Visitors and residents of Allen County are encouraged to explore rivers, trails, parks and more by using the brand-new Fort Wayne Outdoor Pass.
The Pass was introduced in May and offers 20 self-guided smartphone tours for hiking, biking and paddling at every skill level and in every corner of the county, says Kristen Guthrie, vice president of marketing for Visit Fort Wayne.
“People’s use of the outdoors increased dramatically during the pandemic because they needed safe and fun options to be together,” she says. “Although the interest has continued, we want to do all we can to help people keep exploring the outdoors. It’s just the right time.”
So far, 1,000 people have signed up and the pass will be updated seasonally, she says.
The county is home to 120 miles of trails, more than 90 parks, three rivers, wetlands, prairies and other properties protected through the Allen County nature and forest preserves.
The pass works in conjunction with the 2020 opening of Promenade Park, the first phase of the city’s transformational Riverfront Fort Wayne project, which joins the county’s three rivers to downtown and destinations for recreation, arts and culture. The rivers are St. Mary’s, St. Joseph and the Maumee.
Access your digital pass at visitfortwayne.com/outdoorpass. It will instantly be delivered to your phone by text or email. There’s no app to download and it can be saved to your phone’s home screen for easy one-tap access. When you want to check in, you must have your location services turned on and be within one mile of the location. Check in at each route’s designated location to redeem prizes.
The tours were chosen to offer people a variety of experiences, says Guthrie.
One example of the walking tour is the popular Trail of Reflection Loop at Lindenwood Nature Preserve, an easy hike to a reflection pond surrounded by tall trees and lush foliage. The path from the trailhead to the pond is wheelchair- and stroller-accessible. The preserve has four hiking trails of varying lengths, the Nuthatch Nook bird observation area, and an open-air pavilion. Free guided hikes are offered at 10 a.m. on the first Saturday of each month.
The Downtown Walking Tour is about 90 minutes long and takes you to the most popular sites of downtown Fort Wayne, both new and historic. Visit museums, shops, restaurants and parks along the way and end the tour with a bird’s eye view of the city from Conner’s Rooftop and Bar on top of the Hampton Inn next to Parkview Field. Parking is available in the Allen County Library parking lot off South Harrison St.
On a bike, ride the nearly 2-mile loop around the perimeter of Shoaff Park and then cool off at the splash pad on the northwest side of the park. Enjoy other things the park has to offer, such as golf, frisbee/disc golf, a pavilion, playground, basketball and tennis courts and boating access, as well as open areas for football, soccer or kite flying.
Extend the route by turning onto the St. Joseph Pathway to ride 3 miles down to Johnny Appleseed Park. The trail follows an old feeder canal that was once a water roadway. On the way, after crossing the bridge to Purdue University, check out the Native Tree Walk, sensory garden and public art on campus.
Go kayaking on the Johnny’s Rope Swing Adventure to see both urban and wooded areas. Start the trip at Guldin Park public access ramp at Van Buren Street and Michaels Avenue, just upstream from Promenade Park. Kayaks can be rented at Fort Wayne Outfitters & Bike Depot, 1004 Cass St.
Paddle downstream on the St. Mary’s River to the confluence where three rivers meet, then upstream on the St. Joe, past Stevie’s Island, a favorite hangout for paddlers, ending the trip at the park’s boat ramp before the dam. The total trip is about 3.7 miles one way and takes three to four hours to travel round trip.
Along the way, you’ll pass by the Deck at the Gashouse, a local eatery with a pier; the Historic Old Fort, which is a replica of the original Fort Wayne built under the command of Major John Whistler in 1816; Headwaters Park; and the Dr. Martin Luther King Bridge.
Learn more about tours and how to get a Pass at visitfortwayne.com/outdoorpass. ❚