Home > A Guide to Hiking Trails and RiverWalks in Indiana’s Cool North

A Guide to Hiking Trails and RiverWalks in Indiana’s Cool North

Indiana’s northern counties have many claims to fame – Notre Dame football, unique Amish communities, the Gateway Mile – but did you know that the region also has  hiking trails and river walks? From Dune Races to leisurely walks along the rivers, the great outdoors is just as eclectic as each county. See where your feet can take you to explore new communities and scenic views that you have always hurried past! Here’s your adventure guide to those walking adventures in Indiana’s Cool North.

Indiana Dunes: Indiana Dunes National Park and Three Dunes Challenge Loop

One of the most iconic natural features in the Midwest, the Indiana Dunes National Park provides a precious natural haven for locals and visitors alike. With relaxing beaches, panoramic views and miles of hiking trails at your disposal, you’ll have no trouble finding enough outdoor activities to fill up your family vacation. Looking for a challenge? Look no further than the Three Dunes Challenge Loop, a 1-½ mile path that requires a 550 foot elevation climb. Some may scoff at the short distance, but as anyone who has ever run on dunes before can attest, it’s a challenge like no other. After all, sand-sprinting was difficult enough to be included in a Rocky training montage, so you know it’s gotta be tough.

Photo: Drewski Mac

Elkhart County:  Quilt Gardens and the RiverWalk Culture Trail

There are a number of parks on The Gateway Mile including a winding waterside path that connects the Garden and Arts & Entertainment Districts with a leisurely stroll lined with quilt gardens, sculptures, and welcoming green spaces. Browse boutique shops, or stop in for lunch at one of the many fabulous Riverwalk restaurants, all while enjoying the natural beauty of the river and its surroundings.

The RiverWalk in downtown Elkhart.

Michigan City Laporte:  Washington Park

When the summer months hit and you’re dying to feel soft, white sand between your toes, look no further than the sunny shores of Lake Michigan. Washington Park Beach provides an idyllic stretch of sand and sun to enjoy the best months of year with friends and family.  If you feel the lapping waves beckoning, you can easily charter a boating trip, offering both sport fishing as well as an opportunity to just cruise around Lake Michigan. It’s almost difficult to fathom the breathtaking size of Lake Michigan until you’re out on the open water. Once you make your way back to shore, be sure to stick around for the sunset – it’s truly one of the best around.

Photo: Tzuhsun Hsu

Potato Creek State Park

When you’re in a nearly 4,000-acre state park in Indiana’s Cool North, you’re going to have some excellent opportunities for hiking. 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.

Family at Potato Creek State Park

Family at Potato Creek State Park

Kosciusko County: Syracuse-Wawasee Trail

In a true showing of neighborly love, the communities of Syracuse and Wawasee have come together to create an 11-mile trail system in the heart of Kosciusko County. Jointly named as the Syracuse-Wawasee Trial, the locals are very proud of this beautifully manicured trail, as they should be – it’s maintained by volunteers dedicated to the trail’s upkeep! This meandering trail system is a favorite for walkers, runners and bicyclists as they follow its winding path past both Syracuse Lake and Lake Wawasee providing a wonderful opportunity to explore both communities from a unique vantage.

Photo: @Markheybo

South Bend:  Take a Walk Along the Race

Take a pedestrian adventure along the East Race Waterway of South Bend. Created in the 1840s, the Race consists of narrow channels along the St. Joseph River, harnessing waterpower for surrounding industries. Today, that flow makes it possible to enjoy whitewater rafting along Niles Avenue in the summer!  Watch the raging water from the 5-mile long walking path that begins at Seitz Park (118 N. St. Joseph St.). You can look across the water to Century Center and downtown, just steps from the East Bank Village.

Photo: Visit South Bend

Mishawaka: Battell Park

Go on a Nature Walk:  Time to get in touch with fresh air and sunshine! You might even grab some coffee and donuts for a morning breakfast at lovely Battell Park, which hugs the St. Joseph River in South Bend’s sister community of Mishawaka. The park is on the city’s Riverwalk and features a beautiful terraced rock garden, splashpad, picnic tables and playground equipment. In the summer, you can enjoy theatrical productions and  concerts in the historic bandshell.

Beutter Park, Mishawaka, IN

Steuben County: Pokagon State Park

There is something to do anytime of the year at Pokagon State Park, home to Indiana’s only refrigerated toboggan slide.  Other winter sports include  cross-country ski rental, sledding, and ice fishing.  If you prefer being outdoors in warmer weather, there are hiking trails, beaches, boat and bike rentals, horse back riding, and a nature center.  The name Pokagon acknowledges the rich Native American heritage of the state and region.

Photo: avianwatcher78

Lake County: Whiting Lakefront Park

Whiting Lakefront Park is perfect for strolling along the waterfront — you might even be able to see the Chicago skyline.  There are 15 acres of play areas, including tennis courts, a baseball diamond and fishing pier.  Or if you prefer relaxing outdoors, sit by the fish pond and waterfall.  Bring your lunch and enjoy one of the picnic areas.  Before leaving the area, visit 3 Floyds; eat in at one of the oldest, internationally famous brewpubs around, or take some beer to go!

Photo: jerrysmith3149

There is so much to do in Indiana’s Cool North; find 25 more outdoor activities here  and other breweries  here.