The Great Outdoors, Indiana Style

Indiana Parks; What are the best parks to visit in Indiana?

Indiana; the Hoosier state and the crossroads of America...home of cornfields, pork tenderloin sandwiches and Indianapolis 500. But what about the great outdoors?

Indiana is not an iconic destination for exploring, hiking and all the great outdoors has to offer. But, there are 6.692 million people that live in Indiana as well as home to many destination events including the Indianapolis 500 held in the state’s capital, Indianapolis, that alone drew 350,000 people for it’s 100th running. As well as, this is where Jake and I grew up and Indiana helped us both to fall in love with nature and set us in motion to live an outdoor-inspired lifestyle.

People are coming to Indiana, so it is only fair while they are in our home state that they enjoy the beautiful great outdoors that Indiana has to offer! Jake is from Auburn, Indiana just north of Fort Wayne and I grew up in South Bend, Indiana. We both separately moved to Indianapolis and this is where we met and bought our first home together. My point is, together we have knowledge of the majority of the state and have experienced most if not all of the destination spots in Indiana.

If you aren’t sure of the locations of each of these towns let me give you a little insight. South Bend is the home of the University of Notre Dame, it is located in the North West section of Indiana and is only about an hour and 45 minutes from Chicago, depending on traffic of course. Fort Wayne, Indiana is in the Northeast area of the state and is the second most populated city in Indiana following the capitol. Indianapolis is in the very center of the state and is home to the Indianapolis Colts, Pacers and the Indy Fuel (we are huge ECHL hockey fans) so if you follow our blogs enough you may learn a lot about hockey and our favorite team the Fort Wayne Komets, Go K’s!

Now that you have your bearings a little bit and may know which area you will be visiting (or already live in) let’s get into some of our favorite spots to enjoy the beauty of Indiana. 

A note before I start listing spots to visit: my numbering of parks is not necessarily indicating number one is better than number two and so on. All of these parks below have reasons to visit them and have different “special features”.

Northern Indiana

One of the best parts of Indiana is how easily we are able to access the Great Lakes and I was lucky enough to have grown up about a 30-minute drive from some absolutely beautiful beaches and parks on Lake Michigan. 

Something extremely exciting for Indiana is that we just gained our first National Park in 2019, the Indiana Dunes National Park. This is a spot that I have a lot of childhood memories of and it gives me so many happy vibes to know a place that grew near and dear to my heart is now on a list everyone knows and can visit and make their own one-of-a-kind memories. 

Our favorite places to visit in Northern Indiana:

1. Indiana Dunes National Park: Porter, Indiana

This beautiful park was recently recognized as Indiana’s first National Park in 2019; it features huge sand dunes, hiking trails, beachfront, campgrounds, rivers, wetlands and prairies for exploring. A couple of fun tips; there are “clay pits” to visit where part of the waterway the ground is completely clay. Find it and play in the clay, it is so fun! The second tip is if you visit the park on a clear day and hike to the top of the large dune you can see the Chicago skyline across Lake Michigan.

2. Potato Creek State Park
, North Liberty, IN

Potato Creek is a beautiful park for hiking and trail biking and mountain biking.

3. Chain O’ Lakes: Albion, Indiana

Chain O’ Lakes is one of our favorite spots in Indiana to take a trip to with our kayaks. The park also provides kayak, canoe, paddle boat, and rowboat rentals on the weekends in case you are not traveling with your equipment. There are 9 connected lakes in the park with twisting waterways connecting them. A perfect spot to peacefully row along alongside the wildlife of Indiana.

4. Lake Wawasee, Syracuse, IN: Midwesterners spend a large part of the summer months on the lake. Lake Wawasee is one we are fortunate enough to be able to spend a lot of time on. This area surrounding Syracuse is filled with tons of with natural lakes and Wawasee is the largest of them all. Lake Wawasee is the biggest natural lake in Indiana. These are all great fishing lakes and a place to get in the sun for some water sport activities. 

A couple of other notable lakes in Northern Indiana include: Bass Lake and Lake Maxinkuckee.

