By Gabby Davis
There is nothing more relaxing than a hike. Walking through the wilderness, breathing in the fresh air and listening to the sound of wildlife scurrying by and overhead. Indiana is well known for the numerous areas to hike, and some of them have the most breathtaking scenes. If you are ever in the mood for a hike and want some beautiful pictures, take a trip to these five areas!
Considered to be Indiana’s best kept secret, Pine Hills Nature Preserve is one of the most beautiful places for a scenic hike in Indiana. The preserve was Indiana’s first dedicated nature preserve, and offers hills, gorges, sandstone bluffs with soaring evergreens and other trees, such as hemlock, white pine, Canada yews, oak, and more. As you hike, you will also see varying species of wildflowers, ferns, and other rare, exotic plants. There are five different trails to hike here at Pine Hills: Turkey Backbone, Woolen Mill and Mill Cut which takes you past the old Pine Hill Woolen Mill site, The Slide, named because of the many rock slides that have occurred over the years, Devil’s Backbone, a steep trail that is six feet-wide and 100 feet-high. If you are hiking with small children, avoid this trail. Last but not least is Honeycomb Rock. As you hike through this area, you will see a wall composed of complete sandstone that is over 300 million years-old. This area is truly rustic Indiana at its finest, and definitely worth the trip!
Just off Interstate 69 near Anderson, Indiana, is Mounds State Park. Here you will find unique structures of earth built by the Adena-Hopewell Indians. The largest structure, the Great Mound, is thought to have been constructed in 160 B.C. The “mounds,” as they are known, were used as gathering places for religious ceremonies. The park has six different hiking trails, ranging from easy to rugged. As you hike, you will see the White River and limestone bluffs, views of the picnic areas, as well as the spectacular Bronnenberg House, which belonged to the Bronnenberg family, one of the earliest settlers in the area. Be on the lookout for wildlife as you hike, watching for songbirds and waterfowl and water life.
If you are looking for someplace that is peaceful, tranquil, and relaxing, look no further than Shades State Park. This area is a particular favorite of hikers and who could blame them? From the beautiful sandstone cliffs that overlook Sugar Creek and dozens of shady ravines, Shades State Park is breathtaking. The trails range in levels from easy to extreme. Hike through Lover’s Leap and continue down to the Steamboat Rock stairs and up into the Pearl Ravine streambed. At times though this trail may be impassable due to high water so watch for signs! You can also hike through Frisz Ravine and see the beautiful, tall beach, oak, and tulip trees. The easiest trail travels across the Red Fox Ravine, and be on the lookout for red foxes!
Charlestown State Park is located in southern Indiana, and is over 15,000 acres. This particularly hiking area is for the avid bird watcher. Watchers can see over 72 species of birds, from bluebirds, black vultures, and the occasional bald eagle if you are lucky! As you hike, you cross Fourteen Mile Creek in some areas. On the opposite side, you can view the creek from 100 feet above the water! Hikers will also see glimpses of the Ohio River and Twelvemile Island, as well as waterfalls! Note that this area is for the more experienced hiker.
Established in 1903, the Clark State Forest is the oldest state forest in Indiana. Since its founding, the area has grown to 24,000 acres. The area was used as an experimental forest for many years, and many of those trees can still be seen from various areas throughout. There are three different trails to choose from: White Oak Nature, Resource Trail, and Knobstone Trail. The White Oak Nature trail is less than a mile, and is 143 acres. The Resource Trail is a mile long, and here you will see trees such as pignut hickory, white oak, and sugar maple. This trail is also prone to wildlife, so be on the lookout for birds, toads, and snakes! The last trail, Knobstone Trail, is 59 miles of pure back country, and crosses between Clark State Forest, Elk Creek, and Jackson Washington State Forest.