Hiking is one type of exercise that nearly anyone can do, regardless of athletic ability or age. From a slow, gentle walk on a flat path to hiking on rugged terrain or even climbing a mountain, hiking provides both physical and mental benefits.
The benefits of hiking
Hiking is an excellent workout that challenges your heart to work harder and improves heart health and strength. It also gives your body a core workout — more so than you’d get walking on a flat surface or treadmill. Hiking on an uneven surface requires you to engage your core to stabilize your body and maintain balance.
Hiking also provides mental benefits, such as natural stress reduction. This also benefits physical health, as stress is linked to high blood pressure and increased risk of heart disease.
Are you ready to lace up your hiking boots (or sneakers) and get trekking? Here are some of the best hiking trails and parks in Northern Indiana.
Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve
Located near the south shores of Lake Michigan, Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve offers hikers a three-mile loop of trails with many connectors and a variety of surfaces. The trails that get the most traffic are constructed with brick pavers, while crushed granite paths and woodchip trails meander through the preserve. Restrooms and water fountains are located throughout the preserve.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore hugs the southern shore of Lake Michigan and features 14 trail systems covering more than 50 miles of trails and 15 miles of freshwater beach. With hiking trails of various lengths and levels of difficulty, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is a perfect spot for hikers of all skills to get out, enjoy the scenic views and explore various habitats and history. Most of the trails at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore are open year-round.
Pokagon State Park
Pokagon State Park is one of Indiana’s original state parks and is 50 miles from Goshen. Although it may be best known for its refrigerated Toboggan Run with a 30-foot tower and dips and valleys, Pokagon State Park also offers nine hiking trails. Ranging from easy to moderate in difficulty, Pokagon’s hiking trails are great for both beginners and more experienced hikers.
Hathaway Preserve at Ross Run
If you’re looking for more than a simple hike, Hathaway Preserve at Ross Run is a spectacular display of impressive natural features including waterfalls, reef fossils, vertical cliffs as high as 75 feet and mature oak trees — some with trunks as wide as four feet in diameter. Hathaway Preserve offers two miles of hiking trails of moderate difficulty.
Located just outside Valparaiso, the 360-acre Taltree Arboretum is home to a system of trails that wind through woods and prairie. With just over six miles of grass and mulch trails, Taltree offers a serene environment to take a hike alone or with family and friends by your side.
No matter your athletic ability, Northern Indiana offers numerous trail systems for hikers of all skill levels. Remember to wear proper footwear with good ankle support and always take a map and/or a companion with you. Stay hydrated while hiking, especially in warm weather. Now, get out and take in the beauty of Indiana’s natural scenery while improving your mental and physical health.