Credit: Julia Thiel

North Shore Channel Trail

A person need trip over only so many stray volleyballs before it becomes clear that, on certain days, the lakefront is best avoided. Sure, on a Monday afternoon in January you’re free and clear to get in a run by the beach, but once it warms up every dog walker, hot-dog griller, and stroller pusher is out to make your workout more of an exercise in patience than, well, an exercise in exercise. Further north and south the path tends not to get as crowded as it does near North Avenue or Navy Pier. But if you’re in the mood for a different scene altogether, try the 6.5-mile riverside North Shore Channel Trail. It starts at Ronan Park, just north of Lawrence at Francisco, and snakes its north along the water from Albany Park through Lincolnwood and Skokie to its terminus at the Ladd Arboretum in Evanston. Underpasses allow riders and joggers to avoid most roadway crossings and enjoy sights like the Skokie Northshore Sculpture Park, which runs the length of McCormick Boulevard from Touhy to Dempster. Just don’t be tempted to take a dip after your run.