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Prairies and dunes are just two of the natural features you’ll experience on the Prairie Duneland Trail, located just a few miles south of the Lake Michigan shoreline and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. You will have views of ponds and wood lots but will also see some pockets of suburban sprawl, which become more frequent and dense as you travel westward from Chesterton to Hobart.
The flat, 10.3-mile rail-trail follows a straight branch of the former Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railway that served as a bypass around the busy Chicago rail yards between Gary, Indiana, and Waukegan, Illinois, for more than 100 years. The first section of the rail-trail opened in 1996. Chesterton still gets its share of railroad traffic, however, and you can watch trains pass from the vintage 1914 New York Central Railroad passenger depot and freight terminal a mile off-trail at 220 Broadway.
Beginning at the Chesterton trailhead, you’ll pass a trailside skate park and cross South Jackson Boulevard. A wide sidewalk on the right serves as a junction with the Dunes Kankakee Trail, which runs on- and off-street through the town of Porter to Indiana Dunes State Park.
Continuing southwest on the Prairie Duneland Trail, you’ll leave behind the sights and sounds of town life in less than 2 miles. It’s lightly forested here, interspersed with farm fields. You’ll also encounter remnants of tallgrass prairie that at one time dominated the landscape. Elsewhere, a dense forest canopy creates a lush passageway.
A trail junction at 3.5 miles marks the Iron Horse Heritage Trail that leads into the town of Portage, a former farming community that underwent explosive growth in the second half of the 20th century. The 5-mile trail passes just south of Imagination Glen, a 276-acre park that’s popular with mountain bikers for its 10 miles of dirt trails.
After you cross the CSX railroad tracks at 4.4 miles and pass beneath I-80, you’ll begin to see backyards and residential subdivisions. Numerous side paths connect these neighborhoods, often screened from the path by trees, to the trail.
The route goes beneath two busy streets, Willowcreek Road and West 37th Avenue/US 6, before you arrive at a trailhead on County Line Road. The trail’s end is just a little farther at North Hobart Road. From here, you can travel a short distance on-road to reach the beginning of the Oak Savannah Trail, which heads west from Hobart to Hammond. If you travel both trails, you’ll understand why these two are considered the backbone of the Northwest Indiana regional trail network.
Parking is available at a number of locations along the trail. Visit the TrailLink map for all options and detailed directions.
Hobart, going northeast to county line rd. is not the Prairie Duneland. That's the Oak Savannah; Hobart Parks badly needs to repave. The PD starts at County Line Rd., heading northeast. Newly paved to Hwy 149.
This was not at all about prairies or dunes. It was nicely paved and shady suburban trail. Needed to be trimmed back some but over all very nice. Had more road crossings than we like but I would ride it again.
Easy, wide, mostly flat bike trail with plenty of shade, good distance with trails that connect off this one to make a longer ride if desired. Plenty of picnic benches and port-a-potty if needed.
Miles 0-5 are very smooth and the rest of the trail is in average to good shape, with a lot of cracks. I was impressed by how intertwined this bike trail is with the local community, with many places to enter and exit the trail. There was a lot of shade on the trail and I saw a couple of Porta potty‘s along the way. At the end of the trail there is a connection to the lake shore Trail. This was a great trail which is only minutes from the expressway.
Me & my ex wife used to go to this trail. She was a runner and me a biker. I would ride along side her while she ran. Great trail. One of my faves. Haven't been here since 2015 but going back soon!!
Easy flat trail that is very well maintained. Lots of stops to cross busy streets but many people stop their cars to let us cross. The trail mostly goes behind houses and neighborhoods.
Prairie Duneland was the first rail trail we rode, so for us it's a sentimental favorite. It's also close to home, so we ride it often.
As others have noted, most of the trail is well shaded and screened by trees, making it a cooler ride on hot days. The tree screening also helps make windy days more manageable.
But, with trees come roots, which often are the source of bumps and cracks on paved trails. Other than a short stretch near the Cleveland Avenue trailhead in Hobart, this trail mostly has escaped that problem. (Technically, that stretch is actually on the Oak Savannah trail, see below.)
Another good thing about Prairie Duneland is that it connects to several other trails. Just west of 149, the Iron Horse Heritage Trail branches off to the north - at about 2 miles it's a relatively short but nice trail.
Prairie Duneland also connects seamlessly at its west end to the Oak Savannah trail - in fact, if you start in Chesterton and head west, the last mile and a half or so before Cleveland Ave is actually the Oak Savannah. If you're so inclined (and willing to put up with a stretch of some twists and turns with non-existent signage through downtown Hobart), you can ride the entire Oak Savannah, link to the Erie Lackawanna Trail in Griffith, and end up in Crown Point.
These trails are all almost entirely flat and well paved. The one warning is that a rail crossing at roughly mid-point on Oak Savannah can sometimes be blocked by stopped trains.
