301 S Columbus Dr
Chicago, IL 60605
Start: Buckingham Fountain, 301 S Columbus Dr, Chicago, IL 60605.
Meet: 9:30 am Friday morning; Depart: 10:00 am
Ride to and Overnight: Camp Shabbona Woods. 15810 S Torrence Ave, South Holland, IL, 60473.
Return to Chicago by Bike 4:30 pm Sunday afternoon
Registration comes with Guided Tour, Campsites, and food for all meals Friday dinner to Sunday lunch.
Bring your tent and camping gear on your bike.
Day 1: 24 Miles | Day 2: Exploration | Day 3: 24 miles
Ridership Level: Easy
All Are Welcome
Travel south over bridges, canals, and railroads to a hidden gem among the industrial past of Chicago: Camp Shabbona Woods. At twenty-four miles from downtown, this is an accessible low-stress ride, suitable for beginners and experienced riders. The route is almost entirely on bike paths or bike lanes that include the Lakefront Path, the new South Lake Shore Drive extension bike lanes, Calumet Park, Wolf Creek Park, and the Burnham Greenway.
The facilities at Shabonna Woods are excellent and amenities include the Sand Ridge Nature Center with animals, exhibits, and walking trails, as well as the Green Lake Aquatic Center across the street featuring a zero-entry pool for the little kids, a lazy river, and a water slide: campers get free admission.
We purchase and prepare meals communally. Participants will receive a sign-up sheet to coordinate and plan for group meals. Campsite features a fire pit with cooking grate, picnic tables, full-service bathrooms with showers, dining pavilions with electrical outlets for device charging, and camp store with concessions.
Two Night/Three Day Tent Campsite Reservation
Meals (Friday Dinner to Sunday Lunch)
Interpretative Trail Guides/Ride Leaders
Campfire & Camp Snacks
Your kid(s), bike, tent, sleeping bags, and gear
Friday lunch, water, kid-friendly snacks, and adult energy snacks
Bike lock, spare inner tubes, bike lights, & helmets
Personal Items and changes of clothes
If you love biking and camping but aren’t sure how to combine the two, we offer a supportive communal experience with accessible bike camping rides designed by fellow parents. Our goal is to help you and your kids go from riding in the neighborhood to riding in nature; we provide the organization, logistics, ride support, food, and community of family cyclists to make your first bike camping adventure fun, worry-free, and successful.
This ride is designated as EASY. That means it’s suitable for first-time bike campers or beginners and open to all. This is our most accessible and low-stress route departing from downtown Chicago.
This is a family ride; you should come if your are a parent/guardian with minor child(ren) who will accompany you. If you have a bike in good working order that can carry your kids and gear, can ride for twenty miles or more at a time, are up for a communal family adventure, and possess a positive attitude, then you can complete this ride.
Bring them! For this ride, we divide children into three different categories:
Full-time Passengers are children who ride on their parents’ bicycles for the entirety of the route. We’ve had kids as young as 9 months and as old as 9 years be full-time passengers. You’ll want a bike seat, trailer, or cargo bike to carry these kids.
Little Kid Riders are part-time passengers on their parents’ bikes and part-time riders of their own bikes. There is a designated 4.5-mile Little Kid Rider Segment designed to let them ride on the safest easiest section. Little Kid Riders are usually age five to eight, typically riding bikes with wheels up to 20”, who can keep a pace of at least 5-6 mph for up to five miles (think Kidical Mass). When not riding the 4.5 mile Little Kid Rider Segment, these children and their bikes are carried by their parents. You’ll want a tow hitch and/or cargo bike to carry these kids and their bikes.
Big Kid Riders are full-time riders who plan to ride the whole 24 miles. They are usually age 8 or older, ride a bike with 20” tires or bigger, have previous experience doing 20+ mile rides, and can keep a pace of 10-12 mph (think Critical Mass). Prior long ride (20+ mile) experience is required for Big Kid Riders. (Join us on a Family Day Ride to get your Big Kid Rider in shape!)
This ride is categorized as easy. It features a lovely mostly off-street bike path route with a designated section for Little Kid Riders. Please see custom map here.
