Home > From Sails (to Suds!) to Trails: An Outdoors Guide to Indiana’s Cool North

From Sails (to Suds!) to Trails: An Outdoors Guide to 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 is also a hotbed for outdoor activities? From Dune Races to Urban Kayaking, the great outdoors is just as eclectic as each county (and we’ve included a few craft beer hotspots to keep you cool along the way!). Here’s your adventure guide to the truly unique outdoor activities in Indiana’s Cool North.

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

One of the most iconic natural features in the Midwest, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore 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

Marshall County: Lake Maxinkuckee

In the heart of Culver you’ll find Lake Maxinkuckee, a historic “kettle lake” scooped out by slow roaming glaciers over 15,000 years ago. Today the lake is a hotspot for year round outdoor adventures, most notably summertime canoeing, kayaking, fishing and swimming. Yet even in the dead of Winter you’ll find Lake Maxinkuckee still humming with activity, with ice sculptures and igloo building events along the shores and for the brave of heart (and numb of skin), a polar plunge challenge. Not far from the shores of the lake you’ll find Vongarde Brewery, an independent brewpub specializing in small-batch beers that you’ll only find in Marshall County.

Photo: Visit Marshall County

South Bend Mishawaka:  East Race Rafting and South Bend Brew Werks

One of the most unique outdoor activities anywhere, this one of a kind white water rafting course will have you rocketing down the river at 500 cubic feet per second – in the middle of the city? Smack in the middle of South Bend you’ll find the East Race Waterway, the very first artificial whitewater course in North America. The course will have you zooming down in approximately five heart pounding minutes, leaving you plenty of time to towel off and catch your breath at South Bend Brew Werks, where you can choose from twenty craft beers on tap. Go on, you’ve earned it!

Photo: Visit South Bend

Elkhart County:  Quilt Gardens

If you’re looking to slow down the pace for a moment but still enjoy nature’s splendor, consider a stop in Elkhart County to visit the beautiful Quilt Gardens. Located in Goshen, this unique floral garden is planted in patterns inspired by the famous quilts produced in the region. Between May 30th until October 1st, approximately one million fragrant flowers bloom to form the famous quilt patterns. After you’ve stopped to smell the flowers, consider a stop into Wedgwood Brewing Company, a pint-sized craft beer operation with tasty local beers and frequent live music.

Photo: Indiana’s Cool North

Shipshewana Lagrange County: Black Pine Animal Sanctuary

The Black Pine Animal Sanctuary is the ideal place to take a family friendly walk on the wild side, all to support a good cause. The sanctuary is a private, not-for-profit refuge for displaced or captive-raised exotic animals – nearly one hundred big cats, bears and more now call the sanctuary home. A variety of educational programs are offered during the year in this unique 18-acre menagerie.

Photo: Becker1999

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

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

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