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 morning dew glistens on rose petals in the garden and birds migrating north break the silence, walkers at Taltree Arboretum & Gardens have a variety of sights and sounds to explore.
The arboretum, located south of U.S. 30 between Merrillville and Valparaiso, is the perfect spot to take in picturesque moments while utilizing its nearly four miles of wooded and prairie hiking trails.
Five trails give visitors the option of taking a short jot or exploring more of the grounds all at once.
The Bluebird Trail, the longest at 1.5 miles, takes visitors through prairies, along reforestation and the Savanna Wetland, and ends through a section of woods covered by a canopy of trees. It's named for the many bluebirds that nest in boxes in the prairie, and features the most diverse flora and fauna of all the trails.
The shortest, at .4 miles, is the Heron Trail, which packs a punch for a short distance. Walkers on this trail circle the Heron Pond and enjoy up-close views of sunning turtles and other pond life.
After exploring the trails, don't forget to take in the nine gardens and exhibits - providing another opportunity to get more steps in your workout.
The Railway Garden, in particular, is something that shouldn't be missed at this time of the year, said Anicia Kosky, communications specialist at Taltree.
"It will amaze train, history and garden lovers alike," she said.
The Railway Garden features an outdoor G(Garden)-scale model railway garden and allows visitors to explore horticulture and natural history while learning the stories of American railroads.
The Rose Garden invites guests to enjoy the beauty of the rose, while the Native Plant Garden features a Monarch Waystation, a place that provides resources necessary for monarchs to produce successive generations and sustain their migration.
Walkers exploring Taltree also will have a variety of woodlands, wetlands and prairies to navigate - visiting with Taltree's Trumpeter Swans, the largest birds at the arboretum, and taking in the variety of plant life that include trees, hawthorn, black cherry, hazelnut and Viburnum.
Kosky said walkers are welcome all year as well.
"We have events and educational activities year-round," she said. "Our biggest event in the winter time is Holiday Lights, held in December."
Taltree is located at 450 West 100 North, Valparaiso. There is an admission fee of $10 for adults and $8 for seniors, though having a membership allows walkers free access throughout the year. Membership fees range from $40 to $175. For more information, call (219) 462-0025 or go to taltree.org.