Day hiking is by far the easiest way to get outdoors. It basically requires nothing but a water bottle. Overnight backpacking is a bit more of a challege that involves strategic packing and logistical planning. However neither requires very much experience and can be done by anyone. Below are some of Michiana’s best hiking destinations.
Lake Michigan Dunes – A series of national lakeshores and state parks with a plethora of unique ecology and hiking opportunities.
Potato Creek State Park – Hiking trails and mountain biking trails very nearby with a bit more nature and solitude than the city parks. Potato Creek was once land used for agriculture and has been restored to some pretty impressive natural lands.
Manistee National Forest – Embark on a multi-night backpacking trek through a vast wilderness. Manistee offers the best opportunities for long overnight backpacking around.
Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area – designated mostly for hunting, in October and November this is a spectacular place to witness the sandhill crane migration.
Fernwood Botanical Gardens – some nice trails just a short drive into Michigan
Kankakee Nature Preserve – Cool preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy. Once completely farmland, TNC has worked to restore the land to it’s original wetland state. There are often volunteer opportunities to help plant native seeds or remove invasives.
Pokagon State Park – Besides the standard pretty hiking trails, in the winter they have an absurdly fun toboggon run.
Starved Rock State Park – This place is pretty spectacular. As you hike through it, you’ll encounter one canyon/waterfall after another. In the winter when the conditions are right, ice climbing can be done here.
Midewin National Grassland – Hike through the most endagered ecosystem on Earth, with only 2% of the original grasslands remaining. Check out some neat bunkers that were part of the Joliet armory.
Hoosier National Forest – I’ve only touched the surface of this place but I think there are some good multi-night backpacking opportunities here.
Brown County State Park – This is actually the largest state park in the nation.