Hiking and Wildlife Watching in Northwest Indiana Outdoors

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North Indiana is a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore beautiful hiking trails and observe diverse wildlife. From the rolling dunes along Lake Michigan to the tranquil wetlands, this region offers a variety of landscapes to explore. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting, there’s something for everyone in Northwest Indiana. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the best hiking trails and wildlife-watching spots in the area. So, put on your hiking boots, grab your binoculars, and let’s get started!

Hiking Trails

Northwest Indiana offers some of the best hiking trails in the Midwest, with breathtaking views of Lake Michigan, lush forests, and rolling hills. Here are three of the top trails to explore:

  1. Indiana Dunes National Park: With over 15 miles of stunning shoreline, this national park offers hikers a variety of trails to choose from, ranging in difficulty from easy to strenuous. Visitors can hike through the dunes and wetlands, or take a stroll along the beach while enjoying panoramic views of Lake Michigan.
  2. Moraine Nature Preserve: This 1100-acre preserve boasts a network of trails that wind through diverse habitats, including oak savannas, prairies, and wetlands. Hikers can enjoy a mix of easy and challenging trails, with opportunities to spot wildlife such as deer, birds, and even the occasional fox.
  3. Calumet Trail: Stretching for nearly 10 miles, this scenic trail follows an old railroad bed through the Calumet region, offering hikers stunning views of the surrounding forests and marshes. The trail is relatively flat and easy, making it an ideal choice for families with children or those looking for a more leisurely hike.

No matter which trails you choose, be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and appropriate gear for the weather conditions.

Wildlife Watching Spots

Northwest Indiana is home to a diverse array of wildlife, from migratory birds to white-tailed deer. Here are three spots where you can observe some of the region’s most fascinating creatures:

  1. Gibson Woods Nature Preserve: Located in Hammond, this 131-acre preserve offers visitors the chance to observe a variety of woodland and wetland species, including beavers, river otters, and a multitude of bird species. The preserve also features a boardwalk that winds through the wetlands, providing excellent views of the local flora and fauna.
  2. Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area: Each fall, thousands of sandhill cranes stop at this wildlife area during their migration south, providing a truly spectacular sight for visitors. In addition to cranes, the area is home to a variety of other bird species, as well as white-tailed deer and other wildlife.
  3. Kankakee Sands: This 7,000-acre nature reserve is one of the largest prairie restoration projects in the country. Visitors can observe a variety of grassland species, including bison, prairie chickens, and rare plants such as the Kankakee mallow. Guided tours are available for those who want to learn more about the area’s ecology.

Remember to be respectful of wildlife and their habitats, and never approach or feed wild animals. Binoculars and camera lenses with long focal lengths can allow you to observe wildlife from a safe distance.

Tips for Hiking and Wildlife Watching

Before you head out on a hiking or wildlife watching adventure in Northwest Indiana, here are some tips to make sure you have a safe and enjoyable experience:

Safety precautions:

  • Always let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return.
  • Stay on designated trails to avoid getting lost or disturbing fragile habitats.
  • Wear appropriate footwear and clothing for the weather conditions.
  • Bring a map, compass, or GPS device to help navigate unfamiliar areas.

Best times to go:

  • Early morning or late afternoon are often the best times to observe wildlife, as many species are most active during these times.
  • Avoid hiking during midday when temperatures are highest, especially in summer months.

What to bring:

  • Plenty of water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized.
  • Binoculars or cameras with a long focal length to observe wildlife from a safe distance.
  • Sunscreen, insect repellent, and a hat to protect against sun and bugs.
  • A first aid kit and emergency whistle in case of accidents or emergencies.

Remember to always respect wildlife and their habitats, and follow Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash and leaving the area as you found it. With these tips in mind, you’re ready to explore the beautiful outdoors of Northwest Indiana!


Northwest Indiana is a nature lover’s paradise, with a variety of hiking trails and wildlife-watching spots to explore. From the stunning shores of Indiana Dunes National Park to the prairies of Kankakee Sands, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful region. As you plan your adventure, remember to take safety precautions, choose the best time to go, and bring the necessary gear. And above all, respect the wildlife and their habitats to ensure that these natural wonders remain for future generations to enjoy. So, get outside, explore, and embrace the beauty of Northwest Indiana!

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