Nature is one of the things Indiana does best. The Hoosier State is peppered with nature preserves, hiking trails, walking paths, and challenging terrain. Lace up your hiking boots and check out these 10 picks of Indiana's trails.
White River Trail is actually a combination of two trails. The Shadyside portion, part of which meanders through Shadyside Park, is more landlocked than riverside, but passes two sporting lakes and links to the Riverwalk, a calm and easy stroll along the White River. The White River Trail altogether covers 6.5 miles of mixed terrain but nothing overly taxing, and even includes stops such as the Athletic Park (plus swimming pool) and the Killbuck Wetland, which is recommended as a good wildlife watching spot by the Indiana Audubon for its extensive denizenship.
A popular fall destination for many Hoosiers is Brown County State Park located in the southern region of the state. As Indiana's largest state park, it boasts eight trails ranging from easy to rugged around two lakes and an amphitheater, as well as dozens of species of wildlife from all classes, including harmful reptiles and bugs. Just watch your step, spritz down with bug repellent, and enjoy. Fishing is also allowed with proper licensing in Ogle Lake and Jimme Strahl Lake, both encompassed by the hiking trails. Some of the trails are handicap accessible, but the more moderate and rugged trails involve built-in stairs.
Trail Link touts the Monon Trail as “a colossus in the world of Midwest rail-trails.” Less of a nature hike and more of an urban sightseeing path, the 19-mile-long former railroad begins in Indianapolis and connects to Midland Trace Trail north of Westfield. Instead of habitats teeming with wildlife, you'll find happening spots teeming with nightlife, instead of canopies of trees, you'll find bridges and canopies of buildings, and instead of a learning center you'll find shopping centers. If you prefer smoother paved walkways instead of rocky and bumpy backwoods paths, then the Monon Trail is probably more your style.
Sharing Sugar Creek and views of the sandstone cliffs surrounding with Turkey Run State Park, Shades State Park is a little milder with peaceful and inspiring views not impeded by fear of falling into a canyon … although you will want to watch out for “Devil's Punchbowl.” Shades also shares Pine Hills Nature Preserve with a lengthy hiking trail of generally moderate terrain rewarded by stunning views.
For those who want a little more octane in their hike, you might want to check out Clifty Falls State Park, whose mileage of hiking trails Kenny Loggins might call the “highway to the danger zone.” Geologically, Clifty Falls is a proverbial gold mine of formations and phenomena, up to and including ravines, gulches, and crevasses. And, thanks to the force of moving water, some areas of the trails periodically become downright impassable, causing park officials to close them due to extreme danger. Most of the trails in the park are moderately rugged with rocky footing or very rugged where it might help to have a little climbing equipment with you, but there is one easy trail that takes a three-quarter-mile loop beginning at the parking lot behind the in-park swimming pool.
This state park features two moderate trails, Low Gap and Three Lakes, with smaller offshoots of easier difficulty. Morgan-Monroe State Forest is connected to the Hoosier Hikers Council, whose website describes not only Morgan-Monroe, but also 12 other trails and one nature preserve, so that would be worth checking out. Low Gap within the state forest is a good mix of easier and flatter with hilly moderate terrain, smaller loops making it possible to turn a 10-mile hike into a three-mile jaunt. Three Lakes is a little rougher of a terrain with hills and ridges out numbering the smoother paths, and, as the name suggests, loops around three lakes: Bean Blossom, Cherry, and Bryant.
This seasonal trail is one of the more difficult trails on this list, with just shy of six miles of moderately rugged to rugged terrain spanning an elevation of 1,030 feet. For a short distance, it follows the shore of Lake Monroe and weaves through the Paynetown State Recreation Area. A few miles northeast is the North Fork State Wildlife Refuge, and eastward of the trail itself is the Middlefork Wildlife Resting Area. All this means that if you're interested in animal-watching while you're hiking, you'll probably see some wildlife “just passing through.”
Hemlock Cliffs is a tad more dangerous than your average hiking trail, but if you stay on the official park pathways, you'll be safe. From the bottom of the box canyon up the 200 feet of limestone cliffs is a two-mile loop known as Hemlock Cliffs, encircling two waterfalls and small specially-designated campgrounds. For reasons of ecosystem conservation and pure safety, Hemlock Cliffs has more rules and warning signs than your average hike, but for thrill-seekers, the views and sights are well worth the effort to follow the rules. Look carefully … you might even find a small cave or two!
You guessed it, Lincoln as in President Abraham Lincoln. The namesake state park commemorates his childhood stomping grounds (pun intended), and the trail within the park is 7.3 miles of historic stepping. Covering an elevation of 761 feet, the year-round loop trail features seasonal wildflowers and a short jog to the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial.
The historic park contains 11 trails rated from easy to very rugged, for every hiker's desire. It's one of the most scenic of the parks, with geologic formations ranging from glacier-carved gorges to washed-out “punch bowls” to caves at the back of the park. Campgrounds are available, as is an inn with a tennis court and a pool, if you'd like to extend your stay either in comfort or adventure. History also appears in the form of a covered bridge over Sugar Creek immediately next to an old mill site, and on the directly opposite side of the park is another covered bridge close to Boulder Canyon … so watch your step!