There is more than corn in the Hoosier State. From the heights of cliffs to the streams of small canyons, Indiana offers a plethora of tantalizing sights for your hiking enjoyment. It is difficult to pick only ten, but these trails highlight the best of the state, from long, multi-day trails to wonderful and scenic day hikes.
1. Charles Deam Wilderness-Peninsula Trail
If you’re looking for a starter backpacking trip or just an easy outing, Charles Deam is a great place to begin. The 10.2-mile out-and-back Peninsula Trail takes you along wooded ridges through a beautiful pine grove to several campsites along the shore of Lake Monroe. This is a great place to see the sunset from your campsite.
2. The Adventure Hiking Trail
Located in part of O’Bannon Woods State Park, this 25-mile loop can be spread out over 2-3 days. There are several unique shelters along the trail available on a first come, first serve basis. Enjoy some great views of the Ohio River as you climb ridges and descend into valleys. You’ll experience elevation changes up to 400’ and see some sinkholes and caves along the way.
3. The Knobstone Trail
For those seeking a more arduous trek, try the the Knobstone Trail. This is Indiana’s longest backpacking trail and is used by thru-hikers to train for the Appalachian Trail. Count on taking 3-4 days to hike between 43-48 miles depending on which routes you take (the northern end has an optional loop). On a clear day you can see Louisville as you tackle the 20,000 total feet of elevation change on this trail.
4. Shades State Park
Surprising views and stunning canyons await you at this western Indiana state park. Link several of these shorter trails together by starting at the Hickory Parking Lot. From the lot, head north on Trail 7 to get to Trail 8. Once on Trail 8, you’ll enjoy hiking up the creek through Shawnee Canyon. Next, come back to the starting point to head toward Trail 1. As you head toward Trail 1, turn right before the playground to drop into the canyon via the wooden bridges. Highlights along Trail 1 include Devil’s Punch Bowl, Silver Cascade Falls, and Prospect Point.
5. Hemlock Cliffs in Hoosier National Forest
A little known area, this shady valley offers a variety of viewing pleasures. Take your time along the 1.2 mile loop trail to see sandstone cliffs, waterfalls, canyons and sandstone caves (caves are currently closed as of 2016). This is an excellent winter outing. The views are breathtaking with snow, ice, and frozen waterfalls.
6. McCormick’s Creek State Park
Embrace your inner child on this park’s passages. Several short trails connect on a tour of the wilderness. Park at the Canyon Inn (a great spot to eat as well) and travel east along Trail 3 toward the river to see McCormick Creek Falls. As you follow the creek, find some good logs to walk across or plunge your feet in the water, as this trail crosses the creek several times. Eventually, the creek will take you to Trail 7 via Trails 3 and 10. Follow the ridge to the start of Trail 5. Once on Trail 5, hike back to Wolf Cave and go through it (be sure to bring a light). Then head back along the rest of Trail 5. Cross the road and drop back into the canyon, where you’ll finish the rest of Trail 3 and come back to the inn.
7. Clifty Falls State Park
Huge waterfalls beckon. Park at the Oak Grove Shelter near the tunnel. Take Trail 5 to head down into the canyon and hike north on Trail 2 to see Clifty Falls (warning: frequent creek crossings). Hike back and continue south on Trail 2, seeing beautiful canyon cliffs and spying fossils as you follow the creek. Once you reach the end of Trail 2, head back north hugging an old railroad grade on Trails 3, 4, and 5 to end at the historic train tunnel with an interesting story.
8. Charlestown State Park
This newer park has a fascinating backstory that you can learn about in an innovative way. Travel along Trail 3 out to the Rose Island Loop to learn about an abandoned amusement park from the 1920s. The route has hand cranked recorded stories you can listen to with lots of pictures. It’s like going to an outdoor museum.
9. Spring Mill State Park
Home to a full-fledged pioneer village, complete with a water powered grist mill, you can experience what life was like in the 1800s. Trail 4 leads you along a glistening river that powers the mill, straight to the heart of the village, then back to caves and even a pioneer cemetery.
10. Turkey Run State Park
In all seasons, this park continues to amaze with its beauty and interesting features. Go east on Trail 1 to Trail 2. Cross the historic and newly restored Narrows Covered Bridge to Trail 4 and follow Sugar Creek. Take a look at an old coal mine before heading back into beautiful Rocky Hollow on Trail 3. From there take Trail 5 to Trail 9 until you come back to Sugar Creek. Go upstream as you head back toward the suspension bridge and your vehicle. This is a must-see Indiana park!