THE ROAD OFTEN TRAVELED — The Indiana State Parks, forests, and natural preserves offer a variety of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails to be discovered. While out exploring, it’s important to remain on the marked paths for personal safety and protection of the state lands.
(Herald Photo / Courtesy of the Leger Family)
THE ROAD OFTEN TRAVELED — The Indiana State Parks, forests, and natural preserves offer a variety of hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails to be discovered. While out exploring, it’s important to remain on the marked paths for personal safety and protection of the state lands. (Herald Photo / Courtesy of the Leger Family)

by Jenn Goad
Reporter
jenn@kokomoherald.com

The State of Indiana is host to 24 state park properties and eight reservoir properties, equating to roughly 700 miles of trails suitable for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. The cooler temperatures and bright leaf colors create a huge draw to these facilities and state forests for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy.

Many in the area venture to the more popular state parks of Turkey Run and Brown County, both of which boast camping facilities and trails designated for use.

“We’ve got lots of playgrounds, campsites, picnic shelters, plenty of opportunity for people to get out and enjoy the outdoors that our state park properties have to offer,” said Indiana Department of Natural Resources Director of Communication Phil Bloom. “State parks get a lot of traffic at all times of the year, probably about 16 to 17 million visitors per year and in the fall. Certainly places like Brown County and Turkey Run offer lots of fall colors, which is a great attraction.”

Bloom offered some tips for those wishing to head out on the trails, including staying on the marked paths for personal safety and protection of the land.

“We’ve designed trails to go through areas to guide them through a scenic experience, but also, in some instances, to protect sensitive environmental areas. Staying on trails is important and should be followed at all times,” he said.

Bloom said pets are welcome in the state parks but, per rules, should remained leashed at all times. 

Another tip he shared was to make sure that visitors be good guests to the parks. He recommended that all guests carry out what they carry in and leave little to no trace of their visit. Bloom asked that park attendees follow the age-old rule of leaving the park better than they found it.

“I know a lot of times when I’ve been out hiking I’ll find a gum wrapper or some other trash. People should always carry out what they take in. If they see some litter on the trail, don’t hesitate to pick it up and carry it out,” said Bloom. “Be conscious about that.”

He offered the warning of fall hikers to be aware of potential hunting situations as well. He said that while hunting is not a typical fall event in the state parks, there are some instances of special deer-reduction hunts that occur. The state forests do allow hunting, so those visiting one of the state parks should wear high-visibility clothing with hunter orange as the primary color so they can be seen by other forest visitors.

Bloom said for state park visitors wishing to extend their stay that campsites, state-run inns, and cabins are available for rental. Overnight accommodations, including primitive campsites, can be reserved online through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources website (https://indianastateparks.reserveamerica.com/welcome.do for camping and cabins or https://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/2435.htm for state inns).

“The reservation system is the way to go to ensure that you have a site there when you show up and put up your tent,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of options. Everything from primitive camping where someone wants to go with no electricity or plumbing, true camping, all the way up to the state park inns that have all the modern amenities that you would want to have, including restaurants where you don’t have to cook.”

There are hiking trails ranging from easy to complex within the state park and forest system to satisfy the outdoor enthusiasts’ need for adventure. Day hikes to extended trips can be planned, all depending on what visitors wish to do.

Knobstone Trail in the Jackson-Washington State forest stretches 58 miles as Indiana’s longest hiking trail. It passes through Clark State Forest, Elk Creek public fishing area, and the Jackson-Washington State Forest. Bloom said it was a trail that many use as a precursor for hiking the Appalachian Trail due to its good climbs.

All guests should make sure to educate themselves on any temporary hazards or trail re-routes (due to weather or other circumstances). Heading out to explore the state trails is a great opportunity to see the diverse topography the State of Indiana offers.