Shades State Park in Indiana is about an hour and twenty minutes from Indianapolis and offers year round hiking for families. Nestled on the banks of Sugar Creek, it’s often overlooked by its more popular cousin Turkey Run State Park, located just a few miles west, and remains less crowded especially during the fall. Our family recently decided to squeeze in one more hike before it gets too cold and headed out to explore this quiet park.
For starters, admission was free since the park does not allow camping past Oct 31st. Not all parks have this same pricing structure so it’s important to double check with Indiana DNR before heading out. Shades does not have some of the amenities of the larger state parks so don’t expect a pool, nature center or even flush toilets. There are some picnic shelters and one modern restroom but it was already closed for the winter when we arrived. If you’re looking for creature comforts, this might not be the park for you.
There are lots of trails to choose from. Most either head down towards the creek or into large ravines. Expect to do lot of stairs! You’ll need kiddos who can handle them on their own or a good carrier for littler legs. We hit up trails 4 and 5 which overlap each other and provide some options on how to get back up the riverbank. There are some pretty rugged trails as well that utilize ladders but we opted to skip those because the leaves made it difficult to see the trail.
One of the coolest areas of the park is a formation known as Devil’s Punch Bowl. It is a deep cutout formed by a riverbed that my kids loved climbing down into and I loved the sturdy and safe staircases provided to get in and out of the bowl. Be prepared to get muddy as there is still a small creek running through the area. We went when it was fairly dry and there hadn’t been much rainfall so I can image it would be much worse during a wet season.
If for some reasons you haven’t tired out your young hikers enough, there’s a great wooden playground just across from one of the picnic shelters and near the modern restrooms. During the summer, this would make a great place to eat lunch.
We spent about two hours at the park and could easily go back and see a completely different park of the park. I think Shades is the perfect escape for a family looking to visit a quiet park that’s off the beaten path and experience some of the beauty of western Indiana.
So, have you been to Shades State Park? What’s your go to getaway when you need some peace and quiet from the city?