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. The next time you are contemplating a hiking adventure, I would encourage you to consider planning a hike through Indiana. There are miles of hiking trails waiting for you and your hiking boots.
1. Cowles Bog Trail, Indiana Dunes National Park
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
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 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
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
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.
6. Beech Trail, Cool Creek Park
Beech Trail is another trail that is located in a heavily populated area yet offers tranquility for hikers. This is an easy hiking trail that comes in at a little under one mile. Bridges, wildlife, and a river are highlights along this short trail. Hop on this trail at Cool Creek Park and enjoy nature. Look to the skies, as this is a great trail for birding enthusiasts. Once you complete this hike, head to downtown Carmel and explore the art scene. Several sculptures line the streets and make for fun sightseeing as you stroll through this wonderful community.
7. Pumpkinvine Nature Trail
The Pumpkinvine Nature Trail is a fun opportunity to explore the Amish farms and schools of this area of Indiana. Springtime brings bursts with the colors of wildflowers, which make for a perfect time to hike this trail. This trail passes through several public parks, including Oak Ridge Park, Ox Bow Park, Abshire Park, and Krider Garden. If you don't want to hike all 17.5 miles of the Pumpkinvine Trail, hop on the trail at one of these parks. This is a point-to-point trail, which means it's more than 30 miles round trip. I would recommend hopping on this trail at different points during different times of the year if you live nearby or find yourself in the area often. If you are looking for a quiet, reflective hike in Indiana, this trail is calling your name.
8. Adventure Hiking Trail, O'Bannon Woods State Park
The Adventure Hiking Trail in O'Bannon Woods State Park is a 21.7-mile loop with an elevation gain of 3,845 feet. The views are stunning, as is the hike. This trail runs deep in the woods and offers a backcountry experience. If you are training for a hike out West, this is a great trail to test your hiking skills. Pack plenty of water with you and lace up your hiking boots. You will want stability on your feet, as this trail can be rugged in places. In the thick of summer, when things are lush and green, watch out for ticks. Use your bug spray and wear long sleeves to protect yourself from them.
9. Cardinal Greenways
East Central Indiana
Richmond, Indiana is home to the South Trailhead of the Cardinal Greenways. This trail system runs for 62 miles from Richmond to Marion. This is Indiana's longest span of recreational trails and offers a little something for everyone. In the thick of summer, there is ample shade along the trail. With an elevation gain of 895 feet, the Greenways is rated easy. Outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate this trail, as it's a quick way to get out of the city. If you have not spent any time in Richmond, I would encourage you to. This town is charming, and it offers many outdoor experiences that are a short drive from the Indianapolis area.
Pro Tips For Hiking In Indiana
Indiana is a beautiful state, yet most people don't consider it a hiking destination. These beautiful hiking trails are all unique and offer something for hikers of every skill level. It's important to pack water, sunscreen, bug spray, and, depending on the hike, your fully charged smartphone and/or a map. You will find many picturesque sites along with your hikes and want to remember your hikes through your photos. From the beaches in the north to the rolling hills in the south, you can easily spend two full weeks hiking in Indiana. National parks, state parks, and recreational areas have small entrance fees, so you will want to plan accordingly. If you will be spending a lot of time exploring the parks in Indiana, annual passes are always a good investment.
You will want to book your lodging in advance if possible. From campsites to lodges, reservations can fill quickly during the busy summer season. April through October are prime months to experience all of these beautiful hiking trails in Indiana as day hikes or overnight trips.
This article is presented by KEEN Footwear. For my hikes, I wore the Women's Targhee III Waterproof Mid hiking boots. I have had hiking boots in the past that have been very hot, and surprisingly, these hiking boots are not. They provided excellent ankle support and kept my feet dry while hiking through some mud on the trails. Shop KEEN's Targhee and other hiking shoes here.