Summer in South Bend: Getting Outdoors

Summers in South Bend can be hot. Humidity and the summer sun may push the temperatures as high as 90 degrees or more, especially in July and August. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get outdoors! Even in the dog days of summer, mornings are often pleasant, and even the hottest weeks are broken up by days of mild weather. Besides, you’ll want to soak up that sunlight before the ‘perma-cloud’ settles in for the winter. Here are some ideas.

South Bend City Parks

Michiana, like many regions of the Midwest, is gifted with a large number of city parks, which have the distinct attraction of being free. Many of these parks have playgrounds, making them an excellent choice for families with children. In addition to parks, you can take a bike-ride or go for a run on the East Bank Trail, which extends from Central Park in Mishawaka to Holy Cross College, or the Riverside Trail, which begins at the corner of Angela Blvd. and Riverside Dr. and goes to Wheelock Park. Alternatively, you can ride a raft on the East Race Waterway, South Bend’s own artificial whitewater rapids course, for $5. From softball fields to golf courses, canoeing to water playgrounds, fishing to picnicking, South Bend city parks are a staple of summer leisure. Check out the official guide to summer activities at South Bend parks, including classes, competitions, and camps for adults and children alike, many of them available for free or at low cost.

St. Joseph County Parks

Around South Bend are also a number of parks maintained by the county. These too are free on most days of the year, except for weekends and holidays, when they charge a small gate fee. These parks are typically larger than the city parks, affording more opportunities for hiking and biking. Bendix Woods, for instance, does have a playground, but also contains a 6.5-mile trail for mountain bikes, as well as a few trails for hiking. In the fall, they offer hayrides; in the winter, there is a sledding hill. Ferrettie and Baugo Creek Park has an 18-hole disc golf course. St. Patrick’s Park features hiking trails and rents canoes, paddleboards, and kayaks during the summer; in the winter, they offer cross-country skiing and inner-tubing. Spicer Lake Nature Preserve has a lengthy boardwalk through its wetlands, where many types of animals can be seen year-round. The parks also offer many activities, classes, and camps for adults and children alike. Check out their events calendar for the latest information.

Potato Creek State Park

About twenty minutes south of town is Potato Creek, the nearest Indiana state park. The scenery is beautiful and varied, ranging from woods to wetlands to prairies, and you can take it in by bike, on horseback, or on foot. The park also feature various campsites and cabins for rent. The lake is open for swimming and fishing in the summer and for ice-fishing in the winter. Entrance fees are $7 per vehicle with an Indiana license plate and $9 for vehicles with out-of-state plates. Campsites will, of course cost more, depending on the type of site you reserve.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Indiana Dunes State Park

Forty-five minutes to the west is the scenic Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and nested within the Lakeshore is the Indiana Dunes State Park. Both parks preserve part of a unique system of sand dunes on the shores of Lake Michigan. The National Lakeshore is free to enter for the day, except for the West Beach during the summer, a popular spot for Lake Michigan beach-goers. You’ll be surprised how much a day on Lake Michigan’s beach feels like a day on the beach at the ocean. Besides the beach, however, the Lakeshore also has a number of hiking trails through the unique dunes, woodlands, and wetlands in the park. Inside the State Park, on the other hand, which charges the same gate fees as Potato Creek, are more hiking trails, numerous campsites, a swimming beach, and a nature center.

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