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 a little 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 in Indiana deserves a moment in the spotlight:

Just promise us you won’t trash it, okay? Tell the tourists to go to Turkey Run (which, to be fair, we also love, but they can love it, too) 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 State Park offers a beautiful enclave of trails to explore.

Branching out from the parking area, there are many short loops that showcase the park’s unique features; don’t underestimate this spiderweb-like network just by looking at the mileage markers! Many are quite rugged, and will require you to traverse rocky ravines, slippery stream beds, and several more have rope or wooden ladders to climb, which can make 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).

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Collectively, the trail system is about 12 miles long, but the criss-crossing loops allow you to choose exactly how long your personal adventure will be. Shades trails offer a full day (or more) of fun, exploring multiple waterfalls, canyons, and ravines. The river views at Shades State Park 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 (which is only accessible by trail). This is a nice escape from the small campgrounds and the central parking area, and camp sits right across the creek from Pedestal Rock Nature Preserve. It’s like a bonus prize!

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 yet 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, few people make it over there: the hike is difficult, but the sandstone ridges of honeycombed 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 perspective 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, Indiana. The campsites (no RVs, please) 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 soon!

Like we said before, this place is special, so let’s keep it that way. The technical hikes keep more leisurely/ne’er do well visitors away, and mid-week visitors will find a nice, 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 in this article was shared with us on the Only In Indiana Facebook page! (Thank you, David!) We’d love to see yours.

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More to Explore

Shades State Park in Indiana

How many Indiana state parks are there? 

Indiana might be a relatively small state, but we pack a large punch in terms of breathtaking state parks. Indiana is home to 24 state parks (and three National Parks sites), each of which is amazing in its own way (because otherwise, they wouldn’t have been designated as state parks!). Some of our favorites include Brown County State Park, which is nestled in the county most often called the “most beautiful” in Indiana. Mccormick’s Creek State Park is a must-see for those who love forests and waterfalls. Indiana Dunes State Park is so incredibly awe-inspiring that you’ll want to live there (and you kind of can, if you move to Beverly Shores, one of the only dark-sky cities in the state). For more of our favorite Indiana state parks, visit this article. You won’t regret it – we promise.  

What are the most beautiful hikes in Indiana?  

Indiana has no shortage of awesome hikes; there are more than 900 trails winding through the state, and each of them is special and simply inspiring. Some of the hikes you’ll find mentioned over and over simply because of how awesomely pretty they are include the Cowles Bog Trail, at Indiana Dunes National Park (not to be confused with Indiana Dunes State Park), and a few of the trails at Clifty Falls will take your breath away, especially if you’re a lover of rivers, creeks, and waterfalls. Any of the trails at Turkey Run State Park will make you feel like you’ve been transported into The Lord of the Rings, and there’s no doubt you’ll probably end up referring to a few of them as “my precious”.  

Where can I go on some scenic hikes in Indiana? 

Maybe a simpler question is where can’t you find scenic hikes in Indiana. The Hoosier State is beautiful, without a doubt. There are thousands of miles of trails to choose from, so it’s almost impossible to just pick one. However, some of our personal favorites in terms of scenic hikes in Indiana include literally any of the trails at Indiana Dunes State Park or Indiana Dunes National Park; the landscape is unlike any other place in all of Indiana, and Lake Michigan seems to go on forever. The famous Knobstone Trail is another well-known and much-loved scenic hike, and it’s a long one, if you choose to do the entire thing. You also won’t want to miss the Charles Deam Wilderness Peninsula trail, so grab some water and get hiking!

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