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There’s just something natural about getting out into the wilderness in Middle America. It’s vast, open and largely unspoiled by the packs of tourists that crowd the trails of state parks and forests in other more commonly visited states. It’s generally simple, yet refreshing in its own way. Hiking Indiana fits that profile perfectly. Whether it’s to get outdoors and exercise in the shade of the forest in the summer or to crunch some leaves and take in the beauty of the trees changing color in the fall, hiking Indiana comes highly recommended.
We’ve put together a little guide to show you some of our favorite hiking locations across the state as well as a list of Indiana hiking essentials designed to help you combat the extreme weather that hits the Hoosier State. Whether it’s heavy snow in February or 90-degree heat in August, we’ll have you ready for whatever comes your way.
Indiana’s best Hiking Spots
Sugar Creek – Kempton
Sugar Creek is a tributary of the Wabash River and runs through two Indiana state parks, creating sort of a trail through some of the state’s best hiking territory. There are paths that follow the creek and weave through the forest on either side so you’ll get plenty of views up the waterway.
The terrain is rocky but manageable and in the warmer months you can break up the hike with dips in some of the swimming holes along the trail. Also, if you’d rather explore out on the water, Sugar Creek is a great place to hop in a canoe and see the sights.
We recommend you check out the suspension bridges in Turkey Run State Park as well. They make for quite the photo opportunities.
Eagle Creek Park – Indianapolis
You might be a bit skeptical. How can a park in such an urban area be a great place to hike? Well, all 3,900 acres of Eagle Creek Park are ready to erase your skepticism and show you some of the state’s most scenic trails. Hiking trails cross the park and you can even spend some time making your way through the forest canopy in the park’s elevated ropes course.
You can also head to Eagle Creek Reservoir for some fishing, kayaking and beach time.
Monon Trail – Indianapolis
Although not technically a hiking trail in that it has a more urban feel with its paved path, Manon Rail Trail (the trail was initially a railroad) is one of the best places to get out and exercise in Indiana. The trail is 18 miles long and stretches from Indianapolis up to the city of Westfield.
You can jog, bike or just walk along the path as it passes through towns and forests. You can turn it into a loop trail of just about any length you please. It’s a great place to get outside and mix with other folks in the area looking to get some exercise and breathe some fresh air.
White River Trail – Indianapolis
Another urban hiking option, White River is a beautiful trail that winds its way along the river and through the city of Indianapolis. Like the Manon Trail, it’s an excellent way to get out and exercise without having to venture outside of the city.
But don’t think it’s too urban. There are forested sections where people see coyotes, deer, foxes and a wide assortment of birds. It’s also been reported that two bald eagles have hatched south of the city in Southwestway Park.
Hoosier National Forest – Bedford
Maybe the urban hiking scene isn’t for you. You need to get a little farther out there to stretch your legs and feel farther away from the city. Hoosier National Forest is more up your alley. Covering more than 200,000 acres, the park has beautiful trails that run through the forest and down along the Ohio River.
If you’re looking more for a backpacking trip than a nice walk to start the weekend, this is your destination. Here you can explore caves, camp, and explore to your heart’s content.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore – Porter
This isn’t quite the Indiana you know. Think more along the lines of California’s sand dunes, crashing waves and forests that end in with sand. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore lines the southern shore of Lake Michigan and provides some excellent hiking options.
Grab a pack and make your way down the coast scouting for good spots on the beach to stop and catch some sun. This is an ideal summer activity for those looking to mix the beach with a little exercise.
Indiana Hiking Essentials
Indiana weather can be extreme. On an August day, it can be in the mid-80’s and then half an hour later temperatures will drop and a heavy rainstorm will have moved in and soaked your plans. Bring warm weather light layers and then something to keep you dry if the heavy stuff rolls in.
If you’re up for braving the colder months, be ready to freeze. Temperatures lower substantially and while you may work up a sweat hiking, you’re going to need the extra layers when you stop and the cold sets in.
Camelbaks and Water Bags
When it’s hot in Indiana, it’s really hot. The humidity has a special way of making you sweat through your t-shirt and erasing all that hydrating you did earlier that morning. Having an easily-transported supply of extra water can save a hike.
The terrain in Indiana is by no means the mountains of Colorado or the desert of Arizona. It’s not that intense and risks are less severe. However, you need to be prepared for cuts, twisted ankles and other small problems that can become big problems if not properly treated. This falls into the “better safe than sorry” category.
Don’t let a heavy tent be the reason you can’t make it a few more miles to that sweet swimming hole you heard about. A reliable, lightweight tent is the way to go for an overnight backpacking trip.