We did this hike at Sunset Hill County Park right after a huge 4 inch rain storm that fell the middle of May and did not encounter too much mud, only a few small pockets that we walked around. The Murray Woods Nature Preserve wooded area at Sunset Hill County Park was very surprisingly a very good hike in many ways.
The park is just north of Rogers Lakewood park and just south of Highway 6. There is a nicely paved entrance and plenty of parking areas. I hesitate to say that the park is in Valparaiso, since it is so close to Chesterton and even close to Portage.
Once you have arrived, you’ll want to check out the nice kiosk that shows the hiking trails and how long they are and where they go. With cell phone in hand, one can easily take a picture of the 9 trails to have on hand.
Each trail is named by a number and the trails are very well marked throughout. Some of the trails are on flat ground and a couple are more hilly.
A bit of caution to note is that there is quite a distance to walk from the parking lot to actually get to each trail head, it’s probably about a half mile to get to the trail heads of Trails 3, 4 and 7. These trail heads are towards the back and southern part of the central area, south of the pond where the Model Railway Garden is located, trust me, you will know it when you see it. This is where “Redbud Lane” starts and true to it’s name, we saw the red buds.
There are also nice pictorial and educational stands along the way that describe the various animal life, wildlife, tree life and vegetation life. The trails that we went on had several benches along the way to stop for a brief rest.
We started out on Trail 3 which took us to the pond and the newly installed Wetland observation deck that over looks the pond area made for birdwatching. This was a nice place to stop and relax, enjoy the dragon flies and many birds sounds and images.
After a nice trek through the woods Trail 3 came to a “T” and we opted to take Trail 4 which turns to the right. After a brief trek up a rather steep hill Trail 4 also turns again to the right or you can take Trail 7 back to the Campground and Cemetery. Since we were getting tired, we decided not to take Trail 7, although it looked quite interesting – maybe on another trip back. We have been on many hikes all over the Midwest from the Smokey Mountains to Northern Michigan and this hike was well worth it.
This park is kid friendly and dogs must be on a leash. During the normal summer months, there are restrooms available, but patrons are advised to leave no trace behind. Since our visit was during May, it would probably be a good idea to bring bug spray, especially when there is a nice sized pond in the middle of the park.
Visitors can enjoy the park from dawn to dusk at Sunset Hill Farm County Park, which is located at 775 Meridian Road. Educators can also schedule a field trip for their students by calling the Porter County Parks naturalist office at 219-465-3641. More information about the Porter County Parks Department can be found at www.portercountyparks.org.
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