicago Tribune