By Gabby Davis
When the days change from sunny and warm to a little brisker, Indiana’s hiking landscape transforms along with it. With smaller crowds, changing wildlife, and stunning sights only the colder air can bring out, a winter hike in Indiana is truly special. With so many magical locations to choose from, Indiana is a dream for those who love the outdoors—all year-round. Here are the 10 best winter hikes in the state.
Come to Indiana Dunes this winter and choose from 14 different trail systems. The most popular trails this time of year are the Miller Woods Trail and the Glenwood Dunes Trail System. Both are popular with hikers and feature a moderate trail, as well as spectacular views of Lake Michigan and Lake George. Another popular trail is the Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk. In the winter, visitors can observe shelf ice that forms along the beach’s edge. Visitors are also encouraged to take the Cowles Bog trail to explore the icy beaches.
O’Bannon Woods State Park is one of the best places for winter hiking. The park’s most popular attractions during the summer are the Wyandotte Caves and the Big and Little Wyandotte Cave Tours. But in the winter time, it’s all about the trails. With nine different trail systems to choose from, there is something for every level of hiker. Take the Sharp Spring Trail which goes around the Wyandotte Wetlands and passes the Sharp’s Spring on the backside of the lake. It’s considered to be one of Indiana’s best-kept secrets!
McCormick’s Creek State Park is Indiana’s first official state park, and the best place for spectacular views. The park is made up of gorgeous limestone canyons, flowing creeks, and a beautiful waterfall that’s even more amazing in the winter when it’s frozen as it falls. Trail #5 is said to be the best trail to hike in the winter because once you reach the top, the trail offers visitors a 360-degree tour of the entire park. From snow covered hills to ice covered trees, winter never looked so good!
With seven trails covering more than 28 miles, the Morgan-Monroe State Forest in Martinsville, Indiana, offers a great place for winter hiking. The trails are just part of the forest’s 24,000 acres and has many steep ridges, valleys, and some of the state’s finest hardwoods. The Low Gap Trail is the most popular, and while it is rugged, it also offers the best view of the entire forest. Another great trail is the Three Lakes Trail, which connects the Cherry, Beanblossom, and Bryants Creek Lakes. In the winter, these lakes appear frozen in time, the water still moving deep below but frozen on the surface.
Pokagon State Park is a winter wonderland for those who enjoy the outdoors, offering activities such as cross-country skiing, sledding, ice fishing and even tobogganing! The park also offers nine hiking trails for all levels of hikers, the most popular being the Bluebird Hills Trail, which starts just below Hell’s Point on Trail 3. The trail takes visitors past open, rolling hills and frozen wetlands. Another popular trail is Trail 9, which goes through wooded, frozen swamps, and young forests. Here, visitors can feel the quiet of Mother Nature as she settles in for a long winter’s nap.
Turkey Run State Park is gorgeous during the summer, but it’s even better during the winter. Visitors can explore sandstone ravines, walk through aged forests, and enjoy the beautiful scenic views along Sugar Creek. Trail 3 is highly recommended during the winter, but not recommended when there is ice along the trails. Visitors can follow the cliffs along Sugar Creek and then pass by the Ice Box, a deep hole-like structure in the middle of the forest. The trail will also take visitors past the Punch Bowl, which looks like a large pothole that was formed by erratic glaciers caught in a swirling mass of water long along. It offers the best views, but is not recommended for the inexperienced hiker.
Join other nature and hiking lovers alike this year at Shades State Park. Hike along the beautiful sandstone cliffs that overlook Sugar Creek, or wander through one of the numerous shady ravines as you enjoy the sights and sounds of nature in the winter. For the inexperienced hiker, Trail 6 trails along the frozen Red Fox Ravine, giving breathtaking views of frozen trees and frozen lakes.
Mounds State Mound features 10 unique earthworks built by the prehistoric Adena-Hopewell Indians. The Great Mound, a popular attraction, is believed to have been constructed around 160 B.C. There are six different trails to choose from, each with breathtaking views and scenery. Trail 1 is the easiest trail and winds around four prehistoric mounds, which look a bit out of place in the snow. Another great trail is Trail 5, which offers scenic views along the White River and limestone bluffs before crossing several other creeks. Visitors can glimpse different species of wildlife as they settle in for the season, and listen to the birds as they fly back and forth.
Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis is a popular destination for visitors throughout Indiana, especially in the winter. One of its main attractions: the biggest sledding hills in the area. The park is 1,700 acres and even has a dog park that Fido can enjoy. There are seven different hiking trails to choose from and range from easy to moderate. Each trail offers views of the park, wildlife, Duck Pond and more.
Perhaps the most popular place to go hiking in the winter is Brown County State Park in southern Nashville, Indiana. Nicknamed the “Little Smokies” because of its striking resemblance to the Great Smoky Mountains, Brown County is over 16,000 acres of hills, ridges, and ravines. This is the best place to see where glaciers formed thousands of years ago and carved the land in southern Indiana. Hike, then climb the 90-foot Fire Tower to see an incredible view of the hills o’Brown (Brown County hillside). See the snow-covered mountain tops and the sloping hills, and feel the cold winter chill the higher you climb. Another great trail is the CCC Trail which features stone bridges, stairways, and retaining walls.