Submitted and written by Lori Gagen, Noble County resident and nature lover.

There just aren’t many places any better than Noble County for disconnecting from the daily grind, rejuvenating with a dose of outdoors, and free fun for everyone! Here are my top five favorite, free things to do in Noble County:

#5. Take a historical markers tour. Have you ever noticed the brown wooden signs you see all over in Indiana’s state parks and historic sites? You know them, always wooden, painted brown, with yellow engraved words. They all look the same. Those are produced – for the entire state – right here in Noble County at the Chain O’Lakes Department of Corrections facility, crafted by offenders staying in the minimum-security institution. When you see those kinds of signs while driving in and around Noble County, though, take note! Used locally, the same kind of hand-crafted signs are historic site markers that tell the story of Noble County’s history. Take your mobile device and use The Historical Marker Database at hmdb.org to create your own driving tour. Noble County’s countryside and small villages and towns weave an interesting tale. For example, did you know that Chief Papakeecha’s House was built in 1827 by the Federal Government on a 36-section reservation for $562?  Neither did I. Tell me more about this Miami tribe leader who once lived in the village now called Indian Springs.

#4. See where the gnomes, fairies, and trolls live.  Although these elusive creatures are less likely to share their whereabouts on a big sign, your inner child, or real children, will enjoy discovering the fabled histories of the many gnomes, fairies and trolls who apparently live in Noble County. Their unique tiny front doors are mostly found in Kendallville, but populations are expanding! Your adventure awaits, with a little guidance, at aokendallville.com

#3. Explore the murals. There are growing number of murals popping up throughout the county, including several in Albion, Kendallville, and in Ligonier, Noble County’s “City of Murals”. Each work of art depicts a different bit of our heritage and as you explore you may also enjoy taking in the diverse architecture of our historic downtowns. What I really enjoy most about traveling from mural to mural is that I notice of so many more details of our beautiful downtown streetscapes. The county is blessed with so much rich history and I’ll bet taking time to explore the murals will pique your interest, too!

#2. Play disc golf. OK, you have to own or buy a disc, but once you have one you can enjoy some great fun at varying levels of challenge. My favorite course is at Hidden Diamonds Park in Albion where you’ll enjoy beautifully maintained rolling hills, paths, pine trees, and nature all around as you proceed through 18 holes. Not only is this course challenging, the walk between holes will prove a good hike, too. Bixler Lake in Kendallville offers two courses, on the east and west sides of the lake.

#1. Enjoy the trails. Noble County is home to miles of free, public trails that range from groomed and paved to hilly and wild. For those looking to enjoy a low-impact walk that is more about enjoying nature than working up a sweat, check out Fishing Line Trail. It runs from near Sylvan Lake in Rome City to Kendallville. The 1.3-mile trail is great for walking, or biking. Noble Trails is continuously working to expand and pave more of the trail system, so visit often and watch their website for updates! Hidden Diamonds Park in Albion features two miles of undulating trails. Strawberry Valley Cultural Trail in Ligonier and Bixler Lake Park in Kendallville also feature great places to walk while enjoying the scenery.

If you enjoy getting more “off the beaten path” be sure to check out the six ACRES nature preserves that dot Noble County, open from dusk to dawn with free parking and access. I recommend taking your phone or other GPS device, and bug repellent, when visiting. Some preserves are more traversed than others, but all offer a great walk through some unique and historic geological areas. For full details and maps, visit acreslandtrust.org.

This list only scratches the surface of the many free and fun activities to enjoy. If these don’t tickle your fancy, consider checking out the abundant programs offered by our libraries, the many fairs and festivals (Indiana is home to more than any other state), as well as the more than 35 free public access sites to our abundant lakes, rivers, and streams, maintained by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.  Whatever you choose, get out there and go Noble!

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