“The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves” – John Muir
With 25 state parks to chose from in Indiana it can be hard to decide which one you want to visit. Many offer unique features and if you and your family enjoy exploring outdoors you’re probably looking for which ones to add to your bucket list. Whether you’re camping for a week, planning a day trip to hike, or searching for a weekend getaway, this list of Indiana State Parks for families will make sure you’re headed towards your next adventure.
Best List of Indiana State Parks for Families
McCormicks’ Creek State Park
Just an hours drive from Indianapolis, McCormick’s Creek State Park is one of our favorite places to get away for some hiking. It’s the state’s oldest park and the historical Canyon Inn is a great place to stay if you don’t want to camp. The trails range from easy hikes through the woods to more strenuous and rugged climbs down into the park’s ravines.
Make sure to wear old clothes as your kids will want to splash in the waterfalls of McCormick’s Creek and explore inside of Wolf Cave. There’s a pool, nature center, and horseback riding available as well.
Turkey Run State Park
Right along the banks of Sugar Creek in far western Indiana, Turkey Run State Park is one of Indiana’s most well know parks. In part because of it’s famous Trail 3 which takes you up and down the winding canyon of an ancient river. You’ll climb ladders, stomp through creeks and scale smooth rocks to make your way through this rugged trail but if your kids are anything like mine, they’ll love it!
Grab lunch at the Turkey Run Inn’s restaurant (total comfort food) or take some photos from the famous swinging bridge across the creek. If it’s warm, you can rent canoes to paddle up and down the creek for even more views.
Indiana Dunes State Park
Did you know that Indiana has a beach? Indiana Dunes State Park is a three mile stretch of lakeshore in northwest Indiana that offers families a chance to climb giant sand dunes and swim in Lake Michigan. Plus it’s one of the most ecologically diverse habitats in Indiana so you can hike through forests, marsh, and along the lake.
It’s a popular park in the summer time but totally worth a day trip or weekend getaway. There is a campground on site or plenty of lodging options in the nearby towns of Porter and Chesterton. Don’t miss the view of Chicago’s skyline on a clear day or a visit to the nearby Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (it’s connected to the state park) to earn a junior ranger badge with your kids.
Clifty Falls State Park
If you want a mix of history, culture, and incredible hiking, than you need to head to Clifty Falls State Park in southern Indiana. Right on the banks of the Ohio River, Clifty Falls has some of the most unique hiking in the state. The Clifty Inn is recently renovated and is a great home base as you check out the park.
The best part of Clifty Falls is its proximity to Madison, Indiana, an historic town full of preserved homes, fun shopping, and great restaurants. Between the town and the state park, there’s a ton to do for those who wants to ‘rough it’ and those who want a modern conveniences.
Brown County State Park
Brown County State Park has long been known as a wooded getaway location, especially in the fall as the leaves reach their peak color. It’s also a relatively easy park to get to, just an hour south of Indianapolis. The Abe Martin Lodge boasts family cabins and hotel rooms that all include admission to the indoor water park, making this a year round getaway for families.
Hiking trails all over the park offer views of from the high ridges and there are plenty of camping opportunities. For some added fun, head into Nashville, the small town just outside the park for restaurants and shopping.
Fort Harrison State Park
Originally an army base, Fort Ben (a nickname from its old days as Fort Benjamin Harrison) is actually in Indianapolis on the northeast side of the city but you’d never know you’re just a few miles from downtown when you’re hiking. There are lots of great trails, including a paved on for biking or strollers. Mountain biking is also super popular here so make sure to keep kids close or listen out for them coming (they’re really FAST).
During the winter, Fort Ben is an awesome place to go sledding and lots of people also love the golf course as well. The park is crowded on the weekends but once you start hiking it’s not bad and it’s great to get away for a little forest bathing if you’re visiting the city.
Pokagon State Park
The toboggan at Pokagon State Park opens Friday, Nov. 24! Enjoy a ride down Indiana's only refrigerated toboggan weekends through the end of February, with extended weekday hours near Christmas. Visit www.lakes101.org for a schedule. #visitindiana #pokagonstatepark #lakejamesindiana #northernindiana
Any time of year you visit this far northeast state park, you’ll find plenty to do. But if you happen to plan your trip for the winter time, make sure you bundle up because Pokagon State Park is home to a seasonal tobbogan run that will knock the socks off your whole family. Book a room at the state park’s Potowatomi Inn so you can take advantage of night hours and have a convinent place to warm up with some hot cocoa.
All year long you can find hiking, and in the summer there’s a lake for swimming and boating too.
Prophetstown State Park
We love Prophetstown State Park for a day trip since it’s so close to I-65 in Lafayette. Unlike most state parks, don’t expect to find lots of woods here. This is a prairie state park so there isn’t much shade but this is a great bike path (perfect for practicing with new riders), trails, playgrounds and picnic areas. Plus there’s a seasonal outdoor water park and Prophetstown Farm to explore as well. I’ve heard great things about the campground too.
If you’re in the area, go check out Columbian Park for a free zoo and train ride and then stop for some burgers at the famous Triple XXX Restaurant for some delicious food and root beer. My kids love sitting at the counter (cash only).
Falls of the Ohio State Park
Got a fossil fan in your family? Falls of the Ohio State Park right across the river from Louisville lets visitors try their own luck at spotting fossils along the banks of the Ohio River. There is a slightly different admission fee structure than most state parks to enter the visitors center (per person rather than per car) but you can explore the grounds on your own for free.
River levels affect how much you can see so it might be worth calling before you visit to make sure things aren’t flooded. It’s also a great stop if you’re traveling up and down I-65 since it’s just off the highway.
Mounds State Park
Easy hiking and one of the closest locations to Indianapolis, Mounds State Park has a fantastic nature center (one of our favorites) with hands on kids activity and programing year round. You can visit the ancient Native American mounds on your hikes and learn more about the original people of Indiana.
Mounds also offers camping and a season pool, plus a historic home to tour during special hours.
Spring Mill State Park
Want to step back in history? Explore Spring Mill State Park’s 1814 Pioneer Village in Mitchell, Indiana. A 3-story gristmill, that still grinds corneal, is the centerpiece to the 20 restored, historic buildings. Throughout the summer, interpreters portray life in 1863 and demonstrate period crafts. #IndianaDNR #indiana #myindiana #visitindiana #scenic #indy #indianapolis #color #scene #bestvacations #landscapephotography #amazingview #beautifulplaces #nature #outdoors #indianastateparks #h2gindiana #springmillstatepark
Spring Mill State Park is one of the most family friendly state parks with a huge list of things to do. You’ll find everything from hiking and camping to a 1800s mill in Pioneer Village and river cave tours so you can easily spend several days in the park. The Spring Mill Inn offers onsite lodging and the rolling hills of this south central park make for great hiking.
Don’t miss the small museum dedicated to astronaut and hometown hero, Gus Grissom. You can even view a Gemani spacecraft and his original space suit.
Shades State Park
The quieter cousin to Turkey Run State Park. Shades State Park has less amenities but still offers great canyon hiking and a steep climb (with stairs) down into Devil’s Punch Bowl, a formation craved out of the area’s sandstone. This park is great when you want to escape the crowds but be prepared for primitive camping only and not many flush toilets.
It’s just a short distance from Turkey Run so you can stay at either one and visit them both in the same trip.
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Did I leave off your favorite Indiana State Park? Which one do you love to visit the most? If you’re planning an upcoming trip and have questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll help you figure out which park is right for you!