Generally, from downtown we follow the Lakefront Path, the John Beniac Greenway, and the Burnham Greenway. The distance is about 24 miles from our start at Buckingham Fountain to Camp Shabbona Woods. We will have regular stops for water and bathrooms as well as a lunch stop on the way.
The Little Kid Rider segment is 4.5 miles and will start on Friday after lunch at Calumet Park and continue to Wolf Lake Park – all on off-street paths with occasional street crossings.
We expect the whole ride to take four to five hours including breaks.
Bike camping offers a total sensory experience, where the journey is as important as the destination. It’s like backpacking by bike; you carry your camping gear and kid(s) with you on your bicycle. With this adventure, we offer families - beginners and experts alike - an opportunity to experience bike camping beyond the city.
Family rides usually have a 1:5 guide to participant ratio to ensure a safe and smooth experience. Guides will have a bike tool kit, an air pump, a presta/schrader valve adapter, tire lever, chain breaker, and a crescent wrench (for those older bikes), a multi-toolkit, lights, and an emergency packet. Our guides will help you with any needed repairs. *If you have any of the above items please bring them along at your own convenience.
Our guides work with historians, biologists, forest rangers, and leading people in their fields to deliver a one-of-a-kind story to remember. They have setup multiple break points along the way in all the right places to ensure you and your kids can go the distance. If this is your first time out on a long ride, you’ll be surprised by how far you and your children can actually go.
“What an AMAZING weekend!!! Thank you all for always stepping up to help, even when I didn’t ask for it. I couldn’t have gotten through the trip without every one of you - and your fabulous kiddos! It was great to meet other active, adventurous families. Thanks for making our first family bike camping trip absolutely PERFECT!!!”
“I loved that I really thought I was not going to be able to do it when there where like 10 miles to get to the campsite and I did it. I loved the feeling of being part of a community where everyone took care of each other.”
“It was our kids' first time camping and they were so excited about sleeping in a tent! The ride/hike to the beach on Saturday was super fun too. I loved the way everyone looked out for each other and worked together."
Adult tickets are $65.
Child tickets are $45.
Tickets include a two-night group tent campsite rental, ride marshals, food for all meals from Friday dinner to Sunday lunch, guided activities, trip planning, firewood, and s’mores.
Participants bring their own tents, sleeping bags, clothing, and other gear.
We purchase food and prepare meals communally Friday dinner through Sunday lunch. Participants will receive a sign-up sheet to coordinate and plan for group meals and shared cooking equipment.
See an example meal calendar here. Campsites feature a fire pit with cooking grate and picnic tables. We will also use camping stoves and pots to cook. Family-style cooking fosters community and becomes a real highlight of the trip.
It’s up to you to get to the start point however you can. A few options: 1) store your bike and gear near the start/end point in another participant's garage before and after the ride; 2: haul your bike and kids onto the closest CTA train to get to the start point - be aware of rush-hour bike restrictions and elevators that are too small; 3) meet the group on the route. Please confirm prior to the ride with the organizers for either of those scenarios.
Yes! Check out a sample packing list here. If you already own camping equipment, you can use what you have. However, if you’re looking to invest, buy gear intended for backpacking; it’s lighter and more packable than car camping equipment.
Don’t own any camping equipment? Our two Cook County Forest Preserve destinations (Camp Dan Beard and and Camp Shabbona Woods) all rent camping gear. See here for more details. Out Our Front Door now also partners with the Chicago Park District to rent gear free of charge. Let us know what you need and we may be able to arrange a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, camp stove, etc.
No. There is no SAG vehicle. Participants transport themselves, their kids, plus tent and gear to the campsite on their bike. That’s what makes it bike camping! Please pack lightly and find a way to load your bike with your family’s essentials.
No. We will make every effort to put the event on and would only cancel in the event of biblical extreme weather or the zombie apocalypse (in which case, we’d all be furiously peddling with the other bike-powered preppers anyway). We strongly suggest you bring rain gear (especially for the kids as they get much colder faster when not pedaling) and if it looks like rain, garbage bags double wrapped over your gear with some tape where necessary can good-enough waterproof almost anything.
