Posted on September 13, 2017 by Indiana's Cool North
Sure, summer’s over, but the season changing means you’re one step closer to one of nature’s most stunning scenes: fall foliage!
Some consider fall the most pleasant—and most beautiful—time of year. Days aren’t too hot or cold, the evenings are crisp, and nature hits reset. Look in any direction in Indiana’s Cool North for a fantastic view of greenery changing to a dramatic collage of reds, oranges, yellows, and browns.
The best part? You’re surrounded by fall foliage while traveling from place to place, so every journey can be as intriguing as the destination. With any outdoor activity having the perfect backdrop, here’s a top five to get you started.
Note: If you’re looking for maximum color intensity, fall foliage colors peak in Indiana’s Cool North during the first two weeks of October.
There’s no better time than harvest season to visit this historic farm and heritage resort in Nappanee, southwest of Goshen, Elkhart County.
The grounds are decorated in style with corn shocks, scarecrows, and pumpkins. You’ll be able to find an abundance of both edible and decorative produce, including crisp fall apples, squash, as well as gourds and multi-colored Indian corn. Eight different shops in the courtyard also offer tasty traditional fall treats like homemade caramel apples and pumpkin fudge.
Hop on a wagon ride, savor fresh-pressed cider, tour the pumpkin patch, enjoy a traditional Amish dinner, or stroll through an 1874 farmstead (also the only Amish farm in the National Register of Historic Places). While you’re there, be sure to cast a vote in the annual Scarecrow Reunion and Contest, where you’ll be greeted by 100+ spooky scarecrows guarding the fields. The resort also offers special fall theater shows and getaway packages, so be sure to book ahead if you’re planning a stay.
When you’re in a nearly 4,000-acre state park in Indiana’s Cool North, you’re going to have some excellent fall foliage vantage points. Potato Creek State Park in South Bend Mishawaka is one of the best destinations for hiking, paved path and trail biking, picnicking, horseback riding, fishing, and camping. And while it’s popular year-round—especially in the summer—Potato Creek really comes to life in the fall.
You’ll find vibrant leaves changing color throughout the park’s diverse terrain, including fields, woodlands, restored prairies and wetlands. Each offers endless opportunities for observing wildlife and the beautiful scenery nature offers explorers in autumn.
Two great seasonal celebrations take place at Potato Creek State Park during fall foliage prime time, too: National Public Lands Day (September 30), and their annual Halloween Celebration (October 28).
If you’re looking for one of the best paths in Indiana’s Cool North (and one of the best ways to see fall foliage and the countryside), you can walk, run, or cycle one of the many trails in Elkhart County, including the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail.
Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury and Shipshewana (LaGrange County) are connected by three trails spanning 25 miles: MapleHeart Trail, Wilden Avenue Trail and Pumpkinvine Nature Trail. The longest, and one of the most popular portions, is Pumpkinvine, a beautifully maintained and almost entirely paved path that weaves from Shipshewana to Middlebury and Goshen.
As you walk or roll along you’ll be treated to sprawling farmland with Amish homesteads, livestock, fall horse team harvests underway, shaded pathways, and ample birdwatching opportunities. Download the full Pumpkinvine Nature Trail guide and access several other walking and biking maps and guides in Elkhart County.
Gather for a day exploring the fertile fields of Indiana’s Cool North at Garwood Orchards in LaPorte. The farm has been in the same family for over six generations and 180 years, and spans more than 400 acres—roughly half fruit orchards (apple, peach and cherry) and half vegetables. Here you’ll enjoy amazing (and affordable) country fall fun at its finest surrounded by beautiful foliage.
Fall u-pick options include apples (11 varieties) and pumpkins, and you can arrive in the orchard or patch in style on a horse or tractor-drawn wagon. Kids will love the miniature pony rides, and on fall weekends you’ll also be entertained by free live music. Refuel after a day on the farm with a delicious country meal at the Garwood Grille, then wash it down with a cider slushy or sweet gelato while you browse the bake shoppe for fresh pies, muffins, cookies, turnovers, and more.
Garwood Orchard’s annual Apple Fest runs through September, where you can find great homemade crafts, art, jewelry, produce, exciting live music, and much more.
Where better to see stunning fall foliage than places dedicated to preserving the forest and the natural landscape in Indiana’s Cool North? ACRES Land Trust, a nonprofit that protects land in northeast Indiana (as well as southern Michigan and northwest Ohio), manages three beautiful preserves all in close proximity to each other in Kosciusko County. Each has low difficulty walking trails and is open from dawn to dusk.
Bock Nature Preserve covers about 47 acres and is found just over a mile north of Akron. It’s rich with maples, from which sap used to be harvested and boiled down to syrup, but there’s also an abundance of beech woods and tulip, sycamore, black cherry and blue ash—a rare tree in the area. The variety yields a vibrant mosaic of fall foliage colors in mid-October, and you’ll also find several small ponds that make for interesting bird and wildlife watching.
Northwest of Warsaw in Kosciusko County is Glennwood Nature Preserve (about 37 acres), which includes a short hike and a bog (it was once a lake, but has now nearly filled with moss, ferns, and peat). Oak, willow and red maple trees surround the bog, and in the thicker forest, you’ll find Canadian mayflower, shiny club moss and sarsaparilla, as well as cinnamon, crested shield and royal ferns. This preserve in particular offers spectacular fall foliage colors.
Wildwood Nature Preserve, a few miles east of Silver Lake, is much larger (about 240 acres) and includes dense woods, prairie, farmland and wetlands. Diverse terrain offers habitats for a variety of wildlife, and you’ll find a small pond surrounded by thick forest, pools scattered beneath trees, numerous wetlands, and prairies. Common trees include oak and hickory, plus numerous types of wildflowers. Expect to spot birds among the foliage, too. Keep an eye (and an ear) out for red-headed and pileated woodpeckers and wood ducks.
Now that you’re acquainted with some of the most fantastic places for fall foliage experiences in Indiana’s Cool North, go check them out! Find even more exciting things to do—all while surrounded by vivid fall colors, of course—here.