All of these Lakes are within small Indiana towns that are quaint, hospitable and worth a stop for lunch or drive around the lake at the very least.

Central Indiana

Central Indiana is a great spot to be for the sheer accessibility; you are within a few hours to all Indiana has to offer. I would have to say this area is probably the worst for outdoor adventure but don’t fret there are still some notable locations to visit nearby!

Here are some of our favorites:

1. Shades State Park and Pine Hills Nature Preserve, Waveland, Indiana

Shades is a beautiful park with hiking trails and incredible sandstone cliffs that tower over you as you walk along the creek. We highly suggest taking the walk to Pine Hills Nature Preserve; it is a little of a hike but it is well worth it once you make it!

2. Turkey Run State Park, Marshall, Indiana

Turkey Run is one of the most well known and most visited parks in Indiana with absolutely stunning sandstone ravines and aged forests. Turkey run is an extremely well-rounded park with a lot to offer for groups of all ages; absolutely a must see in Indiana.  Turkey Run, Shades State Park, and Pine Hills Nature Preserve are located near each other so these are three areas it would be possible to visit in one trip (I would suggest at least a weekend if you want to soak in everything all these parks have to offer)!

3. Eagle Creek Park, Indianapolis, Indiana

Eagle Creek is one of our favorite local spots if we are wanting a longer hike. There are trails you can walk for hours on and it is located around Eagle Creek Reservoir so on a majority of the trails you will walk around the lake; we love to stop and hang out near the water when we need a short break. Eagle Creek also features ziplining and other tree top fun at GoApe (which I have been wanting to do and we have not yet) I have heard great things about it! 

4. Holliday Park, Indianapolis, Indiana

Holliday park is another one of our local favorites! This park is great for a shorter hike but the trails are along tall hills that create a beautiful scenic walk near the white river. 

5. Fort Harrison State Park, Indianapolis, Indiana

Fort Harrison is a really neat state park in the Indianapolis area; as you drive into the park you will notice that it is an old fort that was named in dedication to President Benjamin Harrison that was from Indianapolis. We love American history so this feature adds to the already wonderful park that Indiana has to offer us, nature lovers.

Southern Indiana

Southern Indiana looks nothing like the rest of the flattened state; it is filled with rolling hills and beautiful forests. Southern Indiana is truly filled with all the best outdoor landscape Indiana has to offer.

1. Yellowwood State Park, Nashville, Indiana

Yellowwood State Park is a great park for people of all ages and is littered with hiking trails of all different lengths. This is one of the smaller parks in the area but is iconic of the areas beautiful landscape and variety of trees.

2. Brown County State Park, Nashville, Indiana

Brown County State Park is nicknamed the Little Smokies and it is quite accurate. We love to visit the Smoky Mountains but when we are short on time we go to Brown County. The park is absolutely stunning with its mountain-like features and fresh outdoor air that is much needed after all the city life. The park offers something for people of all ages including campgrounds, motel rooms, cabins, dining, and an indoor water park! If you go to the area, downtown Nashville is a must visit with tons of shopping and dining in a quaint little village setting! 

Within the Brown County State Park is a wilderness called Charles C Deam wilderness this area is being preserved for its natural condition and is dedicated to being a place of natural beauty and solitude. It is a great area to visit if you are looking for a spot to camp off the grid. But do read up on the rules of where camping is allowed because preserving this natural beauty is the number one priority so we can all continue to enjoy it.

3. Hoosier National Forest, Bedford, IN: The Hoosier National forest is HUGE and covers 9 counties coming in at over 200,000 acres. You will find a lot of the same features in this park as others such as hiking, biking, and equestrian trails all surrounded by beautiful sandstone features, cliffs, ravines, and waterfalls. The Hoosier National Forest is filled with untouched natural beauty that will take your breath away and will give you a true experience of Southern Indiana’s landscape. 

We hope this post helps you to get outdoors and explore the sites around you. Each state has it’s own natural beauty to discover so get out and go explore Indiana! 

We are always looking to innovate and meet new people who can help us create a world we all want to live in. If you hear something from us that moves you please reach out to us and start a conversation! 

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