Looking to spend the remainder of your good summer days outside?  I was lucky enough to stumble upon one of the best hidden-gems in Northwest Indiana, the Gabis Arboretum. Tucked away in southern Valparaiso, driving around the area you wouldn’t expect to find six miles of gorgeous hiking trails anywhere near you. Spending most of my hiking time at the Indiana Dunes National Park, it didn’t occur to me that there was a secret oasis right in my backyard. 

Gabis Arboretum Railway Garden - Carolyn Hricik

Starting my afternoon at the Depot I entered the impressive Railway Garden. Sitting on almost one full acre of land, the Railway Garden is home to seven fully functioning train sets that each showcase a different landscape. From a quarry to a quaint farm town, the train sets each had their own design and purpose. They even had the perfect recreation of President Lincoln’s funeral train pass by to the tune of Taps. Tiny human figurines populated the sprawling layout of the expansive garden and each elaborate setup. Bridges connected the model trains as they traveled over six different water features and brought the landscape to life. Trees, shrubs and flower bushes were all cut down to miniature size to fit into this manicured tiny world.  

Gabis Arboretum flowers - Carolyn Hricik

After I took a stroll through the Railway Garden, I headed over to see some of the flowers I had passed on my way in.

Gabis Arboretum Adventure Garden - Carolyn Hricik

Stumbling into the bright pink and orange rose garden, I followed a path through to the kid’s Adventure Garden. Pergolas with twisting vines and small purple flowers attracted a family of butterflies that floated over my head. Brightly colored beach chairs were placed under a shady area with a perfect view of the chicken coop, bunny, turkey and goat enclosures. After stopping to say hello to the animals before I left, I continued down the Bluebird Trail to see the Savanna Wetland, which I was told not to miss. 

Gabis Arboretum Savanna Wetland - Carolyn Hricik

Making my way down the grass and mulch path, I stopped at multiple places along the way to snag a few un-missable photos of the wildflowers and tall grass that guided me on my way like a corn maze. The path opened up in front of me and I was met with a beautiful stone structure sat right in front of one of the most picturesque views of the Savanna Wetland. Bright yellow flowers were sprinkled around the pond that was covered in soft green algae. Both colors showing unbelievably bright against the gloomy gray sky and abrupt stone pillars. Being sure to take a mental note, I added this section of the trail to my ‘list of proposal places’… for future reference of course. 

Just in time, the gray sky opened up to a beautiful golden sunset that I luckily got to see on my walk back up the trail. Before I left I made sure to take note of each possible reading spot and walking trail at Gabis so that I can return often and take full advantage of this gem that is luckily not so hidden anymore.