10 Unique Hiking Trails in Indiana
It’s going to be hard for me to narrow down the best hikes in Indiana, but I’ve narrowed it down to a list of ten unique hiking trails in the state. I’ve lived in Indiana the majority of my life and these are my top favorite hiking spots (to date). If time allows, I always try to find a new spot to explore when I have a free day to hike. These ten unique trails are just a handful of the MANY amazing trails that Indiana and the Midwest have to offer.
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1. Buffalo Trail (Trail 1) Ouabache State Park
4930 E. State Road 201, Bluffton, IN
Ouabache State Park is the only state park in Indiana where you will find buffalo! Trail 1 loops around the entire buffalo exhibit, giving hikers a close look at the buffalo for a wildlife viewing hike. It’s a short, easy hike – great for kids. Just across the street from the trailhead are the fire tower and Kunkel Lake, both offering great views and places to picnic.
Trail 1 = easy 1 mile
2. Ed Dailey Nature Trail, Cataract Falls State Recreation Area
1317 W. Lieber Road, Cloverdale, IN
The Ed Dailey Nature Trail connects the Upper and Lower Cataract Falls. It’s a stone path loop, a moderate trail for all ages and takes you past the waterfalls and red, covered bridge. After rainfall, it can be slippery on the path near the waterfall so please keep this in mind and wear slip-resistant shoes.
Ed Dailey Nature Trail = moderate/easy 1.7 miles
3. McCormick Creek State Park, Trail 3
250 McCormick’s Creek Park Road, Spencer, IN
Trail 3 is labeled rugged, but it will take you to the beautiful Falls at McCormick Creek State Park. The loop starts at the park inn, Canyon Creek, and takes you down the canyon into the Falls. If water levels are high, this trail will be hard to access. Also, note that the stairs to get down to the Falls are steep and it’s a physically intense climb back up. Trail 3 also winds around Camp Na Wa Kwa and taker hikers by the amphitheater.
You can shorten this trail and access the Falls by parking in the lot closest to the Falls and descending to the canyon off of Trail 3.
Trail 3 = rugged 0.8 miles
4. Mounds State Park, Trail 1
4306 Mounds Road, Anderson, IN
I’m slightly biased towards this easy trail because I live nearby and frequent it often. It’s a great trail for families and easily accessible. Mounds State Park has 10 unique earthworks built by prehistoric Indians, and Trail 1 wraps around four of the mounds. It also takes you past the Bronnenberg House (built in 1840), and the parking lot for this trail is connected to the Nature Center (a must-see!).
Trail 1 = Easy 1 mile trail
5. Rose Island Loop, Charlestown State Park
12500 IN-62, Charlestown, IN
Rose Island is an abandoned 1920s amusement park in southern Illinois, it is now part of the Charlestown State Park. The amusement park closed its doors in 1937 after a major flood. Metal archways, stone pillars, a filled-in swimming pool, brick pavers, and crumbling foundations are all that is left of Rose Island.
The “island” is only available by taking Trail 3 (marked as rugged) and crossing a bridge to access Trail 7 (marked as easy), the Rose Island Loop. Trail 3 is a steep decline, which makes for a labor-intense incline going back up. Keep this in mind, it is quite the workout and will require some energy and endurance.
Trail 7 (1.2 miles) + Trail 3 (0.9 miles) = Easy/Rugged 2.1 miles total
6. Shades State Park, Trail 1
7751 S. 890 W., Waveland, IN
You can’t go wrong with any of the trails at Shades State Park, however, Trail 1 is one of my favorites because it hits many of the great spots at Shades in just under a mile. Trail 1 is labeled moderately rugged and I would agree to this as it does involve hiking through a creek bed and steep stairs. This trail takes you by Devil’s Punchbowl, Silver Cascade Waterfall, and Inspiration and Prospect points (beautiful outlooks).
Trail 1 = moderately rugged 0.75 mile
7. Spring Mill State Park, Trail 4
3333 State Road 60 E., Mitchell, IN
Trail 4 at the Spring Mill State Park is perhaps the most active trail when it comes to things to see along the way. In other words, you won’t get bored! This trail is labeled rugged, however, parts of it are paved and easy. You’ll see the Donaldson Cave and Hamer Cemetery before being led to the Pioneer Village, a restored village from 1814 containing 20 historic buildings, including a gristmill.
Trail 4 = rugged/easy 2 miles
8. Strahl Lake Trail, Brown County State Park
1801 Indiana 46 East, Nashville, IN
The Strahl Lake Trail (Trail 6) is labeled an easy/rugged trail that loops around the entire lake. It is connected to the Discovery Trail, a self-guided nature trail that wraps around the Nature Center. The view of the lake is phenomenal, especially in the Fall – a popular time of the year in Brown County State Park. If you taking the connecting Discovery Trail you won’t be disappointed with the views behind the Nature Center, at the amphitheater overlooking the rugged hills.
Strahl Lake Trail 6 (1.5) + Discovery Trail (0.7) = Easy/rugged 2.2 miles
Taking part in the Seven Vista Challenge is also a fun activity at Brown County State Park, visit all seven scenic vistas, snap a photo, and tag ##BC7VistaChallenge to have your photo featured.
9. Trail of Twelve Stones, Lincoln Boyhood Memorial Site
3027 East South Street, Lincoln City, IN
This trail connects Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood home with the cemetery where his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, is buried. The twelve stones represent major events in Lincoln’s life and career and were placed chronologically along the trail in 1933. It’s an easy trail with lots of shade, and benches to rest along the way.
Twelve Stone Trail = easy 1.1 miles
10. Turkey Run State Park Trails
8121 E. Park Road, Marshall, IN
Almost every trail in Turkey Run State Park is amazing, however, there are three trails that offer the most unique views and climbs. Trail 4 is labeled moderately rugged and takes hikers through Rocky Hollow and the Punch Bowl waterfall. When water is high you will not be able to access Trail 4, as it requires you to pass through a small creek (waterproof hiking boots are necessary).
Trail 5 (moderately rugged) and Trail 9 (very rugged) connect, and are the most popular trails at Turkey Run. These trails take hikers into the two canyons and the “Ice Box” (a glacier formation). You can access the trails by taking the portion of Trail 3 past the “Ice Box” and connecting to Trail 5, where you come across 140 stairs going descending to Trail 9. There will be ladders to climb in order to climb in and out of the canyons. These trails are not recommended for small children or those with physical limitations.
Trail 4 – moderately rugged 2 miles
Trail 3 (0.5 miles) + Trail 5 (0.7 miles) + Trail 9 (1 mile) Loop – Moderately/Very rugged 2.2 miles total