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First-time visitors to the Oak Savannah Trail might be surprised at the profusion of natural areas they’ll encounter as they travel the 9.5 miles between Hobart and Griffith in northern Indiana’s Chicago metropolitan area.
The paved path follows the old Porter Branch of the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway, whose main line made a semicircle around Chicago to avoid that city’s congested rail yards. The Griffith to Hobart line, first opened in 1888, later pushed out to Porter. In its prime, the railroad carried grain, meat, fruit, vegetables, and coal. Rail service in the corridor ended in 1984.
The trail, together with the Prairie Duneland Trail in the east, serves as a backbone in northwestern Indiana’s trail network. US Bicycle Route 36 runs the length of the two trails on its way between Chicago and the Michigan border.
Beginning on Hobart Street, at the western end of the Prairie Dunland Trail in Hobart, you’ll soon pass through the 300-acre Hobart Prairie Grove section of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The route takes you to the edge of Lake George here, an excellent fishing spot for bass and crappie. The lake is also home to a permanent population of geese, ducks, and ring-billed gulls. From the trail bridge, you can walk onto platforms overlooking the lily pad–covered neck of the lake between the lake’s larger main bodies.
The next few miles of trail beyond the lake travel west through oak savanna ecosystems. Shortly, you emerge at another lake at John Robinson Park, where you may want to take a rest in the small field of grass along the lakefront.
After the I-65 underpass, the path enters a more urban setting with several road crossings; an underpass below busy Broadway in Gary makes that crossing much easier. In a couple of blocks, you return to the quiet forest and prairie that dominate the trail. After passing a large private fishing club, you will see the end of the county airport runway, just west of the corridor.
Here, a very dense forest marks the entrance of Oak Ridge Prairie Park. At more than 200 acres, most of the park represents former farmland that has been restored to oak savanna prairie. Just beyond the park, in Griffith, the trail connects to the Erie Lackawanna Trail, which rolls between Crown Point and Hammond.
To reach the eastern trailhead in Hobart: From I-94, take Exit 15 or 15A and merge onto southbound US 6/Ripley St. Travel 3.5 miles, continuing south as US 6 becomes N. Hobart Ave. On your left, just before the Hobart Rd, & E Cleveland Ave. intersection, you will find a trailhead with parking.
If you want to park in the center of town, beginning from Hobart Road at E. Cleveland Ave., turn right, traveling west on Cleveland 0.6 mile until you reach a fork in the road. Veer left, toward the railroad tracks, onto Front St. In 0.2 mile, turn left onto Main St. and continue heading southeast on Main 0.5 mile until E. Seventh St. Turn right onto Seventh St. and travel two blocks, then take a left onto Lake St. A parking lot will appear on your left in a small city park; the trail runs right through the park.
To reach the parking in Oak Ridge Prairie Park on the west end of the trail: From I-94, take Exit 6 for Burr St. Head south on Burr 1.4 miles, and turn right onto W. Ridge Road. Go 0.5 mile and turn left onto N. Colfax St. Go 2.2 miles and turn left into the entrance for Oak Ridge Prairie Park and look for parking, or go 2.9 miles (Colfax becomes S. Arbogast Ave.) and look for parking on the right.
Twice in one week a parked train in between Colfax and Hendricks blocked the Oak Savannah trail near the Oak Ridge Prairie. It doesn’t even look like there’s an engine hooked up to it. Riding home from Chesterton is very fusterating when the trail is blocked. The triail from OakRidge Prarie to Chesterton is a beautiful ride but the parked trains make it useless.
I really liked riding on this trail! Nice scenery, not crowded, a joy. I will ride this trail again when I come back to this area.
I live in Hobart and use this trail on a weekly basis to connect with the Erie Lackawanna trail South to Crown Point. It's a great trail and the tarmac is smooth. There are some heavily wooded areas so you have to watch for sticks after a windy day. On occasion there can be a lot of broken glass through the Gary section under Broadway but recently it hasn't been bad at all.
