Canyons, Waterfalls, Swamps, Dunes and even an Abandoned Theme Park! Indiana’s hiking trails are as different as they are challenging. The Indiana Department of Resources put together a list of 33 nominees to go head-to-head for the crown of the Best Indiana Hiking Trail. Cast your vote today!
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Adventure Hiking Trail, Harrison-Crawford State Forest and O’Bannon Woods State Park
A great trail for beginner backpackers or those just seeking a weekend escape by caves, sinkholes, and other natural features. The 25 mile loop trail offers several shelters to those backpacking as well as scenic views of the Blue and Ohio Rivers.
Big Tree and Lower Big Tree Trail, Bendix Woods
Hike among pristine Beech and Sugar Maples in this old growth forest that is a rarity in Northern Indiana. Trilliums and maple syrup taping make this trail unique during different types of the year.
Big Walnut Crossing/Coyote Ridge/Overlook Trails, McCloud Nature Park
This beautiful park features 6.5 miles of trails, but this particular trail passes over a gorgeous restored iron truss bridge and includes three overlooks of the river below, where fall colors and even bald eagles can be observed.
Blue Trail/Edesess Trail, Eagle Creek Park
Take a combination of the Blue Trail and Edesess Trail to form a loop around the Bird Sanctuary. Birdwatchers will see a variety of birds and can learn more at the Ornithology Center, while hikers will love the unique land bridge and enjoy a number of scenic views of the reservoir.
Continental Divide Trail at Eagle Marsh, Little River Wetlands Project
This trail on Eagle Marsh is the border between watersheds and is the continental divide between the Mississippi River Basin and the Great Lakes.
Cowles Bog, Indiana Dunes National Park
Explore several distinct habitats along the 4.7-mile trail including ponds, marshes, swamps, black oak savannas, and beaches. Steep sand dunes near Lake Michigan make it a strenuous but rewarding journey. Cowles Bog highlights such outstanding plant diversity that it was designated as a National Landmark in 1965.
Donaldson Cave/Bronson Cave/Twin Caves (Trail 3), Spring Mill State Park
Trail 3 finally passes Donaldson Cave overlook, then through dense woods, past sinkholes, then Bronson Cave, on to Twin Caves, through giant timber of Donaldson’s Woods Nature Preserve. It returns to Donaldson picnic area. Be sure to enter near the Donaldson parking lot.
Falls Canyon Trail (Trail 3), McCormick’s Creek State Park
A loop trail that begins across from Canyon Inn and offers access to the falls and canyon before ending at Stoney restroom. There are no bridges crossing the creek. Fluctuating creek levels may make areas of the trail seasonably inaccessible.
Fire Tower Trail, Brown County State Park
This rugged 2.2 mile loop trail starts and ends at the 75-foot Lilly Lookout Fire Tower. It follows the ridge behind the Fire Tower before looping northward crossing deep ravines and hilltops.
Hell’s Point Challenge, Pokagon State Park
The challenge is an ongoing event so you can hike it in any season. The challenge begins at the Nature Center where hikers can pick up route information. Upon returning to the Nature Center, finishers will receive a free water bottle and sticker for completing the 8-mile hike. In order to receive these prizes, participants must photograph six specific way-points and show their photos to the Nature Center staff.
Hemlock Cliffs, Hoosier National Forest
Hemlock Cliffs is a box canyon showcasing special beauty in southern Indiana. A cool climate, sandstone rock formations, and seasonal waterfalls are responsible for the unique trees and plants that grow here. The area features sandstone rock outcrops, overhangs, cliffs, rock shelters, and ravines. Much of the sandstone is “Honeycombed” by weathering of iron ores. Springs, small caves, and subterranean drainage conduits are in the underlying Glen Dean Limestone.
Knobstone Trail, Jackson-Washington State Forest and Clark State Forest
The Knobstone Trail, often called the Little Appalachian Trail, is Indiana’s longest trail and perhaps one of the toughest between the mileage and elevation changes. Backpackers will be rewarded for conquering several steep climbs with great views of Clark State Forest as well as Jackson-Washington State Forest.
The Ladders (Trail 3), Turkey Run State Park
The ladders trail includes unusual hiking between the steep walls of both Rocky and Bear hollows. Portions may be impassable during high water. Be careful as the ladders can be hazardous for visitors with certain medical conditions or disabilities. Hikers with small children and pets should use alternate trails.
Lawrence Creek Trail, Fort Harrison State Park
Start this loop trail at either the Lawrence Creek Trailhead or the Walnut Trailhead parking area on the west side of the park. The trail winds through upland woods and ravines. This is an excellent choice for observing fall color. Northern sections tend to remain wet all summer, providing a wonderful wildflower show. This is a single-track, hiking and bicycling trail.
Low Gap Trail (part of the Tecumseh Trail), Morgan-Monroe State Forest
Low Gap Trail is a 10.3 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Martinsville that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
Main Trail, Patoka Lake
This loop trail begins at the Nature Center and is well maintained, but has a limited number of signs along the way. Average hiking time is three to four hours. Many visitors enjoy walking to Totem Rock, a large rock shelter that was used by Native Americans and early settlers. “Short cuts” back to the Center are available for those familiar with maps and hiking. A “Birdwatching Spur” is on the far north end of the peninsula.
