This Lush, Midwest State Park Is A Stunning Hidden Gem Favored By Hikers And Campers

Any time you set your travel sights on Indiana, you can add a scenic escape to your itinerary when you take time to explore one of the local state parks. According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Indiana hosts 24 state parks for visitors and locals to enjoy year-round. Among them is Shades State Park which is a hidden gem among the bunch that's sure to inspire hikers and campers alike.

Shades State Park may be a less familiar destination for many travelers compared to the neighboring Midwest state park known as Turkey Run which sits just over 10 miles to the West, but that's the beauty of it. Shades State Park is a picturesque place to find yourself when you're looking for an immersive experience in nature. It has a way of feeling off-the-beaten-path and refreshingly far from any crowds.

This serene and lush destination is one where you can count on enjoying a diverse landscape as you explore. The park is home to hidden away gorges and a maze of ravines that take you past waterfalls and moss-covered boulders along the way. The combination of peaceful streams and towering trees can make you feel like you're worlds away from it all, right in the heart of Indiana.

Hike your way to scenic adventures

A highlight for many travelers visiting Shades State Park is their time spent on the beautiful hiking trails that wind their way through the terrain. The array of cliffs, trees, and ravines provides ample shade for many of the trails which gives explorers more time to discover the routes even when summer temperatures are on the rise. Picnic shelters dot the park as well, meaning time on the trails can easily be paired with an al fresco lunch topped off with a great view. 

The trails at Shades State Park range from half a mile long to more than two miles depending on how much time you're looking to dedicate to your outing. Many of the easiest routes begin at the park's pond and lead hikers through scenic wooded areas toward the campground or the Red Fox Ravine. There are moderately difficult routes like Trail #1 to enjoy that run less than a mile and take you to natural highlights of the park like the Silver Cascade waterfalls and the Devil's Punchbowl. The Back-Pack Trail is a good option for a longer hike as it covers 2.5 miles of ground running from the parking lot to the park's campsites. If you're looking for an even more insightful way to experience the trails, guided hikes are offered on the event calendar throughout the year as well as full moon hikes hosted by the Department of Natural Resources.

Spend time stargazing and camping at Shades State Park

When you're hoping to extend your adventures even further in Indiana, there are options to set up your campsite right at Shades State Park. There are 105 sites to choose from that offer a rustic camping experience setup without electricity included. Visitors who are looking to camp near the water so they can make the most of canoeing while they're here can choose one of the 10 canoe campsites available as well. While the campground at Shades State Park is designed for a more primitive experience in nature, guests can still enjoy access to fire rings, grills, and a dumping station too.

If you're someone with a passion for learning more about the cosmos, camping at Shades State Park comes with opportunities to turn your eyes toward mesmerizing dark skies in the evening. The view through a telescope from this location is pristine and the park maintains a Clear Sky Chart so astronomy enthusiasts can keep up to date on the latest conditions. From time to time, the Wabash Valley Astronomical Society has hosted star party viewing events at the park so it's always worth checking the event calendar before you arrive to see if any of those experiences might just line up with your trip.