Nature April 09, 2021
A Nature Lovers Definitive Guide To Indiana’s Natural Beauty – Parks, Beaches, Hikes And More!
Indiana is a state so amazingly rich in natural beauty that it’s almost impossible to narrow one’s favorite spots down to just a few. Whether your idea of paradise is a beautiful local park, a beach worth lounging on for hours, a crystal-clear lake, or a secret swimming hole, Indiana has you covered. If a day on an awe-inspiring trail is more your style, don’t worry – Indiana has more than 4,200 miles of hiking, walking, biking, and other trails from which to choose. We may not have a whole lot of mountains, but that’s alright – we make up for that in pristine river views. If you’re hoping to explore some state parks, the Hoosier State has 25 of them, as well as three national parks. We even have some unique cave systems and tours, as well, so even spelunkers will find something here to love! Here are some of our picks for the very best natural wonders in Indiana, hands down.
The Best Little-Known Park In Indiana
The Hardin Ridge Recreation Area is, without a doubt, the single most underrated park and reserve in all of Indiana. Located near Bloomington, it sits beside Lake Monroe and goes dramatically unappreciated year after year. Hike, fish, boat, camp - no matter what your planned activity is, Hardin Ridge has you covered! There are picnic tables and areas scattered throughout the park, and there’s even a beautiful “beach” on the shores of the lake. It’s usually open through Labor Day, so it’s a great pick for spring and summer months to both enjoy nature and get away from the more traditionally crowded areas.
What would you do if you had an entire afternoon at Hardin Ridge all to yourself?
The Most Pristine Beach In Indiana
Indiana might be landlocked, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our fair share of
beaches - many of which are simply stunning. We adore just about every beach at Indiana Dunes State Park, where the picture-perfect white sands and sky-blue water seem to stretch on forever. There are more than 2,000 acres of perfectly soft, sandy beaches here that invite you to stay and lounge the day away! You can also camp out, so if you’d like to stay a little longer, you most certainly can.
What would you do with an entire weekend to kill at Indiana Dunes State Park?
The Most Jaw-Dropping Lake In Indiana
The most obvious answers (cough, Lake Michigan, cough) aside, Indiana is home to some truly impressive - and little-known - lakes! One particular lake stands out above the others to us in terms of its exquisite beauty. The lake, and the town it happens to be in, share the name Clear Lake, which is wildly appropriate, given the immensely crystalline water. You can see right down to the lake bed, which gives you the opportunity to observe all kinds of intriguing life at the lake’s bottom. The emerald-green grass of the shoreline creeps right up to the water’s edge in many places, and it truly feels like some kind of island paradise right here at home.
Would you take an afternoon swim at Clear Lake?
The Most Amazing Fall Foliage In Indiana
Indiana is filled with tons of lush, healthy, happy trees, and toward the end of summer and into the autumn months, as the weather cools down and the days get shorter and shorter, happy trees mean incredible fall color. You won’t believe your eyes as you look upon some of the most vibrant reds, oranges, and golds you’ve ever seen. Indiana has no shortage of spots for ideal fall foliage viewing; you can find it in the Hardin Ridge Recreation Area, at just about any state park (especially Brown County State Park), and all throughout the Hoosier National Forest.
Would you take an idyllic autumn drive through some of our favorite foliage spots?
The Best Trail To Hike In Indiana
Indiana has an unbelievable amount of trails scattered throughout the state; there are quite literally hundreds from which to choose, all of varying skill levels, different ecosystems, and unique environments to admire. Our pick for the best of the best, however, goes to Pumpkinvine Trail, from Goshen to Shipshewana, Indiana. It takes the spot at #1 for us because it’s long - 16 and a half miles, to be exact - but simple. It’s open all yearround, and every season brings with it something special and all its own. Admire stunning fall color, look in awe at an array of stunning spring wildflowers, and get your fill of the perfect winter wonderland all in the same place!
How far could you follow the Pumpkinvine Trail?
The Most Beautiful River In Indiana
Indiana is home to an array of bodies of water, from lakes to rivers, creeks, and ponds; the Ohio River and the Wabash River are the two major channels flowing through the Hoosier State. From those two rivers, however, come hundreds of tiny sub-rivers, creeks, dams, and more. Our all-time favorite is probably the Tippecanoe, which has been recognized time and time again as running through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the entire state. There’s so much to do, from fishing to lazing the day away in an inner tube. The banks are lush and green and the surrounding trees are enormous and healthy; close your eyes as you float downstream and listen to the songs of countless birds in the area.
Would you tube the Tippecanoe?
The Best Waterfall In Indiana
Indiana has several notable waterfalls throughout the state, like Clifty Falls and McCormick’s Creek. However, one waterfall, in particular, stands out - probably because it’s the tallest free-falling waterfall in the state! Williamsport Falls is located in Warren County, in a town of the same name. It’s an awesome 90 feet high, and it’s easily accessed by walking the Williamsport Falls Loop Trail; visit after a recent rainstorm for the most amazing experience.
Have you ever experienced the roar of Williamsport Falls?
The Most Unique Garden In Indiana
Nestled inside the Purdue Northwest campus is a fascinating and beautiful garden known as Gabis Arboretum. There are an array of gardens here, like your more traditional rose garden, and a garden featuring local plant life; however, the most unique garden in the entire arboretum is a train garden! Formally called the Railway Garden, this unique little area features various locomotive exhibits and an array of adorable miniature trains rumbling around on the 3,000+ feet of tracks laid about.
Have you ever paid a visit to the Railway Garden at Purdue Northwest?