Bike through the Neighborhoods of Chicago on The 606 Trail

Lots of hop-on and hop-off spots make it easy to explore the city's different neighborhoods

By Jamie Bartosch,

Chicago is a bike-friendly city, and the latest proof of that is the new 606 elevated bike path.

Paved, newly landscaped and well-lit at night, The 606 bike path goes above the car traffic and right alongside residences, over an arched bridge, near the el train and then past six area parks.

In these parks, you'll find resting spots and maybe even an art exhibit (cool graffiti art lines the path); a live concert; a playground; or a learning garden that describes the park's colorful native plantings.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel rides the new 606 bike path on opening day — Photo courtesy of The 606

The trail is only 15 feet above street level, so you can literally talk to people on the street below. And you get a clear view of the Chicago skyline, too.

With lots of entrance and exit ramps along the 2.7-mile path, it's easy to hop on and off and explore the neighborhoods. You can shop at boutiques or art galleries. Or sample locally crafted beers; a Costa Rican avena ("oatmeal") shake; or a freshly shaved Italian ice mixed with real fruit chunks, among other treats.

The path's dotted with dozens of great restaurants, serving everything from gourmet challah French toast to Mexican cemitas sandwiches.

The 606 is a new bike path that winds through Chicago's neighborhoods — Photo courtesy of The 606

The 606 trail starts four miles northwest of Millennium Park. It follows Bloomingdale Avenue (1800 N) between Ashland Avenue (1600 W) and Ridgeway Avenue (3750 W). It goes through the hipster/artsy Wicker Park and Bucktown neighborhoods and the quickly gentrifying Logan Square, plus the still up-and-coming Humboldt Park.

The path is named after the first three number of Chicago's zip code, but it's also known as the "Bloomingdale Trail," because it used to be the Bloomingdale line for the Canadian Pacific railway. The CP stopped using the train lines more than a decade ago, and the tracks had become abandoned and overgrown.

So a public-private venture converted it into a 10-foot-wide paved path. There's an additional two feet on each side, made with soft rubber, for walkers and runners. Dogs are welcome, too, as long as they're leashed.

You can access The 606 from the Blue Line L stop, or from the Kennedy Expressway, and then rent a bike there. If you're driving or biking, you can access it via Milwaukee Avenue or Elston Avenue's bike lanes.

The trail will be packed on nice-weather weekend days, and it's also crowded during 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays. So if possible, go early in the morning or on weekday afternoons.

Each park along The 606 offers different activities — Photo courtesy of The 606