Northwest Indiana is a picturesque region with striking landscapes. This beautiful area encourages locals and visitors to get moving and appreciate the great outdoors. Hiking one of northwest Indiana’s trails is one of the best ways to reconnect with nature, so grab your boots and head to one of these superb trails.
GABIS ARBORETUM TRAILS
Hitting 6 miles of hiking trails is the best way to discover all the sights of the Gabis Arboretum. A gentle stroll around one of the ponds is perfect for unwinding after a picnic lunch. Alternatively, you could pick up the pace and hit one of the more challenging trails.
Whichever trail you choose, the surroundings are so unique. Gabis Arboretum has the state’s largest collection of oak trees hailing from all over the world. Bluebird Trail is the longest at 1.63 miles and takes you through prairie, wetland, and woodland environments. The quiet 0.62-mile Cardinal Trail is a serene woodland path, perfect for getting away from the action. Keep your eyes peeled for American woodcock and ring-necked pheasant on the 0.96-mile Woodcock Trail. The trails are a mix of grass and mulch, so wear sensible shoes as they can get slippery after it rains!
The Gabis Arboretum is located at 450 West 100 North in Valparaiso. Admission is free for Gabis Arboretum members, Purdue Northwest students, cyclists, and hikers arriving on foot. Otherwise, prices start from $10 per carload. Visit daily between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m.
LEMON LAKE TRAILS
Lemon Lake’s excellent amenities make it fun for the whole family. The 402-acre space has five disc golf courses, a large dog park, and several playgrounds for the kids. A variety of walking trails caters to all fitness levels.
When you’re visiting with kids, the 1-mile trail around the lake lets them stretch their legs without overwhelming them. It’s all paved, so it’s perfect for parents with strollers. For an even bigger challenge, explore the unpaved trails winding through Lemon Lake’s wooded areas. Dogs are free to walk with you, but keep yours leashed outside the dog park.
Lemon Park is located at 6322 West 133rd Avenue in Crown Point and is open from 7 a.m. to sunset all year round. Parking fees apply whenever a gatekeeper is on duty. Active military and disabled veterans can access Lemon Lake for free.
STONEY RUN COUNTY PARK TRAILS
Stoney Run County Park is another picturesque park offering hikers plenty of choices. Admire the open meadows, deep ravines, and tranquil ponds as you explore this 316-acre space.
The Perimeter Trail, which runs along the Stoney Run County Park’s border, is the easiest option. You’ll share this mostly flat 5.6-mile trail with horseback riders. Leashed dogs are also permitted on this and other Stoney Run County Park trails. It’s prettiest during spring when the wildflowers bloom. It’s also unpaved and can get muddy after rain. Other trails, including the 1.4-mile nature trail and 1.7-mile nature trail, are shorter but more challenging. Entering the forest will boost your chances of spotting white-tailed deer and rabbits. Make sure you pay tribute to the fallen at the park’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Stoney Run County Park is located at 9230 East 142nd Avenue in Hebron. Its trails are open year-round between 7 a.m. and sunset and admission is free.
GRAND KANKAKEE MARSH COUNTY PARK TRAIL
Another Hebron treasure, the Grand Kankakee March County Park trail offers hikers a different kind of view. This 4.2-mile gravel trail runs alongside the historic Kankakee River. The river is home to ducks, herons, and painted and soft-shell turtles that often sun themselves on logs near the river’s edge. You might also see herds of deer, muskrats, and beavers here if you keep quiet enough. Given the abundance of local wildlife, dogs are only welcome if they’re kept on a leash.
For an extra challenge, continue past the park where the trail actually runs for 10.1 miles along the river’s edge. However, the parts beyond the park aren’t as well-kept, so stay alert. The hill climbs on the trail’s west end are particularly challenging. Parts of the path can also become flooded and slippery after rain, so make sure you wear appropriate shoes.
Grand Kankakee Marsh is located at 21690 Range Line Road in Hebron and is accessible between 7 a.m. and sunset all year round. Admission is free for everyone except hunting parties.
HERON ROOKERY TRAIL
Hiking enthusiasts are spoiled for choice in the Indiana Dunes. The Indiana Dunes State Park and Indiana Dunes National Park have more than 60 miles of trails between them. Short half-mile trails suit leisurely walks with children. For a greater challenge, hit one of the longer 10-mile trails. For nature lovers, the Heron Rookery Trail in Indiana Dunes National Park is the pick of the bunch.
The trail’s name pays tribute to the great blue herons that once nested there. At one point, there were more than 100 nests, but most of these birds have since moved on. Bird watchers won’t be too disappointed, though. The area is now home to kingfishers, woodpeckers, and warblers.
The 3.3-mile dirt and clay track follows the Little Calumet River to the small County Road parking lot. It’s at its prettiest from late March to early June, when trillium, Dutchman’s breeches, and other local wildflowers bloom. It’s a natural trail with no restroom facilities along the way. The path is relatively flat, so it shouldn’t be too challenging for most people, but its unpaved surface isn’t wheelchair friendly. Leashed dogs can walk the trail, but bikes and motorized vehicles are prohibited.
Heron Rookery Trail is located at North County Road 600 East in Michigan City. Access is free between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Allow up to two hours for your hike.