One of the best parts of life in Indiana is the state’s wealth of excellent parks. Whether it’s spending a hot summer’s day frolicking in a lake or hiking a park’s snowy trails, there is something for everybody, and every season, in the Hoosier state. So, to help all you nature lovers out there, here is a list of some of the top rated parks in Indiana, and as an added bonus, what makes each one truly unique.
Best Urban Park
The motto of downtown Indy’s White River State Park is “More to do than you ever knew”. And well, we can’t argue with that. Here you’ll find massive green spaces with amazing views of the Indy skyline and flowing White River, as well as outdoor art exhibits and numerous educational attractions including a free book exchange. You can’t skimp on the Historic Central Canal Walkway either. While many may think of the canal as a totally separate entity, it’s actually a part of the larger property of White River State Park. Other buildings that you may not realize are park of the park include the NCAA Hall of Champions Museum, Victory Field, the Indiana State Museum and the Indianapolis Zoo. This, of course, opens up a whole new world of activities for the park’s visitors.
Best Park for Hiking
Brown County State Park is the largest state park in Indiana and the one bringing in the most visitors each year – and that’s saying a lot as Indiana boasts 25 state parks in total. Brown County State Park is not only known for its size, but for its stunning natural beauty, much of which can only be viewed by foot. Here’s where their system of hiking trails really come into play. Check out the Ogle Hallow Nature Preserve located within the park for a series of self-guided trails. Here, MP3 players are available to take with you on the route which will discuss the amazing nature found along the way. There’s even some challenging trails for runners like the Ogle Lake to Trail Loop 9 circuit which provides some great inclines for endurance training.
Best Park with a View
What better view could a Hoosier ask for than sand beaches and white caps? Well, the Indiana Dunes State Park has you covered. Located just over 45-miles from Chicago, this beloved State Park is just behind Brown County as the second most visited park in Indiana. For those looking to get a good workout – with a good view – try The 3 Dune Challenge, the 1.5-mile trail route climbing the biggest dunes in the park. Once you reach the top of each one, you’ll be rewarding with stunning views of Lake Michigan. Cycling, hiking, bird watching, fishing and even kayaking are among the other activities offered at this Michigan Lake-adjacent park. Of course most of these activities are best suited for summer, but if you’re willing to brave the lakeshore winds during the winter, you’ll get to experience a rare snowy beach and frozen ice caps crashing on its shore.
Best Park for Kids
Holliday Park is located on Indy’s north side just off 64th St and Spring Mill Rd. What makes this park the perfect place for kids? Well, perhaps it’s the huge interactive playground and indoor nature center found on-site. The former features state-of-the-art equipment such as a rock climbing wall, slide tower, spider’s web, exploring tunnels, crossing bridges and of course, what park would be complete without a classic swing set. The indoor nature center focuses less on physical activity and more on working out the mind. There’s an auditorium where children can learn about nature, an observation for feeding – and listening to – wild birds, and as of 2015, there are three new exhibits; White River Water Table, Music of the Wetlands Exhibit and an elevated Hardwood Forest viewing platform. Add to this the lush Holliday Park gardens, 3.5 miles of trails and actual ruins from a 1950’s New York City building, and you’ve got yourself one of the best, most educational parks for kids in all of Indiana.
Best Park with a Lake
Known as sort of a hybrid park/lake, Monroe Lake in Bloomington is just the place to combine the best of both outdoor activities. Rent a boat and go tubing in the morning, and hike a trail and go camping at night. They even have events during the winter season to keep nature lovers engaged before summer hits. On New Year’s Day the park will be hosting their 5th Annual First Day Trail Run & Walk along the interior of the park. Don’t let the weather keep you off the lake though; Monroe Lake actually offers ice fishing during the winter season! Hunters will be pleased to know that Monroe Lake also supports responsible hunting during the winter season. The park’s proximity to water allows duck season to go until mid-January while goose hunting season extends until Feb. 11. Permits are of course required, so be sure to get your bids in before it’s too late.