I started my trek in Hobart at the trailhead off Hobart Rd. and headed west. This trail has some nice scenery with a mixture of forest, prairie and neighborhoods. We detoured a bit in downtown Hobart. Along the river there is a great park and you can ride a path along the river front. Very nice. Back to the Oak Savannah trail. The trail is in good condition. Asphalt is always a treat. As other riders have pointed out, there are some stretches where not everyone would feel safe. By my estimate, it is about a two mile stretch. Nowadays, there is so much tension that I found myself watching my surroundings much more than I normally would. Although I never felt threatened, I was on higher alert. So, it is unlikely I will return to the trail as when I am out for a bike ride, I do not want to have to waste energy having to be overly aware of my surroundings. As others have pointed out, this is a personal matter and some may not be at all concerned. If you don't think the above would be an issue for you, the trail is very nice so give it a try.
Worth the ride. Smooth well maintained trail from Griffith to Hobart.
While my husband was visiting my sister and I took a ride on the OST. Very well maintained and completely paved. Be careful crossing the streets at certain areas we even we're almost run over by a rude police officer. Most motorists don't care if your in the crosswalk they don't stop. There are two tunnels and one bridge over busy streets. Overall people on the trail were friendly and conditions really good. We felt safe even though we weren't from the area. We rode back to our hotel from the parking area we started from a distance of about 3 miles. Not much shoulder to ride on and had a few busy areas if you attempt just be careful of the rude motorists
The east end of the trail (Hobart) on the map needs a little updating. The trail now goes though most of Hobart without sharing the street...Only a short section (perhaps a block) and not very busy.
The west end of the trail (Oakridge Prairie Park) still ends at the park. You must still traverse Colfax Street (truck and car traffic with no shoulder or sidewalk)to connect to the Erie-Lack trail. But, work is set to begin March 2017 on the connector. Let's hope that is true.
This is an underrated trail in Northwest Indiana. I rode this trail on a nice Saturday, late morning. Unlike another local trail, the Erie Lackawana(also a nice, but sometimes crowded trail), it was refreshing in that this trail was not full of Tour de France wannabes. There are stretches where you see too much of people's backyards I suppose, but even some of those had nice gardens within them. It is mostly wooded, with some prairie, and some lakes. You definitely feel isolated from civilization most of the time while cruising this trail. There are some benches to rest along the route, but not many.
Started on Dunland Prarie trail in Chesterton, IN and continued onto Oak Savannah for several miles. Very nice that it finally continues into Hobart and beyond. At one point there were no signs in Hobart and got turned around when biking on street. Friendly resident pointed out which way to go. Seems like you need to follow new the new sidewalks. Live part time in Colorado where they have similar trails but you don't expect it so much here. They have created something very special for the public use. A real gem for NW Indiana
We walked this trail on a sunny March day from the Griffith trailhead to the Hobart trailhead and back! For those who wish to slander the Gary portion, shame on you. There is slighty more visible debri in s few small sections, but the west of Clevland St portion in Gary is beautiful. Also the east of Georgia section is pure nature. Let's not scare away people for a single 1/2 mile section of urban interface. p.s. The sitting bench on Broadway street mentioned in other reviews has been dismantled, and there was no graffiti on the Broadway underpass. So lets keep it real, and enjoy all of the trails of NWI.
We rode this trail along with the Prairie Duneland trail in one ride, there is a small gap in between the trails that is reasonably easy to follow. I really liked the Oak Savannah part of the ride, the pavement is in good condition, the trail is flat with the exception of one bridge and the scenery is very pretty. There are bathrooms at the west trailhead that are well maintained. The reason we had never ridden this trail before was the fact that it goes through Gary but we did not encounter any problems.
I ride this trail literally everyday. I am new to biking as I've had my bike a month and put almost 100 miles on it already. Hobart is my home so this trail is my backyard. Short trips or long I love that it has very little street riding and has long stretches before you have to cross a street. The tunnel under Broadway is very open and doesn't feel dark or unsafe at all. I never feel unsafe and there is always other cyclists on it. In the Hobart stretch I see it being patrolled even by cops on bikes and golf carts. Don't let the short time in Gary turn you away from this wonderful path.
