Running from Crown Point to Highland, then picking up again to the west at Wicker Park and running north through Hammond, the Erie Lackawanna Trail passes through wetlands and open space on an unusually wide, paved corridor. The northern section is a popular thoroughfare that lends green space to an urban landscape on this neighborhood rail-trail.
From Crown Point, head north from Summit Street, and very shortly you will come upon the first of many street crossings and convenient trailheads. You also will see one of the many makeshift community access points. The first is for the Pine Island neighborhood and provides residents convenient backyard access to the trail.
Near mile 4, a tunnel takes you under US Route 30, where the trail traffic increases. Here, you will notice one of the most unique characteristics of the trailspectacular inlaid tile markers and overhead signs bearing the Erie Lackawanna name. In a lovely combination of function and form, these elements double as fun and functional trail art.
At South Broad Street, the route briefly departs from the old railroad corridor. For about 0.8 mile, you follow a well-marked independent bike lane on city streets across seven active rail lines. Just before this detour, take a break at the convenient trailside shelter, which features picnic tables, restrooms and a tremendous Erie Lackawanna sign. The trail sign alone makes the visit worthwhile. Like an old railroad sign, this trail marker is elevated above the rail-trail.
The Hammond segment of the trail begins in Wicker Park. You can access it by heading from the northern terminus in Highland by heading west on Grand Boulevard (just south of the Highland terminus). This path leads under US 41 (S. Indianapolis Blvd); as of June 2011, this part is not paved but plans are underway to do so.
After passing under US 41, you arrive on a loop trail on the east side of Wicker Park. Turn right on this trail and follow it until you see the bridge going over the Little Calumet River. Take this crushed limestone trail over the river and follow it west along the levee until you see the paved trial to your right. This is the Hammond portion of the Erie Lackawanna Trail.
From here the trail skirts the north side of Cabela's and passes below I-80/94. The trail ends at Sibley Street in Hammond. Longer-range plans include linking this trail to other trail systems in the greater Chicago-land area.
If you choose to not link to the Hammond portion in Highland, the main Erie Lackawanna Trail continues just a little farther north to the Little Calumet River in Highland. Here a bridge takes you over the river to a nature trail in Optimist Park. Also near here is the Lake County Visitor Center, which features the John Dillinger Museum.
Parking and Trail Access
To access the Crown Point trailhead from State Route 55, take W. 93rd Avenue west. In about a half mile, when the road turns 90 degrees to the right, continue straight (do not turn right) to access trailhead parking. This is the preferred trail access point as it had public parking.
The Calumet City trailhead and parking is acessible by taking exit 71 off of I-94 onto State Route 83 (Sibley Blvd.) heading East. Go 3.1 miles just past the intersection with Hohman Ave. and the trailhead is on the left.
The Hammond trailhead can be found by taking exit 73 off of I-94 onto US Route 6 (159th St/River Oaks Dr.) heading East. After 4.25 miles take a left onto Howard Ave. the trailhead is on the left just after the turn.