Nice shady paved trail but does not connect to Indiana Dunes state park
Rode this trail for the first time today. Very nice tree canopy. The first quarter mile or so is a little bumpy but definitely not bad. After that it smooths out. I started around sunrise Sunday morning and had very little company. The only problem I had really wasn’t much of a problem. The under pass going under the expressway was closed. It is marked well before the actual closure. I simply detoured to Cleveland St. and picked up the trail again. Awesome ride! Will define doing this one again. Started on the Hobart end.
This is always my go-to trail when it is a hot or sunny day because I would estimate about 80% of this trail is shaded by a nice canopy of trees. A great place to park and begin the trail is at the trail head on Hobart Road where you will find Trail Blazers Bike barn. The bike barn is a good place to get any needed tune up or repairs for your bike and also to enjoy a refreshing smoothie or shake when you conclude your trip.
Reviews from years ago mention a "bumpy" ride, but here in 2020 please be assured that is no longer true (with the exception of perhaps a brief 50 yard section where the pavement is a tad bumpy, but that's it).
A few miles into the trail I often stop at Tate's Place, which is right along the trail and a great place for breakfast. They welcome bikers from the trail and have a nice shaded outdoor patio where you can eat.
Besides that, however, there are no other places to stop along the trail until you get to the end in Chesterton. There, you can turn right onto Broadway and find a Dairy Queen, Val's Pizza and Grinders, and Chesterton Brewery (be aware they don't open until 3:00).
This is a pleasant and easy trail to ride; there is only one small hill to climb for an overpass, but the rest is flat. There aren't any spectacular views or scenery, except for woods, parks, and the back yards of some well-kept homes.
Note: You can travel down Jackson Street and eventually access the Dunes Kankakee Trail, so I decided to do that, but probably won't bother next time. It's not worth the work in getting there (streets, bridges, ramps...) just for a couple miles of a trail.
Prairie Duneland trail is a first class example of what rails to trails paths can be.
Several dedicated parking areas, many with picnic shelter, restrooms, and drinking fountains.
Flat riding trail with the exception of 2 dips down for under road tunnels and 1 hill to climb for an over road bridge.
Section of the trail leave the straight rail bed for some gentle curves adding a little interest to the path.
We started in Hobart ( Actually on the Oak Savannah Trail) and rode to Chesterton. Looped around Downtown before heading back. Added 4 miles by detouring on the Iron Horse Trail and finished back for a 25 mile day.
Great Riding Experience.
Road the trail today and had a great experience. If part of it was once bumpy, it has been repaired. Most of the trail is new and all of it is terrific to ride. Beautiful scenery, bathrooms along the way, easy to park and get on. We rode all 10 miles and will come back again and again.
Very nice 10 mile trail with direct connection to 2.5 mile spur to Iron Horse Heritage Trail. Travels through woods with a few road crossings and suburban scenes. About 6 miles of the trail was newly paved and very high quality. The rest was somewhat bumpy as others have noted but nothing that was too distracting or dangerous. I spent two weekend mornings here (30 miles and 40 miles) traveling from Michigan City by car (~25 mins) to easily accessible parking lot in Chesterton.
It was bumpy as a previous reviewer stated. I traveled 3 miles on the trail and had to stop and go back to the start because I met up with the maintenance trucks laying down brand new asphalt on the trail. Man, I wish I could have been here another few days to try out the new asphalt! I can't wait to go back next year and give it another try.
I loved being able to ride on a trail and not having to worry about being mowed down by a big old pickup truck. I traveled from the Chesterton Skate Park to Hobart (and back) but unfortunately I was really disappointed by the bumpy ride.. My road bike graciously transmitted every tree root and surface crack directly to me sorry butt. The only smooth section was around Rt 149. There were many stretches were absorbing the bumps didn't allow me to maintain any type of cadence. All that said - I'm feeling fortunate to have the trail available and will definitely be riding there again.
Love the trail, the people and the scenery. Will definitely be back!
Today was my first time at riding this trail. I only went from Chesterton to the Samuelson-Central Avenue location and then back to Chesterton. The fall colors were amazing. There are several Burning Bushes on the route and they are spectacular. I hope the weather holds up so I can make the full ride to Hobart.
Well maintained and well used trail! Will definitely use this trail often!!
This is a great trail from the perspective that it's longer, completely paved, continuous, and the streets that must be crossed are not that busy. The only drawback for me is that there are few open views of countryside, as the trail is generally surrounded by tall trees and there are some stretches with views of not much more than people's backyards. There are some shelters and benches for resting, but not that many. The trail seems to have good parking throughout its length, and the lot where I parked at near Chesterton was nice(it even had a portable bathroom). Nice trail overall.
