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The Erie Lackawanna Trail connects Crown Point and Hammond, two former rail junctions whose early fortunes were tied to the tracks carrying people and goods to and from Chicago. Despite traveling through the densely populated Chicago metropolitan area, the trail is bordered by green space and traverses wetlands and parks along the way.
The paved path follows a railroad corridor that had been in use since the late 1800s. Conrail was the last owner, ending the line in 1986, 10 years after acquiring it from the Erie Lackawanna Railway. The oldest parts of the trail date to the 1990s in Hammond, which was first to jump aboard the idea of a rail-trail on this corridor.
Beginning in Crown Point, your trailhead is less than a mile from the city’s most famous landmark, the jail (226 S. Main St.) from which 1930s bank robber John Dillinger escaped just months before he was cut down in a hail of gunfire by Chicago lawmen. Heading north from the trailhead, your first 2 miles pass mostly wood lots, a farm field, and a golf course before you arrive at the first street crossing.
Nearly 5 miles from Crown Point, you’ll cross Burr Street and reach another trailhead with facilities. The route enters unincorporated Lake County here, where the parks department mows only 10 feet on either side of the trail surface to ensure wildlife habitat farther out from the path. In this area, you'll see a spur off to your right, which is the Turkey Creek Trail. The paved route runs just shy of a mile through the breathtaking Ivan Gatlin Nature Preserve—well worth the quick side trip.
Back on the Erie Lackwanna, head a little farther north and you’ll come to another trailhead at South Arbogast Avenue. Here, you can link to the Oak Savannah Trail, which heads east to Hobart.
In another mile, you’ll arrive at the Griffith junction, where you’ll use South Broad Street to cross several sets of tracks. Before regaining the trail, look right to find Griffith Historical Park. The circa 1911 Grand Trunk Western Railroad depot and the 1924 brick tower that oversaw operations at the Broad Street crossing were relocated to the park. From here, the path enters the denser residential and commercial areas of the near-Chicago suburbs. Expect more street crossings.
At 3.7 miles past the Griffith interchange, you’ll arrive at a trail junction; a 0.7-mile, one-way spur to the right leads to the Indiana Welcome Center, while the main trail stays left and skirts a shopping district. Taking the underpass beneath I-94, you’ll be traveling on the older part of the trail that passes through the city of Hammond and ends in 3.8 miles.
The Hammond Civic Center is 2.9 miles past the interstate underpass. In 0.6 mile, the trail meets Lake County’s 4-mile Monon Trail, which heads south to Munster. Here, the combination of the Erie Lackawanna Trail, the Monon Trail, and the Little Calumet River Levee Trail forms a pleasant triangular loop of about 10 miles. The Erie Lackawanna Trail is also in close proximity to the Pennsy Greenway, which crosses into Illinois.
The Erie Lackawanna Trail ends at Sibley Street, but a connection north is being considered.
To reach the southern trailhead in Crown Point: From I-65, take Exit 249 to E. 109th Ave. toward Crown Point. Head west on E. 109th Ave., and go 0.7 mile. Turn right onto Broadway, and go 0.5 mile. Turn left onto E. Summit St. The trailhead is 1.6 miles ahead on the right.
To reach parking at the northern endpoint in Hammond: From I-94, take Exit 71B for IN 83/Sibley Blvd. Head east on Sibley Blvd., and go 3.1 miles, crossing Hohman Ave. Look for parking on the right for the Towle Community Theatre. The trail starts east of the parking lot.
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