Old Forest Trail, Versailles State Park
Circles upland woods and ravines along the eastern bluff of Laughery Valley, featuring oak, hickory, maple, beech, tulip poplar, black walnut and other native trees. Look for limestone sinkholes along the way. Trail can be accessed from below, from the Old Fire Tower Road or near Oak Grove picnic area. Parents, please watch children at road crossings.
Paul H. Douglas Trail, Indiana Dunes National Park
Trail starts at Paul H. Douglas Center at IDNP in Gary and traverses through 3 distinct, unique habitats including wetlands, rare black oak savanna, as well as dunes and beach. An excellent trail for those wanting to truly experience the immense biodiversity the Indiana Dunes has to offer as well as those interested in nature photography.
Pearl Ravine (Trail 2), Shades State Park
Begins at trail to Lover’s Leap with views of Sugar Creek, upland woods and ravines. Lower portion goes down Steamboat Rock stairs and continues up Pearl Ravine stream bed. May be impassable during high water.
Peninsula Trail, Charles Deam Wilderness Area
Lake Monroe Peninsula Trail is a 9.8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Bloomington that features beautiful wild flowers. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Rated as moderate, dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.
Pine Hills Nature Preserve Trail, Shades State Park
This 470-acre tract is the first dedicated nature preserve in Indiana. It was given to the State of Indiana by The Nature Conservancy in 1961 and dedicated in 1969. Trail highlights include Turkey Backbone, The Slide, Devil’s Backbone and Honeycomb Rock.
Pinhook Bog, Indiana Dunes National Park
The Pinhook Trail System features two very different habitats. The Upland Trail highlights a rich beech and maple forest growing on top of a glacial moraine formed about 15,000 years ago. The Bog Trail leads to a bog in a depression in the moraine created when a large piece of ice broke off the melting glacier. The bog boasts an incredible habitat with unique plants.
Rose Island Trail (Trail 7), Charlestown State Park
Rose Island was an amusement park in the 1920s that boasted a small zoo, pony rides, merry-go-round, ferris wheel, roller coaster, shooting gallery, cafeteria, swimming pool, and more. To reach the Rose Island Loop Trail, take Trail 3 southbound to Portersville Bridge. Notice Trail 3 is a steep, paved .6 mile path. Those needing ADA assistance can call the park office to arrange transportation to Rose Island Loop Trail.
Three Dune Challenge (Trail 8), Indiana Dunes State Park
Goes over the tops of the three highest dunes of the Indiana Dunes.
Trail 2, Clifty Falls State Park
One-way, no-outlet at North End. Access in and out of the canyon is available only via connecting trails 1, 4, 5, and 8. Trail 2 is primarily the stone bed of Clifty Creek and Areas may be impassable during times of high water. Above and below all waterfalls are always off limits.
Trail 2, Turkey Run State Park
On this adventurous hike, visitors will experience amazing features from riparian areas to upland forested areas. Walk through a fen on your way to the Lusk Earth fill and along cliff edges on this rugged hike.
Trail 4, Mounds State Park
This trail is suited for the avid hiker because of its rugged terrain and steep hills. It provides a scenic overlook with all types of wildlife and many feathered friends.
Trail 9, Chain O’ Lakes State Park
Starts at the schoolhouse parking area, travels through the Henslow’s sparrow restoration area open field, through a wetland, to the top of wooded glacial hill, and around Kreiger Lake, a beautiful small kettle lake.
Twin Swamps Nature Preserve Trail, Twin Swamps Nature Preserve
This hidden gem trail featuring a boardwalk allows hikers to experience cottonwood-bald cypress swamp and an oak swamp, a rarity in Indiana these days.
Wabash Heritage Trail, Tippecanoe County Parks
This 13 mile trail begins at the Tippecanoe Battlefield Park located in Battle Ground, Indiana and makes its way along Burnett’s Creek to cross the Wabash River at Davis Ferry Park. The Trail follows the Wabash River to Riehle Plaza in downtown Lafayette, Indiana, crossing the Wabash River again, and heading southward towards Fort Ouiatenon.
Waterfall Trail, Kokiwanee Nature Preserve
Trek along the Salamonie River to see impressive bluffs and waterfalls, including Kissing Falls.
Wesselman Woods Trails, Wesselman Woods
Several trails (up to 6 miles) wind themselves through the old-growth forest of many 300+ year old trees. Many trees are over 100 ft tall in the National Natural landmark just a stone’s throw from downtown Evansville.
Wolf Cave (Trail 5), McCormick’s Creek State Park
A loop trail that begins at the Wolf Cave Parking Area, enters Wolf Cave Nature Preserve, loops through a Beech Maple forest, crosses Litten Branch, and offers access to Wolf Cave before ending near the Wolf Cave parking lot.