Traveling does not always have to be expensive or far away. You can visit a state park for a day or a weekend. Our family has visited some of the state parks in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Tennessee, but we have several yet to explore. Here is a taste of what is available in Indiana:
This year marks the 100th anniversary of state parks in Indiana. McCormick’s Creek State Park and Turkey Run State Park were both established in 1916. Today, Indiana has 25 State Parks, 15 State Forests, 24 Fish and Wildlife Areas and 18 Nature Preserves. In 2004, the Prophetstown State Park opened, which realized the goal of having a State Park within an hours’ drive of every Indiana resident.
Brown County State Park
Our family spent this past weekend at Brown County State Park, which is the largest park in Indiana and is located near Nashville, Indiana. The park, established in 1929, covers 15,776 acres. There are hiking, biking and bridle trails; a lodge with an aquatic center; cabins, camping, and more.
My husband and I stayed in the Abe Martin Lodge, while our (adult) children camped. The main part of the lodge was built in 1932, but we stayed in the annex which was added later. There are 84 total guest rooms in the lodge. In addition, there are 20 family cabins that sleep up to eight people and 56 seasonal rustic cabins.
In 2008, an aquatic center was added between the annex and main lodge. Rooms in the lodge or cabins include aquatic center passes. The aquatic center has a water slide, a mini lazy river, a “zero” entrance area with fountains, and a water volleyball area with a basketball hoop on one end. All of these areas are connected, so you can go from one to the other without leaving the water. A separate heated whirlpool is available in the same room.
The campground is clean and spacious. We enjoyed more time sitting around the campfire than we did in the lodge, although we played in the aquatic center one afternoon. We cooked and ate our meals at the campground rather than eating at the spacious restaurant in the lodge.
My daughters and I hiked about three miles on Saturday morning, exploring trails 4, 5, and 7. Trail 4 (1.25 miles) descends into a ravine where it intersects Trail 7 (1.5 miles) which circles Ogle Lake. Trail 5 (.75 miles) ascends back out of the ravine to where Trail 4 started. There are about 18 miles of hiking trails available at the park.
Brown County State Park has about 70 miles of bridle trails, and a horseman’s camp with over 100 electric sites.
There are about 27 miles of mountain biking trails to choose from. My son-in-law brought his bike along and spent over three hours riding on the bike trails.
Turkey Run State Park
Our family has also spent time at Turkey Run State Park. Turkey Run is located near Marshall, Indiana, and covers 2382 acres. Like Brown County, Turkey Run State Park has a lodge in addition to cabins and campgrounds. The lodge, or inn, has 57 rooms and there are eight cabins. Reservations for the cabins are often booked over a year in advance, so plan accordingly.
The Turkey Run Inn was built in 1919, but has been well maintained and remains a clean and comfortable place to stay. The Inn has an indoor pool, a game room, and a popular second floor veranda. There are banquet facilities and a restaurant which serves a daily buffet (breakfast, some lunches and dinners) in addition to the option of ordering from the menu.
Our favorite part of Turkey Run State Park is hiking the trails – especially Trail 3. Turkey Run and nearby Shades State Park are located on Sugar Creek. Over time the creek has eroded the beds of sandstone in the area, forming beautiful gorges. The “very rugged” Trail 3 (1.7 miles) follows one of these gorges. Although not recommended for people with disabilities, pets, or small children, we found the ruggedness an acceptable price to pay for the beautiful views.
Over half of the trails at Turkey Run are located on the north side of Sugar Creek, only accessible via a bouncy, though secure, suspension bridge. (Swimming and wading in the creek is prohibited). Highlights on the trails include Wedge Rock, the Punch Bowl, the Ice Box, Bear Hollow, and Falls Canyon.
Indiana Dunes State Park
Closer to home is the Indiana Dunes State Park. Covering three miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, this park is surrounded by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. The State Park encompasses 1530 acres and has over 15 miles of hiking trails, a swimming beach and a nature center.
Trail 9 (3.75 miles) is the most representative of the dunes and offers a good view of the lake. The paved Calumet Bicycle Trail (9.2 miles) runs along the southern edge of the State Park and through other parts of the National Lakeshore.
Although there is no lodge or inn at Indiana Dunes State Park, there are 140 campsites and three youth tent areas. There are picnic shelters, grills and playground facilities.
State Parks in Your Area
Have you visited the state parks in your state? What are your favorites? Have you visited state parks in other states? Do you have suggestions or helpful hints for others? Leave your comments below.