Top 6 Nature Parks and Trails in Valparaiso, Indiana
If you’re looking to explore the great outdoors, there are many spots to explore in Valparaiso, Indiana. Whether you want to immerse yourself in nature’s beauty or get a good workout in, there are both nature parks and hiking trails to suit your fancy. Here is Golden Tech’s list of six of the top nature parks and trails you should check out.
Meadowbrook Nature Preserve
What was once a Girl Scout camp is now the beloved Meadowbrook Nature Preserve. The Shirley Heinze Land Trust is the group that owns this preserve. This organization’s offices are on site, and visitors can stop in to learn more about the organization’s objectives or review a map of the preserve. The Meadowbrook Nature Preserve is 224 acres in size, and the walking and hiking trail is four miles in length. The terrain ranges from flat to gently rolling, so it’s perfect for people who are looking for a leisure walking experience.
If you visit in April and May, you’re likely to see the beautiful wildflowers that bloom on the preserve’s steep, off-trail slopes. A popular activity here is birdwatching, as the Meadowbrook Nature Preserve is home to various bird and bat species. No matter the time of year that you visit, you’re likely to see some species of birds in their natural habitat. If you prefer a more structured experience, you can sign up for one of the tree identification classes. During this in-person class with a knowledgeable instructor, you can learn to tell the difference between elms, maples, and oaks.
Sunset Hill Farm Loop
Sunset Hill Farm Loop is a three-mile loop with an elevation gain of 173 feet. It’s the perfect route for a solo hike or a family outing. As you’re completing your hike, you can expect to see a few deer, especially if you’re visiting between September and January. In the spring, be sure to bring your camera to capture the beauty of the butterweed wildflowers. These yellow gems sprout up every spring season and create beautiful patches that are sure to impress everyone in your family.
This loop has excellent caretakers, as it’s always in good shape. There are quite a few roots that may cause an amateur to stumble, but the loop’s caretakers always touch up the roots’ bright orange paint. This safety precaution makes hiking the Sunset Hill Farm Loop a much more enjoyable experience.
Moraine Nature Preserve
Moraine Nature Preserve consists of over 800 acres of land that’s home to various plant and animal species. Initially only 160 acres, it has more than quadrupled in size thanks to the generosity of several Hoosier families over the past several decades. Moraine Nature Preserve has many natural sights, including steep ridges, rolling hills, a natural kettle pond, and deep-wooded gorges. Many entities, including the University of Chicago and the Indiana Heritage Trust, dedicate resources to maintaining this beautiful preserve for Hoosiers to enjoy.
While this preserve doesn’t have any established trails, the terrain is relatively stable and easy to navigate. You can create your own adventure and explore the different ecosystems to your heart’s desire. Some of the unique ecosystems that this preserve supports include old farm fields, beech-maple forests, and oak-hickory forests.
Gabis Arboretum and Loop
The Gabis Arboretum is a nature preserve at Purdue Northwest. Damien and Rita Gabis first opened the preserve in 1990 by buying more than 70 acres of land. During the spring of 1998, staff and volunteers planted 35 acres of warm season prairie and more than 7,000 oaks and hickories.
Today, the entire preserve, including all of the trees and gardens, consists of 300 acres. The property has plant collections, display gardens, wetlands, woodlands, savannas, and a prairie. It also has more than six miles of hiking trails, more than 80 species of birds, pheasant and woodcock habitats, and monarch butterflies.
If you’re looking to get some exercise in, the Gabis Arboretum has a Bluebird Trail to explore that’s just over a mile and a half, named for the many bluebirds that nest in the prairie. If you take your kids with you to the Gabis Arboretum, be sure to check out the garden railway. This unique addition is a model railway that features a fascinating entanglement of plants.
Creekside Trails are a part of Creekside Park in Valparaiso, Indiana. The trails consist of more than five miles that are ideal for walking, hiking, and biking. You can safely partake in any of these activities knowing that motorcyclists and other operators of motorized vehicles aren’t allowed on the trails. You can explore Creekside Trails seven days a week as long as the weather permits for safe use.
The Creekside Trails aren’t available for night use to keep all visitors safe, but you can use them anytime from dawn until dusk. The trails allow dogs, but be sure to bring your furry friend on a leash. The Creekside Park volunteers and employees strictly enforce the regulations in place to create a safe and enjoyable way for visitors to immerse themselves in nature.
Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve
The Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve is a 157-acre nature park that contains prairies, woodlands, and wetlands. There’s no shortage of greenery, as the park’s caretakers have identified several hundred native plant species. Hikers can explore the 3.1-mile Coffee Creek Long Loop for the perfect 5K distance. They can also lengthen their journey by jumping on adjacent trails.
Some common birds that you may spot on the Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve include the red-tailed hawk, bald eagle, sparrow, and warbler. In the fall and spring, you may be able to spot salmon and rainbow trout as they swim against the current in Coffee Creek to release their eggs. Get the best vantage point by making your way to one of Coffee Creek’s seven bridges.
The tree huggers at Golden Tech want to hear about your outdoor experiences! What’s your favorite nature spot in Valparaiso, Indiana? What activities do you enjoy doing once you’re there? Let us know! Get in touch with us by calling or visiting our office in person.