I've ridden Oak Savannah quite a few times, usually to Valparaiso and back, meaning that I'd exit the trail where it crosses Water and East 8th Streets in Hobart.
This last weekend of May 30/31, 2015, I took it all the way through Hobart to Prairie Duneland Trail. I found that, going northeast, one doesn't have anymore to turn right onto East 6th Street then left onto South Indiana Street: the trail crosses the 5th/6th Street then follows railroad tracks to turn left (north) along South Indiana for another block.
West end in Griffith: If you're riding from Chicago, exit Erie Lackawanna at North Wiggs Street then take West Elm all the way to Whitcomb St, turn right, then another right onto West 51st St, then left onto Johnson Road, then left onto Oak Savannah, thus avoiding busy Main Street or Colfax.
...As for the only "iffy" part of the Oak Savannah, it's the underpass at Broadway in Gary. Apparently, a liquor store has been opened nearby recently, and a park bench has been installed right by the trail just to the west of Broadway, so local drunks tend to congregate there. Hence broken glass, etc. Watch out passing.
As you are reading some of these reviews please take note of the dates they are written. I ride this trail at least once every two weeks. Riding on the trail thru Gary takes about 10 minutes and I have never felt unsafe. Occasionally, you have to watch for broken glass but that can happen on any trail. The trail is very well shaded by trees that line both sides of the trail. The west end of the trail ends in the County Park. You can access the trail from the Erie/Lak Trail near Colfax. But you will have to ride on a street (heavily travelled and no shoulder)for about a mile. They are promising to connect the two trails...but you know how fast the government works. The east end now goes to Hobart. They have now extended the path into Hobart and now only requires about a half mile of road travelling on side streets to connect to the other side of Hobart where the Duneland Trail starts. Nice! They are very close to connecting Crown Point, Hammond, and Chesterton.
Yesterday I want to take my two dogs for a walk somewhere different. I thought it would be nice to walk one of the trails with them. I looked around on TrailLnk and initially I looked at trails I and heard about. However, I have been on most of these and those I haven't been on where too far away. Then I came across the Oak Savannah Trail. What I read I liked so I plied the dogs into my car and we took the 35 minute ride from Demotte to Hobart.
We parked at the park Near George Lake. We walked south for about 3 miles to Robinson Park (I will post some pictures later). It was a nice walk. This trail is paved and the section we were all was flat. The trail quickly takes you away from the town, We were walking past water, trees, and savannahs. A lot of beautiful nature to see here. I am looking forward to riding this trail in the near future. My one suggestion would be to have some porta-pottys placed along the trail. When I arrived to Robinson Park I thought there would be a bathroom there, but all they have there is a water spigot, which my dogs and I appreciated. There were also benches along the way for anyone who needs to stop and rest.
Were in the area and love how flat this path was. Ours are awfully hilly with substantial inclines so it was great to hop on this trail and go! Scenery was amazing as well!
Started in Hobart on Liverpool RD and rode West. Was a nice ride through some very wooded sections. Quite a nice departure from the Eerie-Lakawana Trail that we have been riding for quite some time now. The trail is very wooded which makes leaves / stick on the trail a bit of an issue, however never was there any need to slow down. We arrived at the forest preserve in Griffith and turned around for the return trip to Liverpool for a very fun and relaxing 10 mile ride.
I live here, in Hobart, In., and am a user of this trail. Presently, they do not plow this trail,in winter, which minimizes it's use for walkers, and joggers. It seems to me that they could find the money, somewhere, to keep this trail open year round, possibly through Federal grants, or funds.
Wife and I used our labor day this year to ride from our home 2 miles to the Duneland Prairie trail, a little zigzag thru Hobart, then the Oak Savannnah trail to Griffith. About a mile took us downtown to Bridges Bar which was just opening for lunch. A loop south on another trail took us back to the Oak Savannah and then home, 49 miles in all. An excellent ride! I would say the trash section lasted about a mile, no biggie. The swans on Lake George made up for it. Watch for the Air Force bomber in a field east of Robinson Lake and a pole vault runway in a backyard east of Wisconsin Street in Hobart (it is the home of 3 generations of state champs!). The trail does go a little closer to Duneland Prairie now, but to connect there are two sets of running railroads to cross with maybe 100 meters between them. Hobart has a couple excellent sources of pancakes.
