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This Hiking Spot In Indiana Will Give You An Unforgettable Experience

The Hoosier State is home to some of the most beautiful National and State Parks in the region, as well as some seriously amazing hiking spots. Although we’ve covered a couple of favorites in the past, there was one notable exception…

…to be honest, we’re reluctant to share this secret and we’re trying not to be selfish and keep it all to ourselves, but the trails at Shades State Park deserves a moment in the spotlight.

Just promise me you won’t trash it, ok? Tell the tourists to go to Turkey Run (which, to be fair, we also love) and then head up the road to hit the trails at Shades.

At the heart of the park is Sugar Creek, which eventually winds its way down through Turkey Run as well, but just a few miles upstream, Shades offers a beautiful enclave of trails to explore.

Branching out from the parking area, there are many short loops that showcase the parks unique features; don’t underestimate this spider web-like network just by looking at the mileage markers—many are quite rugged and require you to traverse rocky ravines, slippery streambeds, and several have ladders to climb, which makes access limited. At times of high water, parts of the trails may become impassable and will be temporarily closed (check the Indiana Department of Natural Resources park website for safety advisories before you go).

Collectively, the trail system is about 12 miles long, but the crisscrossing loops allow you to choose how long your adventure will be. Shades’ trails offer a full day of fun, exploring multiple waterfalls, canyons, ravines, and river views that will blow you away with just how much beauty is packed into this little hidden gem.

It may not be an epic backpacking adventure, but there is a longer trail that will lead you west to a backpacking camp that is only accessible by trail. This is a nice escape from the small campground and the central parking area, and the camp sits right across the creek from Pedestal Rock Nature Preserve.

If you’ve made your way through the other trails and still want more, Trail 10 will lead you east to the Pine Hill Nature Preserve, which offers another loop through virgin old growth trees and some very cool Native American and Early Pioneer history (not to mention some awesome stone carvings along Devil’s Backbone!). Surprisingly fewer people make it over there; the hike is difficult, but the sandstone ridges of Honeycomb Rock and views of the creek from above are worth the trek.

The camping area is closed between late October through early April, but the trails are open for day use all year long. Hiking in the winter months will give you a completely different view of the park, and the snow-capped ridges and frozen waterfalls are definitely worth checking out–but be careful; it’s slick!

Don’t forget to bring cash for the $5 entry fee. The park is located about 17 miles southwest of Crawfordsville at 7751 S 890 W, Waveland, IN. The campsites (no RVs) and picnic shelters are booked by reservation and they can fill up quickly, so now is the perfect time to start planning a weekend getaway once they open again this Spring.

Like we said before, this place is special…let’s keep it that way. The technical hikes keep more leisurely visitors away, and midweek visitors will find a tranquil spot with few others on the trails.

Have you been hiking at Shades State Park and Pine Hill? Do you have photos or stories to share? Tell us about them in the Comments below! We love to see your photos–one of the photos used here was shared with us on the Only In Indiana Facebook page! (Thank you David Centifanto!)

Meg Archer
Meg is the Contributions & Creative Content Editor for OnlyInYourState. She works in source research, concept development, and business outreach. Meg enjoys playing with her food (cooking), writing furiously (at inconvenient moments), and exploring (everything and everywhere).