Run Chicago’s Lakefront Trail

Illinois Lakefront Trail - Chicago, IL

Added by Nicole Darian

Run just steps away from Lake Michigan on your left, and the city skyline on your right.

Chicago – the third largest city in the US and home to the deep dish pizza – doesn’t exactly scream “outdoorsy.” In reality, there is much more to Chicago than skyscrapers; there are dozens of parks, outdoor music venues, and the city is right on Lake Michigan, making it very easy on the eyes. Being right on the lake, there are several stunning running trails that everyone should check out the next time you’re in the area. Here is your guide to the Lakefront Trail.

The running trails ultimately begin in Evanston, the first suburb north of Chicago, but if you want an even better view closer to downtown, then begin on Belmont Harbor and keep running south. Accessing the trail can be a bit tricky by car, but the easiest way if you’re driving south on Lake Shore Drive is to take the Belmont exit, and take advantage of the street parking in the Lakeview neighborhood. After parking, head east towards the lake and there are several tunnels that will take you under or over Lake Shore Drive so you won’t have to worry about crossing the busy highway. Another place to put your car would be the Chicago Yacht Club parking lot just south of Belmont Harbor, again, accessing it via the Belmont exit off of Lake Shore Drive.

If you continue on the Lakefront Trail south, you will run through huge parks with beautiful greenery and the lake to your left. After 2 miles, you will hit Diversey Harbor which turns into the South Lagoon (it looks like a river on a map). Continue south and you will run into the Lincoln Park Zoo, which you can choose to take a detour and walk through (for free), or continue on the trail closer to the lake. The view of the skyline starts becoming extremely visible from this area. Only steps away from the zoo is North Avenue Beach, a historic beach on Lake Michigan. Continue 1 mile south and you will be only inches away from the water, and you will run into Oak Street Beach, where the view is absolutely unbeatable.

If you want an even better view in the heart of the city, continue for 1.2 miles south, and you will approach Chicago’s famous Navy Pier. There are several parks along the pier and lookout points of the complete skyline, as well as the water.

If the view of the city and water hasn’t been enough yet, access E. Grand St. by heading west, and make a left on the Lakefront Trail (stay left of N. Lake Shore Drive) and keep heading south. You will first see Dusable Harbor on your left, and if you continue south, you’ll see Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park to your right. Now you’re finally in the heart of the city with endless skyscrapers about a half a mile to your right. Pass Grant Park (where Lollapalooza takes place every year) and keep running south until you hit the Shedd Aquarium to your right. You are now officially on the south side of Chicago and there are endless smaller trails in this area to explore. Don’t forget to snap a picture on this side of the city as well, the view will never get old!

In total, the route from Belmont Harbor to the Shedd Aquarium is about 6.7 miles, but you can begin even further north, and continue even further south if you’d like. This route, however, is the most used, and you will have the best views of the city here.

Pack List

  • Running shoes
  • Long sleeve shirt if chilly
  • Water bottle if necessary
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Cycling, Running

Skill Level:



Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



6.7 Miles



Picnic Area

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about 1 year ago

Great views of the city, good place to get a way from it all but still close...and when the weather is great, you'll see some characters

about 1 year ago

Added by Nicole Darian

Born and raised in Chicago, you can find me taking advantage of living steps away from Lake Michigan, exploring new foodie joints, and planning my next adventure. I’m always up for anything and trying something new!

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