Does that slight chill in the air have you reaching for the warmer blankets or your favorite sweater? Even though the daylight hours are rapidly getting shorter, the bold display of seasonal color from the trees as they show off their fall foliage has just begun.
The biggest, best annual display of nature is just about to get started, and we’re here to tell you all about the best viewing times and locations. If you want to take in the autumnal beauty before the leaves fall, here’s what you need to know.
When Is the Peak Leaf Watching Season?
According to the Smoky Mountains’ national fall foliage predictor, leaves will be at a partial peak in central Indiana by Oct. 12 this year, so you’re pretty safe if you want to make sight-seeing plans for any time thereafter.
By Oct. 19, the fall leaves will be at their best in the northern part of the state and near-peak in the central and southern areas. By Nov. 2, however, leaf season will almost be over, so that only gives you a few short weeks to take advantage of this gorgeous natural display for the year.
Where Are the Best Destinations for Leaf Watching in Indiana?
You may be lucky enough to live near a wooded area or park that has some spectacular views. If not, however, there are plenty of places that are worth a visit. Pile the kids in the car and head out to one of the following areas for prime scenic viewing:
🍂 Crown Hill Cemetery – Indianapolis
The largest green space inside the Indianapolis beltway, Crown Hill offers 555 acres of land, more than 4,000 trees and 25 miles of road to explore.
In years past, Crown Hill has offered guided walking tours throughout the year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, those tours have been canceled — but the cemetery is still open and visitors are encouraged to use Crown Hill’s handy instruction sheet for a self-guided tour. There’s an easy download you can get that will tell you all about some of the monuments you see while you’re exploring the area’s natural wonders.
🍂 The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park – Indianapolis
Commonly referred to as 100 Acres, this park is one of the largest museum art parks in the country. Within its 100-acres of woodlands, you’ll find a rotating collection of site-specific artworks that aim to teach the public about the unique, reciprocal relationships between contemporary art and the natural world. One of the most recognizable pieces in the park, “Funky Bones” by Dutch artist Atelier Van Lieshout, is one of many Indianapolis locations John Green portrays in “The Fault in Our Stars.”
Lace up your walking shoes on the first and third Saturday of the month for a free guided tour of the untamed woodlands, meadows, and shoreline of the 35-acre lake.
🍂 Brown County State Park – Nashville
Nicknamed the “Little Smokies,” this is one of the most gorgeous spots you can go in the state if you want to get away from the crowds and step into the wonders of nature. There are roughly 16,000 acres full of hiding trails, biking trails and winding roads to explore.
Brown County State Park has long been a favorite spot for hill climbing, horseback riding, picnics and more. It’s no coincidence that the park has also become a beloved location for folks who are ready to “pop the question” to their significant others — especially in the fall.
🍂 Indiana University – Bloomington
Take advantage of free weekend parking in any of the garages on campus and visit Indiana University Bloomington. IU is one of the world’s most beautiful campuses and fall is breathtaking. Roam the campus and explore nearby downtown Bloomington for a delightful fall day.
🍂 Pumpkinvine Nature Trail – Goshen to Shipshewana
The Pumpkinvine Nature Trail is 17.3 miles of gorgeous fall colors running from Goshen’s Abshire Park to Shipshewana. The trail is paved and mostly off-road, which means that it’s perfect for walkers, runners and bikers alike. Bikes are even available to rent in Goshen, if you like.
If you can’t handle the trail on foot or bike, you may want to check into the Heritage Trail Driving Tour. This scenic route takes you along 90 minutes of winding rural roads through the communities of Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury, Nappanee, Bristol, Wakarusa and Shipshewana. It’s essentially the same route you’d follow on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, just adjusted so that you can do it from the comfort of your own car.
🍂 Heritage Trail Driving Tour – Elkhart
Road tripping made easy! Let the Heritage Trail audio tour be your guide to this 90-mile scenic loop through Elkhart, Goshen, Middlebury, Nappanee, Bristol, Wakarusa and Shipshewana. Since the tour is in northern Indiana, you’ll want to go early- to mid-October rather than waiting until the end of the month as colors will peak sooner in the northern part of the state.
🍂 Clifty Falls State Park – Madison
This scenic area is known for its waterfalls — and you can see all of them if you’re willing to go on a four-mile hike through the park. (Bear in mind, the hike can best be described as “rugged,” and it includes plenty of climbing, so this isn’t the best spot to visit if you prefer a more casual stroll.)
The natural splendor of the fall leaves is enhanced by the area’s geological grandeur. You can see the mark of ice-age glaciers on the rock walls surrounding the waterfalls and even take in a view of the Ohio River from an observation tower near the Clifty Inn.
🍂 Indiana Dunes National Park – Chesterton
This northern park boasts more than 1,000 species of plants and trees, including gorgeous sugar maples that turn golden yellow and orange in the fall with splashes of vibrant red from the oaks mixed in.
Spend some time geocaching with the kids or just exploring all of the fantastic scenery the area has to offer. Mid-October will be the prime leaf-watching season along the park’s Calumet and Porter Brickyard Trails, so make sure you head that way early — and don’t forget to wear clothes that are warm enough for cool weather.
🍂 Turkey Run State Park – Marshall
Turkey Run is another area known for its geological scenery, with deep canyons that are overhung by fabulous sandstone cliffs and groves of hemlock trees.
When the fall colors arrive, this is one of the best areas in the state to take photos. There’s a suspended bridge that gives visitors a fantastic view of the kaleidoscope colors of fall that just can’t be beaten and miles of trails that can be accessed on foot or by horseback.
Winter is coming, folks, so don’t wait to take in all of the natural wonders of autumn — after all, it won’t be long before the first snowflakes start falling and the cold weather has you looking for indoor activities until 2021 rolls around!