Beaches, Indiana Dunes and so much more

West Beach in Portage, along Lake Michigan, is a great beach and hiking site.Are you interested in seeing a bog where you can traverse floating boardwalks to literally walk on water and see insect-eating plants and rare orchids? Do you want to visit a bison farm where you can get within inches of the massive animals? Are you up for hiking one of the most amazing dune trails along the Lake Michigan shoreline, exploring a renowned arboretum or paddling the peaceful Kankakee River?

These are just few of the opportunities available at the 60 great sites that are part of the Beyond the Beach Trail in Northwest Indiana.

Having visited all the sites along this regional trail, I will say that a person can pick a handful of sites that match their interest and easily spend a weekend or a week experiencing something new and fun.

The trail highlights include:

*Pinhook Bog. Located in LaPorte, it is Indiana’s only true bog. Walk on floating boardwalks to see insect-eating plants, tamaracks, orchids and blueberry bushes during the scheduled open houses Sunday afternoons in the summer.

*Broken Wagon Bison Farm. Located in rural Hobart, this bison ranch takes group reservations and offers tours at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. CST each Saturday from June through September. In addition to learning about and seeing bison up close, visitors can purchase bison jerky and other products.

*The West Beach Dune Succession Trail. Located in Portage, this mile-long trail, which features 250 stairs, is a great place to see ecological succession – from bare beach to wooded dune. There are two other trails and an expansive beach at West Beach.

*Taltree Arboretum & Gardens. Located in Valparaiso, people come from all around to see formal gardens, prairie, wooded trails, changing exhibits and a massive model railway garden featuring more than 3,500 tiny trees and bushes.

*Dunn’s Bridge County Park. Located in Kouts, this park offers the only boat launch around onto the scenic Kankakee River. And legend has it that the unusual bridge was built with steel from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The metal arches are believed to be from the world’s first ferris wheel.

The Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail also features great mountain bike trails, a popular winery and plenty of sites for outdoor recreation – whether you enjoy birding, kayaking and fishing or hiking and biking. Unlike a linear hiking or biking trail, the trail allows you to set your own route and visit those sites that best fit your interests and timetable.

For more information, read the trail guide, which can be requested by email at or by calling 800-283-8687; click here.

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