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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 10.3 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.
Parking is available at the southern trailhead (where is meets the Erie-Lackawanna Trail) at 739 S Arbogast Ave. in Griffith, look for 301 S Colfax St and head down Municipal Rd. to find parking.
Additional parking can be found at Robinson Lake Park (5240 S Liverpool Rd), Hobart City Ball Park (400 E 8th St), and at the trail's northern endpoint along N Hobart Rd.
See TrailLink Map for additional parking spots and additional information.
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