There’s a nip in the air and pumpkins are starting to appear on porch steps — and there’s an absolute riot of color happening on every tree.
In other words: Autumn is here, and it’s officially leaf-watching season! If you want a chance to see the fall foliage in all its splendor, we have the skinny on where to go — and when you need to get there.
Peak Viewing Times for Fall Foliage in Indiana During 2021
Before you fill the tank, bundle the kids into the car and prep the snacks, check your calendar: The Smoky Mountains Fall Foliage Prediction Map says that trees in Northern Indiana will be near peak a bit early this year.
Expect to see tons of color by October 11, with a peak right around October 18. By October 25, the display of seasonal color will have mostly disappeared in the northern quarter of the state, but you can still catch plenty of sights mid-state or toward the southern border.
Where Can You Go for the Best Leaf Viewing in Indiana This Fall?
When you’re in Indiana, there is no shortage of places that are worth a visit. Even a walk around your own neighborhood can put you in an autumnal mood.
If you’re looking for a mind-blowing experience, however, we have a few suggestions:
Oaks, elms and maples galore line the Monon Trail, giving walkers and bicyclists a chance to pass under canopies of colored leaves as they wander through the area this fall. The mix of urban and suburban areas along the trail makes it easy to turn your nature walk into a full-blown adventure as you explore the nearby shopping centers and local restaurants.
Clifty Falls State Park
If you like to hike and want to see nature in all its “rugged splendor,” Clifty Falls State Park is the place to be. With fossils littered along the creek bed itself, waterfalls that change their appearance with the season and tons of wildlife, this is the sort of place you can go when you want to feel very removed from the rest of humanity for a few hours.
The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park
Want to see what it’s like when art and nature mix? Leaf spotting takes on a new dimension when you head over to Fairbanks Park, right here in Indianapolis. Stroll around the largest pollinator meadow in the area, check out the scenery around the 35-acre lake and experience the wonders of contemporary art installations like the transformative “Park of the Laments” that opens into a secluded garden full of strange plants.
McCormick’s Creek State Park
McCormick’s has the distinction of being Indiana’s first state park, and it’s definitely not last on our list of places to go leaf watching. The limestone canyon and several waterfalls provide a genuinely stunning backdrop for all the changing leaves. Take the trail through Wolf Cave Nature Preserve, then climb the fire tower or the stone arch bridge to get a fabulous view.
Turkey Run State Park
Deep canyons with sandstone cliffs, groves of hemlock trees, 14 miles of trails and several historic sites are just part of the charm at Turkey Run State Park. Whether you come for the day to check out the amazing view or you spend the night at the local inn, your experience at Turkey Run will make you feel renewed and refreshed.
Brown County State Park
Step out of the world and into a storybook forest for a few hours when you visit Brown County State Park. Nicknamed “the Little Smokies,” there are 16,000 acres of trails, roads, and hills to climb. If you have the time, plan an overnight visit at the Abe Martin Lodge or rent one of their family cabins for a wonderfully relaxing mini-vacation.
Monroe County has more than two dozen parks you can visit, but Monroe Lake offers a unique view of the fall foliage along the water. You can rent boats all through October, so take one out on the lake with your sweetheart for a romantic view of the colored leaves that’s sure to impress!
Fort Harrison State Park
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources refers to Fort Harrison State Park as “the last forested corner left in Marion County,” because this 1,700-acre park crosses two different national historic districts, with picnic areas, walking trails and more. If you visit, take a little time out from leaf watching to check out the Museum of 20th Century Warfare on the grounds of Fort Harrison.
Purdue University, West Lafayette
This is one of the best places to go in the area if you want to walk under a canopy of falling leaves and leisurely explore the sights and smells of the season. The Purdue Arboretum Explorer has an “Autumn Highlights Tour” that allows for a self-guided exploration of the sweetgum trees with their orange and yellow leaves and their sourwood trees in reds and purples.
Indiana University, Bloomington
The red brick sidewalks and collegiate atmosphere evoke a sense of wonder and nostalgia when you’re on Indiana University’s Bloomington campus. This is an excellent spot to go leaf watching when you want to get out and walk around without necessarily going too far from an urban center. Make sure you check out the IU Cox Arboretum while you’re there.
Wherever you choose to go to watch the leaves turn, make sure that you do it soon — it won’t be long before old Jack Frost turns up and turns the ground ice-cold, and then the display of color will be gone until next year!