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.
LEROY | With 316 acres of woods, ponds and open meadows, nature lovers will enjoy navigating the eight miles of hiking trails Stoney Run County Park has to offer.
"Stoney Run is the epitome of tranquility," said Sandra L. Basala, superintendent of visitor services with Lake County Parks. "Even on the busiest of days when the playground is teeming with children and the fish are biting, it's not hard to find the quiet of the interior trails."
Four major trails interconnect within the interior of the park site, Basala said. The 1.5-mile Nature trail adjoins the 1.7-mile Fitness trail near Bramlett's Pond on the southeast side of the park.
The Perimeter trail, with trailhead near the group campground, is 3 miles. There are also a few short trails west of the parkway that are in a series of Maze trails.
"Since horses are permitted on the Perimeter trail April through December, chances are you might see one of them, as well as a Red Tail Hawk and a host of other birds," Basala said. "It's not unusual to spot a deer or two unless they see you first."
Walkers who enjoy taking in plant life will notice spice bush, elderberry, grape and sumac - all found growing in the sunlight along the forest edges. Wildflowers are also abundant, as are the trees - which include red and black oaks, shagbark and pignut hickory.
Stoney Run's terrain is primarily level, and features a ravine running through the eastern half and rolling hills on the western side.
Basala says visitors shouldn't be surprised if they see visitors looking for more than just walking trails.
"If you see people with GPS units who look a bit lost, don't fret," she said. "They are geocachers, looking for caches placed throughout the park."
Before leaving the park, don't forget to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Basala said.
"A visit to the park really should include a stop at the memorial where the names of Lake County residents who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms are listed on the granite wall surrounding the memorial boulders and flag poles," she said.
A map to the park is available online at lakecountyparks.com/parks/stoney_run.html.
There is a gate fee to enter the park when a gatekeeper is on duty - $5 per vehicle for Lake County residents and $8 per vehicle for non-county residents.