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Looking for paved trails for road bikes away from the city

My wife and I just got into cycling and purchased a Trek 1.1 and Trek Lexa C.  We also tow our 3 small dogs in a trailer.  Last weekend, we rode the North Branch Trail and loved it.  We have a few vacation days coming up and want to take a short road trip somewhere with great paved trail riding similar to North Branch Trail.  Would love your recommendations on trails (10+ miles) that are within 3-4 hours drive from downtown Chicago.  

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Fox River and Virgil Gilman trails are both scenic, easy to ride and in good to excellent condition.

http://www.foxvalleyparkdistrict.org/files/u11/fox_river_trail.pdf

I second the Fox River Trail. Very pretty with lots of places to stop for lunch or ice cream. 

The Salt Creek Trail down by Brookfield is very nice to ride although it's a bit disconnected. The North Channel Trail is nice as well and you won't need to drive to it if you live on the north side. It starts just north of Lawrence and Francisco. 

Thanks for the suggestions!  What about places even further like by Wisconsin?  We may drive up there and stay at a hotel for a night or two.

The first twelve miles or so of the Glacial Drumlin Trail west of Waukesha are paved.  But that requires purchasing a trail pass and most of it's uphill leaving town.  Coming back down would be nice, though.

I've ridden up by Lake Geneva before and there's some nice road riding up there. But not sure what trails are paved in that area. We took the Prairie Trail from the state line down to Crystal Lake and that is crushed limestone although quite smooth. The Prairie Trail becomes the Fox River Trail at Crystal Lake and is paved going south from there. 

Your original post mentioned that you and your wife are new to cycling. I'd suggest giving some crushed limestone a try once you're both a bit experienced on paved trails. There are a lot of pretty trails such as the Illinois Prairie Path that are crushed limestone but still just as smooth as fast rolling as pavement. 

Jacky Chau said:

Thanks for the suggestions!  What about places even further like by Wisconsin?  We may drive up there and stay at a hotel for a night or two.

There aren't that many long paved trails because its expensive.   So, if you want distance, pretty much, get used to crushed limestone or riding on regular roads.  Wisconsin has lots of really nice crushed limestone trails (Link to trails) The Badger State and Suger River trails in particular are nearby and have neat stuff along the way.  

Thank you for the Wisconsin link!  Best listing of trails so far with distance and road type in a nice easy to read grid (web application UX developer here).  I was reading a few forum posts on bikes.com that recommend staying away from crushed limestone with road bikes.  I will have to research that a little more.  Sugar River trails look really nice.  

You might want to get a little wider tire on your road bike for crushed limestone.  22 or 23 might have a little trouble.  25 should be OK.

If you're willing to travel as far as Lanesboro, MN ( 30 mi west of LaCrosse, WI) You can't go wrong on the the paved Root River Trail.  Lanesboro is the B&B capital MN. http://www.rootrivertrail.org/site/index.php  Plan to stay 3 or 4 days to explore.

There are several interesting paved trails near Des Moines:

North:  High Trestle  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Trestle_Trail
West and North west: Raccoon River Valley  http://raccoonrivervalleytrail.org/

If you decide to ride crushed stone, I highly recommend the Wisconsin trails.  In addition to the previously mentioned Sugar River Trail , check the Military Ridge Trail (Madison to Dodgeville) http://militaryridge-trail.org/  the Glacial Drumlin Trail (Madison to Waukeshaw) http://glacialdrumlin.com/  and the Elroy-Sparta Trail (Elroy to Sparta) http://www.elroy-sparta-trail.com/

Hennepin Canal path has limestone alternating with oiled and chipped.  The limestone is generally smoother, except when horses have been on it in recent wet conditions.

You might try the Interurban trail north of Milwaukee.  Haven't done it myself but friends have recently.  Port Washington is a charming town with a bike friendly Holiday Inn right by the lake -- and a good bike shop.  You could go north or south from there.  Here's a link:  http://www.traillink.com/trail/ozaukee-interurban-trail.aspx

If you are looking for a nice loop, Shoe Factory woods past Schaumburg is really nice.  Just shy of 10 miles and you can go at a leisurely pace or loop around with some speed.

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