cyclingMuch of the original alignment of the legendary Mother Road, which carried cars from Chicago to California, has been designated as part of the Route 66 Trail and is just a small part of the thousands of miles of bike routes in Illinois.

Whether you are planning an epic bike tour of the state or just want a leisurely ride with family, Illinois is home to a route that will meet the needs of any bicyclist. This excellent map, put together by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, shows the breadth of the state’s bicycling infrastructure.

Some highlights:

• Chicago Lakefront Trail: Beginning at the South Shore Golf Course at 71st Street and meandering north for 18 miles, this trail parallels Lake Michigan and passes by some of Chicago’s most famous attractions, such as the Museum of Science and Industry, Grant Park, Navy Pier and many others, before its northern terminus at Lane Beach.

• Illinois Prairie Path: One of the first so-called rail-trail conversions, by which bike paths are built in abandoned railroad corridors, the IPP is a series of trails that converge in suburban Wheaton. Branches then head east to Maywood, northwest to Elgin and southeast to Aurora.

• Constitution Trail: So named for its dedication on the 200th birthday of the U.S. Constitution, this series of mostly interconnected routes spans 36 miles through Bloomington-Normal. It connects the campuses of Illinois State University and Heartland Community College with the more residential parts of the twin cities. Portions of Constitution Trail are also used as part of the Route 66 Trail.

• Sam Vadalabene Great River Road Trail: This trail begins in Pere Marquette State Park and heads southeast toward Alton. It parallels the Illinois River to the confluence with the Mississippi River at Grafton and then follows the Mississippi past some astonishing river bluffs and locations with frequent bald eagle sightings. The trail culminates in the huge Piasa Bird painting on the southern terminus near Alton, where it connects with several other trails in the Madison County Trails network.

• Tunnel Hill State Trail: Boasting nearly two dozen former railroad trestles and its eponymous, 543-foot-long tunnel, this trail runs 56 miles through far southern Illinois. It also features marshlands, bluffs, numerous small towns and a long look at the Shawnee National Forest.

Learn more
TrailLink: This is an indispensible resource for bike enthusiasts. It features a searchable database for bike paths all over the country, with maps, pictures and user reviews.

Illinois Department of Transportation: IDOT is actively seeking to include bicycles in its long-term transportation plan.