The Run Down

We're catching big air and big eats for this guide. We start the day in Chicago's Southeast side at a former industrial site that's been converted into a 200+ acre nature area. We'll be wandering trails and spending time riding bikes over dirt jumps at a world-class bike park set inside this reclaimed industrial site. We end the trip with the most delicious donut you'll ever get your hands on.

1. Bike @ Big Marsh Park

2. Donuts @ Old Fashioned Donuts

1. Big Marsh Park

Not enough wonderful things can be said about the Chicago Park District. They manage over 8,100 acres of public green space in Chicago, and we’re all the better for it. One of their more recent projects is the opening of Big Marsh Park on Chicago’s Southeast Side. That’s where we start the day.

Before the Chicago Park District’s involvement, this entire area was an ecological disaster. It was used as an industrial waste dumping site, with part of the grounds filled with 8ft of slag, the byproduct of ore smelting operations that used to be prevalent in the area. The Park District bought the land in 2011, and after five years of environmental remediation, it’s now a public park with lots more development in the pipeline.

The easiest way to get here is by car, but there are a few bike or public transport options. Details on that are here.

If you were to just randomly drive in this area, you wouldn’t expect this park to be here. There are still remnants of industrial history in this area, but as soon as you turn into the park entrance, the park slowly opens up to reveal this beautiful gathering space. Next to the main gathering area is this brand-new asphalt pump track.  There are two different courses open for riders. Even if you aren’t a biker, we saw a mix of skaters, rollerbladers, and folks on all different types of bikes (BMX, mountain, and a few kids on Stryder bikes).

As you continue into the bike park, you’ll reach this path to a series of jump lines. You can ride your bike up this structure to get to the top of the dirt jumps. Here’s a shot from the top of the bridge and looking back. To keep you oriented, the park entrance is straight ahead, and the asphalt tracks are in the top left of this picture. Keep walking along the path, and you’ll get to the other side of the dirt jumps. Even if you aren’t going to partake yourself, it’s definitely fun to watch riders catch some air.  This rider was on the “medium” jump line. There’s a “large” jump line for riders looking to get maximum elevation. Keep walking past the jump lines, and you’ll eventually reach a looping trail that takes you to the park’s outer edges. You’ll get views like these where abandoned factories contrast natural areas.

For those dreaming of mountains in Chicago, the trail takes you across this giant hill. It’s actually a landfill with red clay and dirt capped over it. Eventually, the plan is to add that as part of the bike park with trails crossing down the side.

2. Old Fashioned Donuts

To finish our biking excursion, we’re a short drive to arguably the best classic glazed donut in Chicago. Actually, we’re not accepting any arguments against it. We’re making the call. This is the best glazed donut you can get.

For the past half-century, Burritt Bulloch, or Mr. B to customers, has used the same technique to mix, knead, and deep fry donuts. You don’t stay in business that long without creating something almost perfect. When you walk to the store, you’ll see Mr. B and his team prepping and frying away in the front window. It’s cool to see a master of his craft at work. These racks of donuts are constantly being prepared throughout the day, and chances are you’re going to get a fresh batch out of the fryer. There isn’t any seating inside, so pack them up and take these bad boys to go.