If you would like to rent a cargo bike suitable for hauling kids and gear on one of our rides, please contact Four Star Family Cyclery. The owner, Elsbeth Cool, is a veteran family bike campout participant, and can talk you through what might work best for your needs.
Cargo bikes, especially longtails, are perfect for bike camping. However, whatever you already have will likely work. Can your bike comfortably haul you, your stuff, and your kid(s) if they don’t ride yet? Bring it! Check the event description for more information on the route and terrain.
See some photos and videos here from our past trips for examples and inspiration on what other family bike campers ride. Your solution could be as simple as adding a new-to-you trailer to your regular bike to haul your kid(s) and gear.
Past participants have done family bike campouts on bakfietsen, longtails, midtails, adult bikes with trailers, recumbent tricycles, and all sorts of standard adult bikes.
We’re family and we’re cyclists and we are here to help. We will have dedicated ride marshals in the group who will make simple repairs and help you out in any type of breakdown in order to get you rolling again.
This is frontcountry camping, which means we’re never that far from a bike shop if things get serious.
We aim for no rider left behind! If you can keep pedaling and have a positive attitude, we won't leave you. We will lash kid bikes on a cargo bike, squeeze children on/into another cargo bike, rotate a pair of fresh kid legs on their bike while they catch a ride, take breaks, etc. Plus, we ride slowly, usually 8-12 mph. Most routes feature a designated kid-friendly section where the little pedalers can safely ride.
If you just can't complete the ride, bug out options include Metra, CTA, rideshare and phone a friend, depending on location.
Yes! For 2019, there are five family bike campouts: Dan Beard, Shabbona Woods (twice), Blackwell, and Indiana Dunes.
We also now offer Family Day Rides of 10-20 miles. This is a great way for you and your kids to go on longer rides to build strength, endurance, and know-how without the pressure of having to bring all the camping gear. Check out our upcoming ride schedule for a day ride near you.
Shorter neighborhood rides are organized by Chicago Family Biking and take place in a dozen Chicago neighborhoods and suburbs. They all feature kid-friendly routes - usually 2-4 miles total - and often have fun themes and destinations.
The Chicago Family Biking Community is a wonderful resource to talk all things bikes, kids, routes, and gear with fellow Chicagoland parents.
Adventures create memories that last a lifetime so be prepared to have some fun and bring your swimwear. Even if we’re not going to the beach, there’s likely a pool along the way.
Buckingham Fountain in downtown Chicago (301 S Columbus Dr, Chicago, IL 60605). Restrooms and water are available by the Fountain.
Individual/Participant Cancellations: No Refunds. No Transfers. | We are a small organization and due to the small group size of our rides, a ticket cancellation/no show has a real impact into the planning of the tour and as such, we cannot provide any refunds for a participant cancellation. By registering you acknowledge and agree there will not be a refund if you cancel or do not show up for the event. Tickets are non-transferable and can not be resold. Please contact the ride organizer if you are no longer able to attend.
Organizer Cancellation: Full Refund. | Nobody wants an event to be cancelled. But in the very rare case the organizer does cancel the event at their discretion due to unforeseen circumstances, then registered participants will receive a full refund. To date this organizer has never cancelled an event.
Weather and Rain: We do not cancel an event for rain or a storm. | We ride rain or shine. Understand that Chicago weather is typically passing, if it gets intense we will wait it out in a provided shelter then continue biking. FYI-Some of the best views and greenery are after a rain storm.
We're the Out Our Front Door Organization, a Bike Camping Community For Chicago and The Lower Lake Michigan Basin. Learn more about the people behind these all-volunteer adventures here. Want to help? Fill out this form, meet us at one of our monthly hangouts, and join us on a bike overnight.
We provide exploratory adventures by immersing and educating in the history, architecture and the uniquely beautiful natural habitats of the Lower Lake Michigan Basin Area, including Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan.Drop us a friendly visit at: www.outourfrontdoor.org
"Established in 2015, we are an all volunteer non-profit organization that immerses, educates, and preserves the history, culture, trails, and native habitats of the Lower Lake Michigan Basin Area through exploratory adventures. "
The Out Our Front Door Organization. Founded in 2015
Visit us at: www.outourfrontdoor.org