Scenic Hiking and Camping in the Hoosier State
Sculpted by glaciers thousands of years ago, Indiana is a state of rich natural beauty and wonder. From the flat, marshy areas of Northern Indiana, to the gently rolling hills and ravines of its midsection, all the way to the caverns and limestone cliffs of southern Indiana, there's a whole lot to see. Through years of Boy Scouts and camping with my family, I have pieced together the best of Indiana's State Parks in this top 10 list.
In no particular order, here are the top 10 Indiana State Parks.
The 10 Indy State Parks at a Glance
1. Turkey Run State Park
Turkey Run State Park, located near Marshall, Indiana, is a beautiful place to hike and camp. Glaciers carved the park's gorges out of Mansfield sandstone over a millennia, and today it is now possible to hike these paths along Sugar Creek. Don't fret if camping is not your forte. The rustic Turkey Run Inn is available for those who want the amenities of a hotel, but the rugged beauty of one of Indiana's top state parks.
If you're interested in canoeing in Sugar Creek, I definitely recommend a pair of hiking sandals to protect your feet from any rocks or other sharp things in the river.
2. Shades State Park
Turkey Run's next door neighbor, Shades State Park, offers more scenic hiking along sandstone ravines and Sugar Creek. Just outside of Waveland, Indiana and 17 miles southwest of Crawfordsville, Shades State Park is great to visit in the fall. For the avid hiker, the nearby Pine Hills Nature Preserve has some lengthy trails to wander!
Camping at the Shades is definitely a bit primitive, as campgrounds don't have electric hookups. So if you are looking for more comfortable camping, it's recommended that you camp at nearby Turkey Run and "commute" to the Shades for some hiking.
3. Spring Mill State Park
If you're interested in historic cabins and spelunking, then Spring Mill is the state park for you! Spring Mill is a few miles out of Mitchell, Indiana and has a variety of camping amenities. Tour a pioneer village that includes a working mill and a variety of village shops. The Twin Caves boat tour is definitely a recommended attraction for anyone over the age of three. For history buffs, Spring Mill State Park is home to the Grissom Memorial—a tribute to Mercury astronaut Gus Grissom.
With an excellent campground, a historic village, and even a memorial to a great Hoosier astronaut, there is no doubt that Spring Mill is one of the top state parks in Indiana.
4. Potato Creek State Park
Located just 12 miles southwest of South Bend, Potato Creek is one of the top state parks in Northern Indiana. Potato Creek has a large amount of electric campsites as well as separate sites for horse owners. In addition to hikers, Potato Creek caters to cyclists and equestrians. The exciting paved bicycle paths take you up and down some of the best hills in Northern Indiana and the horse paths are top notch as well.
For fishermen, 327-acre Worster Lake is available and has several boat ramps.
5. Indiana Dunes State Park
Right along the coast of Lake Michigan at Chesterton, Indiana, you'll find the Indiana Dunes State Park. The Dunes have a recently remodeled campground with 140 sites available. It's a pretty popular state park, so it's important that you reserve a site ahead of time. Hiking trails through the dunes are rather enjoyable, but the top attraction of this state park is the lake itself. If Florida's too far, then come to Lake Michigan and wade in the surf or build a sandcastle!
6. McCormick's Creek State Park
Number six in my list is McCormick's Creek. McCormick's Creek is located 14 miles northwest of Bloomington out by Spencer, Indiana. McCormick's Creek is named after John McCormick, the area's first settler (aside from the Miami Indians, of course!) and features some stunning waterfalls as you can see in the photograph.
Hike through the canyons surrounding the White River, or explore Wolf Cave. McCormick's Creek is one of Indiana's most beautiful state parks, and it's a great place to visit.
7. Summit Lake State Park
For the fishing enthusiast, Summit Lake State Park is the place to go. This 800-acre lake just outside of New Castle, Indiana is supposedly great for fishing (can't say I'm much of a fisherman myself). It's also an excellent place to encounter wildlife and watch birds! But mostly, it's known for fishing.
8. Pokagon State Park
Just outside of Angola, Indiana, you'll find Pokagon State Park. I've included this in my list for one reason: the winter activities! Sure, Pokagon has your hiking and camping (and fine hiking and camping at that!), but when the state park really shines is in the winter! When snow covers the ground, you can traverse powder covered trails with cross-country skis! And from Thanksgiving through February, you can experience the high-speed thrills of the Pokagon Toboggan Run! Forty miles per hour in a sled? Sign me up!
The Potawatomi Inn is open year-round to provide lodging—this is especially handy in those cold winter months!
9. Mounds State Park
Mounds State Park is great for the history buff. Near Anderson, Indiana, this Indiana State Park features a series of mounds, or earthworks built by a prehistoric Indian tribe called the Adena-Hopewell people. The largest of these mounds was constructed circa 160 B.C. and was believed to have been used for religious purposes.
The Mounds State Park offers camping sites and some scenic hiking trails as well.
10. Brown County State Park
Last but not least is good old Brown County State Park. This state park has it all, from horse trails to a huge, and I mean huge, campground. The Abe Martin Inn is available as well if camping among the 400 different sites just isn't for you.
Brown County has mountain bike trails and hiking trails that are absolutely gorgeous in the fall. These factors all make Brown County a top choice when hiking or camping in Indiana.
Indiana Hiking and Camping
I hope my list of the top ten Indiana State Parks was helpful in your trip planning for this year! Indiana is full of great locations for hiking and camping and these are but a taste of what you'll discover in the Hoosier state.
Additional Indiana Attractions
- Top 10 Places to Visit in Indiana: The Best Indy Vacation Spots
An Indiana travel guide highlighting the top ten vacation spots in this Midwest state.
jeth sears on December 09, 2018:
We stayed in the spring mill inn lastnight in room 411 . The worst night sleep ever the bed was hard as a rock . The heater made a high level noise omg We should left and drove home Back to Bloomington
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on June 20, 2015:
Great hub about the top ten state parks in Indiana with nice matching photos and descriptions to describe them. Voted up!
Yorja Rahmani from India on July 12, 2013:
Wow....so many hiking options..
Renee on October 31, 2011:
I've been to Brown County State Park a few times now and the trails ARE amazing! The only issue we have had is that we have not found any place out on the trails to water the horses (except one little swampish hole). We saw on the map that was given to us at the campground that there are several creeks listed but we found no water and the creek beds we could distinguish were dry (and it's been a record rainfall season). We ride for approx 8-10 hours at a time so really need to find some water for horses, does anybody who goes there often know of any places we have just missed (highly likely- there are a ton of trails there!). Thanks for your help!
mike turrner on October 04, 2011:
im researching state parks and i came upon this and it helped a lot
Mary on October 03, 2011:
Thanks a bunch! I was looking all over the web for family hiking at state parks. This will really help!
I've been to Turkey Run, Shades, and McCormick creek. Turkey Run and Shades are definitely top notch, and McCormick Creek is also excellent for hiking. Thanks.