In Griffith at the Oak Ridge Prarie County Park very nice Oak Savannah Trail and about five mile into Gary/Merrillville with the apt. (Cleveland St to I-65) areas. See loitering and graffiti on the trail and trail signs. The city did cover the vandalism on the trail. (with black paint) Daytime would be more safe than dusk. I seen the father and young son carried baseball bats with them. Best advice... Make sure you have someone with you walking or biking. use one ear with ipod, so can hear others. Once you get to Prairie-Duneland Trail less worry and enjoy the trail
My wife and I just went the first 5-6 miles on this trail. It really is pretty nice. The urban area shortly after getting into the Gary/Merrillville area is kind of trashy for about a mile or so, but there weren't a lot of people or vehicles around when we traveled on it (6:30-7:30pm on a weekday). Overall, we enjoyed the trail and would definitely do it again. Maybe next time we'll go from the east end of this trail (Griffith) through Hobart, and then take the Prairie Dune trail to Chesterton.
We are new to trail biking and have spent the last few weekends exploring different paths. We started out in Griffith at the Oak Ridge Prarie County Park which is very nice. The trail winds nicely through the woods but as you get a few miles in and into Merrilville it turns very trashy. You have houses on both sides and the houses are very unsightly and there is trash EVERYWHERE. It gets very urban and there are a lot of people loitering . It made us uncomfortable to be honest. Halfway through we said forget it and headed back to Griffith. We drove to Hobart to find the Hobart to Chesterton trail but instead found the east end of this trail. We jumped back on the trail at Wisconsin and headed back west. This part was very nice also over Lake George and through some nice wooded areas. But then we went under I65 and once again it was horrible. So to summarize the first 2.5 miles and the last 2.5 miles is great but the middle is disgusting, smelly, and unsightly. Will not go back....
Biked this trail today and was a bit worried based on the 2009 review I read. We started in Hobart, parked on the street and headed West. We didn't see any trash until about 2 miles into the ride and the 'trashy' section was only about a mile long. So, I'm guessing it is better maintained now than it was in 2009. The park at the end of the trail was quite a nice surprise for our kids - two very nice playscapes and bathrooms.
When we returned to Wisconsin St., we continued across the street and headed East. Probably less than a mile down the trail is a nice little park with a parking lot. It is at 8th and Water St. Would have been a better place to start - unloading kids and bikes. Not sure why this website directed us to part on the street when this park, directly on the trail, was so close.
The east end of this trail is supposedly a short distance from the west end of the Prairie-Duneland trail, but there are no signs and multiple bikers were trying to figure out how to get to it. Look it up on a map before attempting it, because 51 makes multiple turns on the local Hobart streets. Doesn't look too difficult now that I can see it on the map, but when you're there, there are no signs to help you!
Looking forward to hitting both trails and biking from Chesterton to Griffith someday.
My wife and I biked this trail on 4-26-2009. We are from South Bend, Indiana and use TrailLink to find nearby trails to bike on. The beginning of the trail at Wisconsin Street is very nice and coutinues to be senic for a couple of miles. After passing through the tunnel we started to notice pieces of litter here and there. Upon reaching the urban section, we noticed that litter permeated the water ditches the run parallel on both sides of the trail. This continues until about the last mile of the trail. We are talking paper, plastic, bicycles, car tires, baby strollers, etc., everything you can think of. There was also some graffiti on the asphalt and wooden fence. There are bathrooms at the west end in the park. I don't recall there being a drinking fountain at the park. There were no billboards with a trail map. (a map showing how to connect to the trails nearby would have been nice.) All the litter and graffiti ruined this trail for us. We would not recommend this trail to others in its current state.
It was sad to see such lack of respect for the trail. Hopefully some people will start speaking up about this problem. Obviously the residents, landlords, and apartment complex owners along the trail are indifferent. If some other local residents would get their council representative, or local code enforcement involved, maybe the wheels could get turning.
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