The Lakefront Trail is one of Chicago’s best attractions. It runs north and south parallel and to the east of Lake Shore Drive. You can walk it, skate it, bike it or use Divvy bikes along the way. And the best part is it’s FREE. From north to south it’s 18.5 miles. The south portion is approximately 8 miles.
Keep in mind the trail is very crowded on weekends with walkers, runners, leisure and professional bikers, inattentive texters, dogs and strollers, etc. South of the Museum Campus the trail is much less crowded. Below are things to see and links to things to see along the trail or adjacent to the trail. Check out this Chicago Park District guide also (it takes forever to load). If you’re interested in heading north check out Exploring Chicago’s Lakefront Trail North.
So put on some comfortable shoes, grab the sunscreen and some bottles of water and enjoy.
Navy Pier to DuSable Harbor 1/2 mile
Walk south from the end of Illinois Street, turn left, following the signs to the Lakefront Trail and cross over the Chicago River on the Lake Shore Drive Bridge.
DuSable Harbor to Monroe Harbor 1/2 mile
Continue south. The big boat you’re passing is Columbia Yacht Club. No public facilities available.
Monroe Harbor/Chicago Yacht Club (400 E Monroe St, (312) 742-7643).
If you get off the trail at Monroe and cross LSD you will be at the south end of the new Maggie Daley Park. Free things to do at Maggie Daley Park. If you continue west on Monroe and cross Columbus Drive you will be at the south end of Millennium Park. Here are Free things to do at Millennium Park, Take a free tour of the Lurie Garden or a Free Art Tour of Grant Park. You cannot ride your bike in the parks.
The Modern Wing entrance to the Art Institute of Chicago (111 S Michigan Ave., 312-443-3600) is across Monroe from the Lurie Garden. Admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is free to Illinois residents every Thursday evening from 5-8pm. Children under age 14 are always free. Divvy Station: north east corner of Monroe and Michigan.
Exit strategy: head further west to Michigan Avenue to catch a bus.
Monroe Harbor to Jackson Blvd 1/3 mile
Continue south. If you want to take a closer look at Buckingham Fountain, (301 S. Columbus Dr. (312) 742-7529), you should get off the path and cross LSD at Jackson Blvd. The fountain is on the left.
Jackson Blvd to Museum Campus 9/10 mile
There are limited Free days at the Museums. Entrance fees can be very expensive. The best way to save at least 50% on admission to multiple museums and attractions is by purchasing either CityPass: Access to five Chicago Attractions on the Cheap or Go Chicago Card: see top attractions on the cheap.
Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S Lake Shore Dr, 312-939-2438
Adler Planetarium, 1300 S Lake Shore Dr., 312-922-7827
Field Museum, 1400 S Lake Shore Dr., 312-922-9410
If you skip entering the Museums you can check out 12th Street Beach, (1200 S Linn White Dr, Solidarity Drive and Linn White Drive, (773) 742-5121). This beach is nestled on the northern end of Northerly Island Park just behind the Adler Planetarium on Chicago’s Museum Campus. It has a beach house, restrooms, and a concession Del Campo Tacos.
You will also be at Burnham Harbor, 1559 S Lake Shore Dr, (312) 747-7009. There are public restrooms here but this is a private club.
If you take a whirl around Soldiers Field look for this public art:
- American Doughboy, Near Gate O, Soldier Field
- Balbo Monument, East of S. Museum Campus Drive, south of E. McFetridge Drive, west of Lakefront Trail
- Gold Star Families Memorial and Park, East of S. Museum Campus Drive on axis with Soldier Field
- Soldier Field Children’s Garden, Northeast of Soldier Field, south of E. McFetridge Drive
- Special Olympics Memorial, Near Gate 15, Soldier Field
- Tribute to Freedom, North entrance to Soldier Field, south of E. McFetridge Drive
- Tribute to George Halas, Near Gate 15, Soldier Field
Field Museum to Northerly Island 7/10 mile
Just south of the Museum Campus is Northerly Island. Free things to do at Northerly Island
Catch the Shoreline Water taxi at the northwest of the Shedd Aquarium to Navy Pier
Public art: Chicago Firefighter Paramedic Memorial, Southeast of McCormick Place Lakeside Center, adjacent to Lakefront Trail.
Museum Campus to Museum of Science and Industry(MSI) 6 miles
There is no where to get off the trail until the MSI. You will have to ride the whole six miles.
The area south of McCormick Place (2200S) and west of the Lakefront Trail all the way up to Hyde Park (5100S) is economically challenged. Exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings. People ride and jog this stretch all the time and it is rare for attacks and robberies to occur.
The following areas are reasonably safe:
- Roosevelt Road (1200S) known as Central Station with all the high rise residential development
- 18th Street (1800S) known as the Prairie Avenue District
- immediately adjacent to McCormick Place (2200S/Cermak)
- McCormick Bird Sanctuary (2400S) You can walk through or look at the prairie area below from a viewing platform.