Very scenic trail that has drinking fountains and restrooms strategically stationed! A great way to travel from Hobart to Chesterton safely, the trail goes over and under most of the busiest streets you encounter along the way!
I ride this trail from my house to the Portage YMCA daily. I am never disappointed by it's beauty that is well maintained by the city. I always feel safe. Since the trail connects to the Iron Horse and Oak Savannah, it's a good way to get around town while avoiding streets. My favorite part is the smell because of all the different wildflowers in bloom. There's a good chance you'll spy a little wildlife too. One note of caution, the bugs can be a nightmare before dusk depending on the time of year.
The trail is fully paved and in great condition. There are mile markers and emergency trail locater signs at regular intervals, including picnic tables, trash cans, and wave bike racks. It appears to connect with many other routes/paths throughout the city, including other parks and trails(and to residential backyards). If you start at the skate park, there's a port-o-potty at mile marker 2. The road intersections are well marked and highly visible with ample time to stop and safely cross. The scenery was beautiful and the trail was almost always dappled with ample shade. Smells great too! It was in good use on a late Monday morning; observed many other cyclists and walkers.
My husband and I recently rode this trail from Chesterton to Hobart. We were exploring trails in Northern Indiana. It was a beautiful ride. Shaded, quiet, not too many people, and very safe. You are basically riding through neighborhoods, but the scenery is very nice. There are a few places where you have to cross roads(only 2 lane roads) and one very large railroad crossing, but manageable. There are a couple of underpasses that give you a slight challenge on a otherwise pretty flat ride. Going down these hills gives you a real thrill. We loved this trail and would certainly go back again and recommend it to others.
Trail is very flat and easy to ride. Most of the trail is shaded by trees, which is great for a hot day. Several places throughout where riders must yield to traffic, but nothing too serious. the Bathrooms along the way we're a huge plus!
Very scenic route through Porter County to enjoy the colors of fall. Trail is well maintained and safe with a clean indoor restroom, Port a Potty, several drinking fountains, and picnic benches that make for nice rest stops along the way. This trail is quiet and paved nicely which makes for a relaxing ride throughout. Looking forward to finishing the rest of this trail soon!
People Complained back when they first mentioned making this trail, now it's a priviledge to live near it.
Yesterday, Father's Day, my family took this trail from the mid point in Portage to 23rd St. in Chesterton to visit an Aunt and Uncle then rode back home.
Awesome time, my kids said it felt like vacation, and my wife was amazed at the beauty of nature along the way. It really did feel like we were somewhere else.
Get out and enjoy this great trail.
Good trail to get a workout on and also to take family on. We use it as a destination trail when the family goes along. Only a coulple blocks from trail head in Porter there is a nice mexican restaurant, Santiago's and a DQ.. Then work it off on the way back to Hobart.
One of the most pleasant and scenic trails we've experienced so far! Nice long ride and a great workout. The bridge over Route 149 is especially challenging. We found Wagner's Rib joint in Porter as a refuel rest stop before trekking back to Hobart; a wonderful way to enjoy an Indian Summer afternoon and rack up a 20 mile trip.
I ran the from the east trailpoint (Chesterton) 7 of the 10 miles yesterday. That portion of the trail was bone dry. No flooding issues.
Good news to those that like the Praire-Duneland Trail....they are widening Rt 6 and it looks like they are taking the trail under the new road just like they did at Willowcreek Road....The trail is such a wonderful place to get in your daily exercise and it is quite peaceful and pleasant...it is the best place in Portage,In
The Oak Savannah Trail is not mentioned for Indiana which connects to Prairie-Duneland goes into Hobart Indiana to Oak Ridge Prairie.
"This is a great leisurely trail, although Route 6 in Portage needs an overpass. I have waited up to ten minutes to cross there."
"Compared to other states I've ridden in, Indiana needs to do a lot of work to develop a trail system! The Prairie Duneland is by far the best Indiana has. It really is a nice trail with smooth surfaces for the most part. Crossing US 6 can be tricky so keep a close eye on traffic. One bridge and one tunnel help cross two other busy streets though.
The trail can be quite busy on the weekends, and some folks don't always follow trail etiquette so serious riders need to watch out when passing.
I see a lot of bladers using this trail -- I'm anxious to learn myself!"
"I take this trail from Chesterton to the Lake Co. line at least once a month -- my odometer says it's closer to ten miles, full-blown. It's an easy and safe twenty mile roundtrip with lots of nice folks along the way. A lot of backyards open up into this trail with some homeowners constructing pretty little private gateways out of their yards and into the trail. There are prairie flowers planted on both sides and all along the way; tree and shrub greenbelts to hide noises and lend privacy to some homeowners; water fountains, information kiosks, benches for resting, and restrooms in two different places. It's newly paved and has a bridge and a tunnel crossing two heavily traveled roads, but there needs to be two more. This is very pretty little trail, friendly, too!"
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