9 Beautiful Hikes In Indiana
By Sara Broers
Indiana is one of those Midwest states that is often overlooked. The one thing that I know for certain is that Indiana is home to several beautiful hikes. There are miles of hiking trails waiting for you and your hiking boots.
1. Cowles Bog Trail, Indiana Dunes National Park Dune Acres
This is my pick for the best hike in Indiana. Check out TravelAwaits’ picks for the best hikes in all 50 states here. Indiana Dunes National Park is one of the newest national parks in the United States. It is home to the Cowles Bog Trail. This is a 4.7-mile trail that thousands of people enjoy throughout the year. May through October are the ideal months to hop on this trail, as the air temperature is typically comfortable. A highlight of this trail is that the area’s outstanding plant diversity was recognized as a National Natural Landmark in 1965. Ponds, marshes, black oaks, and beaches are some of the highlights along this trail. Pack your sunscreen, bug spray, and plenty of water. To get the best view of Lake Michigan along this trail, do not take any shortcuts. Take the longer, more strenuous hike for the best views. The parking lot opens at 6 a.m., and during the summer, I would highly recommend arriving early in the day.
2. Shades State Park Trail #2, Shades State Park Waveland
Shades State Park Trail #2 is a little over two miles long. The bonus of hiking this trail is that there is a waterfall. With an elevation gain of 380 feet, it is rated as a moderate hike. The best tip I can give you when taking this trail is to hike clockwise. This will save you from climbing up a large set of stairs. This is a rugged trail, and it's definitely for someone with a little more hiking experience. I was particularly glad that I had waterproof boots on this hike, as the ravines can be damp. The forest is deep as are the birds and the bugs. Pack your binoculars and your bug spray for an enjoyable hike. I would highly recommend reserving a camping site, as showers and restrooms are available. Full-service hookups are not available at campsites.
3. Buffalo Trace Trails (Trail 2) French Lick
French Lick is home to several hiking trails. One of my favorites is the 5.8-mile-long Buffalo Trace Trails (Trail 2). This trail winds through the forest and is used by both hikers and bicyclists. The first time that I visited French Lick, I knew I was in for a treat. This area of Southern Indiana is one of the most beautiful areas of the Midwest. Depending on how long you want to hike and what you want to see, you can opt to hike on the waterfall loop. I would suggest spending three days in this area and one full day exploring this trail, as it's a great place to unwind. Park in the parking lot at French Lick Resort to begin your hike. Better yet, book several nights of lodging at this resort for an epic stay in French Lick.
4. Knobstone Hiking Trail Southern Indiana
The Knobstone Hiking Trail is the longest hiking trail in the state of Indiana. This trail is for the experienced hiker who desires a challenge. It's over 40 miles long with an elevation gain of 7,352 feet. If you plan to hike the whole trail, you’ll need four days to complete the hike. Panoramic views of Southern Indiana and the Ohio River can be seen from this backcountry trail. Another accomplishment is conquering several steep climbs with fantastic views of Clark State Forest and Jackson-Washington State Forest. Mile markers along your route will make it easy to know where you are on a map. Be sure to have a map with you, and check here for current condition and reroute information.
As always, inquire with the local authorities before you head out on an epic hike such as this one. Weather and trail closures can happen anytime, so it's important to be in the know. Once you complete this hike, you can say that you hiked the granddaddy of trails in Indiana!
5. Twin Bridges Loop Trail Danville
The Twin Bridges Loop Trail is an easy hiking trail in Hendricks County, about 40 minutes west of Indianapolis. This loop trail is great for bird-watching and wildflower viewing in the warmer months of the year. With an elevation gain of 59 feet, it's a relatively easy trail for everyone. This trail is in a heavily populated area of Indiana, yet it offers a hike where you can get away from the crowds.
I would highly recommend visiting the popular Mayberry Cafe in downtown Danville after your hike. For a memorable meal, order a plate of broasted chicken prepared by Aunt Bea and indulge in the bread pudding for dessert.