Prairie Duneland Trail
Submitted by: Donna Lind
Trail end points: South 15th Street between Broadway and Indiana, Chesterton, IN and North Hobart Road and East Cleveland Ave, Hobart, IN
Dog Friendly: Yes
Parking: Yes, at either end and at several county roads where the trail crosses
Restrooms: At some of the trailheads
Trail Length: 10.3 total miles easy/moderate
One of the best ways to enjoy a sunny autumn afternoon is by bicycle so last Sunday, we hooked the bike rack to the car, loaded up the bikes and headed for the Prairie Duneland Trail. I’ve driven past several of the trailheads and heard a lot of good things about this trail, so I was anxious to experience it for myself.
In Porter County, the trail officially begins on 15th Street, just south of Broadway, in Chesterton, but the parking lot is accessed off Jackson Boulevard around the block The lot is spacious and there were several other cars sporting empty bike racks that day. We headed west across Jackson Boulevard and immediately noticed the beauty of this trail.
Although the trail is primarily for bikes, you will find joggers, families on an afternoon stroll and dog walkers along with serious bikers, leisure bicyclists and youngsters on training wheels and tricycles. The asphalt surface is smooth, wideand well paved, tree-lined, shaded and very quiet except for the occasional train whistle. Grass along both sides is trimmed neatly and in many areas the trees bend to create leafy arches as the trail passes by sleepy backyards on both sides. As the trail works its way west, it crosses several county roads where riders and walkers alike need to be aware of stop signs and traffic.
Once we crossed Babcock Road (N 200 W), we left the neighborhoods of Chesterton behind and entered what became my favorite stretch of the trail. Here we passed through woods on either side, corn and soybean fields changing to the yellows and browns of harvest and bridges over deep ditches, their wooden boards clacking loudly from our weight. Two young deer quietly stepped across the trail and vanished into the woods and once a chipmunk scurried past with cheeks full of acorns.
At Highway 149, we crossed up and over an iron pedestrian bridge and into the neighborhoods of South Haven and Portage. It was fun to see how the homes on either side embraced the trail at their backyard by creating personal access to it using paths, bridges or stairs. Some had created little gardens with benches. The Portage Missionary Baptist Church had even erected a sign welcoming bikers and joggers to worship with them.
As we continued to ride west, we crossed a pretty iron bridge over Salt Creek, had to wait for a train at McCool road, rode underneath Interstate 90 and passed Arthur Olsen Memorial Park. As it entered Portage, the trail passed through the backyard of Tate’s Restaurant where a sign welcomes trail users and headed into a tunnel under Willowcreek Road.
We had not originally planned to ride that far, but the trail is so well kept and it was such a pleasant ride that we surprised ourselves by how easily we rode along. We decided to turn around at the tunnel and return back to Chesterton, already making plans for a return trip to complete the entire trail to Hobart with a visit to Tate’s Restaurant along the way. If you plan to visit the trail by bike, a bike helmet is always a good idea and a water bottle might be handy but not a necessity since there are water fountains at intervals along the trail.