Research shows walking benefits both the body and the mind, and the Northwest Indiana region is full of parks, trails and nature preserves that highlight the beauty and diverse landscape of the area. Throughout the summer in Home and Garden, the Times will highlight some of the best places to walk and enjoy the unique topography this region has to offer.
As one of the region's longest single walkways, the Calumet Trail is the perfect place for walkers who enjoy trekking a variety of distances.
It's also one of the most hidden - though just a stone's throw away from U.S. 12, the trail is hidden by vegetation on the north side of the highway.
Depending on the time of the year, visitors walking the 9.1-mile trail may also see runners, bikers, cross-country skiers and even those in snowshoes.
No matter the method of travel, all visitors have the opportunity to capture scenic views. The Calumet Trail parallels U.S. 12 and crosses through the eastern portion of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Several picture-worthy spots are nearby, including beaches, Mount Baldy and Cowles Bog - not to mention the trail itself, which is home to a bank of oak, maple, sassafras and shrubby sumac trees that border the walkway. Be sure to walk the trail this fall and witness a colorful fall palette.
The trail also borders the south edge of Indiana Dunes State Park, where there are an additional 16.5 miles of hiking trails, beaches and a bird observation tower.
Although the trail runs next to the busy U.S. 12 and a commuter railroad track, those hiking along the Calumet Trail at this time of year may catch several glimpses of the abundant wildlife that call the area home, including deer, rabbits, blue herons, frogs, turtles and snakes, said Geri Rose, marketing and communications director with the Porter County Parks and Recreation Department.
"In the winter time, people will see deer and coyotes, plus foxes are abundant," she said.
The grassland prairies that hug the crushed limestone trail are home to a wide variety of bird species and wildflowers as well, including blazing star, asters and red cardinal flowers.
Those needing a break from the summer heat can hop on any of the roads that cross the trail and head north to Beverly Drive. The Lake Michigan beaches are just a few blocks further north.
Although the parks department maintains the Calumet Trail, it's actually owned by the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) and is called a utility corridor.
"The Porter County Parks has an agreement with them that we will maintain it as a park and trail for our taxpayers and consumers to use and enjoy," Rose said.
Leashed dogs are allowed on the trail, but not horses.
The trail runs from Mineral Springs Road just north of Chesterton to the Porter/Laporte county line, where there are entrances near both ends. Visitors also can hop on the trail at the Beverly Shore Train Station, Rose said.
For more information on the Calumet Trail, go to indianadunes.com/parks-and-recreation.