As its name implies, the beautiful PrairieDuneland Trail offers snapshots of the flora and faunafrom hardwood forest to remnant prairie grasslandsthat once dominated this region. In spite of the rapid development of the south Chicago suburbs spilling into northwest Indiana, this trail ensures the preservation of these invaluable pockets of land. The trail also offers a classic rail-trail experience, with a long, level grade and a 10-foot-wide asphalt surface suitable for bicycles and inline skates (and cross-country skis in winter). It's also ADA accessible.
Starting in Chesterton, the trail makes its way toward Portage and on west to Hobart, passing well-manicured subdivisions. The sights and signs of town life begin to fade away just 1.5 miles into the ride, when you enter a lightly forested area with farm fields interspersed along the way. In between, and in some cases intermingled with, these areas you will encounter remnants of tall-grass prairie environments. In several sections, a veritable tunnel of vegetation envelops the trail, with the dense forest canopy creating a lush passageway.
Coming out of one such section at just past 3 miles, you encounter a 130-plus-foot bridge that travels over State Route 149 and takes you into the section of trail through Portage. The next stretchapproximately 2 milestakes you through an area crossing a small creek drainage as well as a couple streets.
Near mile 5, backyards and residential subdivisions begin to dominate the landscape. After the trail passes beneath Interstate 80, it travels through another pocket of forest. The remaining 5-mile stretch to the trail's end at SR 51 in Hobart is bordered mostly by neatly kept backyards.
In Portage, the trail connects to the 5-mile Iron Horse Heritage Trail
. In the future, the Prairie-Duneland Trail will link with other trails, including the Oak Savannah Trail
, to form the Lake Michigan Heritage Greenway and connect communities all along the south shore of Lake Michigan. This system will cross three counties and stretch more than 40 miles from Hammond, Indiana, to Michigan City, Indiana.
To access the eastern trailhead on S. Jackson Avenue in Chesterton, take Interstate 94 to SR 49 and head south for 1.25 miles. Turn right on Porter Avenue and go 1.5 miles. Turn right onto S. 15th Street and turn left on W. Morgan Avenue after 0.2 mile. After 0.1 mile, turn right on S. Jackson and look for the trailhead on the right.
To reach the trailhead in Hobart, take I-94 to SR 51 (Ripley Street/Adam Benjamin Highway), and head south for 3.25 miles. (SR 51 changes names twice in this short distance: first Randolph Street then Hobart Road). The trailhead is on the left of Hobart Road, just before the intersection of Hobart Road and Cleveland Avenue.