31st Street Beach/31st Street Harbor, 3100 S Lake Shore Dr,31st Street and Lake Shore Drive, (312) 742-5121. This beach has a beach house, restrooms, and a food concession stand Pier 31. It’s part of Burnham Park. There is a Divvy Station at 31st street but there is no way to catch public transit back to the Loop.
- Burnham Wildlife Corridor: This 100 acre area located within Burnham Park has a new hiking trail separate from the Lakefront Trail. It’s a 2.2 mile strip of land with a mulched hiking path located east of LakeShore Drive from the McCormick Bird Sanctuary to Oakwood Boulevard (3900S).
- Always exercise caution when venturing into isolated and wooded areas away from other people. Burnham Wildlife Corridor map
- From Oakwood Boulevard the path moves west of Lake Shore Drive and is sandwiched between railroad tracks and the Drive. The path passes through a newly constructed bird and butterfly sanctuary terminating at 47th Street. The sanctuary provides habitat enhancement and includes native prairie and woodland plants that attract migrating birds and butterflies.
Check out the following public art along the way:
- Caracol, South of McCormick Place Bird Sanctuary 2400 S. LSD at Lakefront.
- Set in Stone, South of Oakwood West of LSD, 4000 S. LSD
- La Ronda Parakata, South of 35th Street East of LSD, 3600 S. LSD at Lakefront
- Sounding Bronzeville, South of 35th St. West of LSD, 4200 S. LSD
- Sankofa for the Earth, South of th 43rd St Walking Bridge, West of LSD – 4400 S. LSD
Oakwood Beach, 4100 S Lake Shore Dr, Oakwood Boulevard and Lake Shore Drive, (312) 742-5121. This beach has a beach house and restrooms. Hyde Park Lake Shore Cafe, 4900 S Lake Shore Dr, (773) 288-5815. There are no Divvy Stations at 41st street.
Public art: Mermaid, near E. 41st Street and Lake Michigan
Just before 57th Street to the east is Promontory Point Park which has spectacular views of the city.
Public art: Wallach Fountain, Near 55th Street, east of underpass leading to Promontory Point
57th Street Beach, 5700 S Lake Shore Dr, 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive, (312) 742-5121. This beach has a beach house, restrooms, and food concession stand Tasty Grill (no website).
Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S Lake Shore Dr., 773-684-1414 is located at the north end of Jackson Park. Jackson Park totals 542.89 acres. The park offers three harbors, 63rd St. Beach, basketball/tennis courts, multi-purpose fields, a golf course, golf driving range and an artificial turf field. Green features of the park include Wooded Island – which includes the Japanese styled Garden of the Phoenix. Bobolink Meadows, and a vegetable and flower garden. Jackson Park is the future home of the Obama Presidential Center.
The area surrounding Jackson Park is Woodlawn. You can ride into Hyde Park at 51st (Hyde Park Boulevard), 53rd Street, 57th Street and 59th Streets (Midway Plaisance). Hyde Park is a beautiful area with tree lined streets, historic homes, and gothic and modern University of Chicago buildings.
The trail extends past the MSI to 79st Street.Map
- 63rd Street Beach, 6300 S Lake Shore Dr, Lake Shore Dr and Hayes Dr, (312) 742-5121. This beach has a beach house, restrooms, sports equipment for rent and three food concessions The Leaf Bar & Grill, Gussie’s, and Leave with a Smile (no websites). A spray pool area and the play equipment are located at the beach house.
- South Shore Beach, 7059 S South Shore Drive, 71st Street and South Shore Drive, (773) 256-0149.South Shore Beach is part of the South Shore Cultural Center. This facility features a solarium, formal dining hall, Paul Robeson Theater, Washburne Culinary Institute, the Parrot Cage Restaurant, and the Dr. Margaret Burroughs gallery.
- The site is a 65-acre park with a 9 hole golf course, tennis courts and a circular beach house with restrooms and showers. The beach house is located just to the east of the Cultural Center on the beach.
- The site is also home to the Chicago Police Department’s mounted unit. South Shore also has a nature sanctuary with sand dunes, a small wetland, the prairie landscape, woodland and a variety of wildlife in the area.
- Rainbow Beach, 3111 E 77th St, 79th Street and South Shore,(312) 745-1479. This beach has a beach house, restrooms, free wifi, a playground, and food concession Lamont Puckett (no website). This beach is 60.98 acres and includes 9.18 acres of dune habitat. It has a gym, fitness center, handball courts, and one of the oldest community gardens in Chicago.
- Calumet Beach, 9801 S Avenue G, 100th Street and Avenue G,(312) 747-6039. This beach has a beach house, restrooms, and three food options Concession Salgado, La Chapparitta, and Lucy’s Concessions(no websites).