When most people think of Indiana (if they ever do), they usually associate it with either the Indy 500 or corn. Most of our great state is indeed covered in farmland and not much else. We have a couple of large cities and a few more small cities where the vast majority of our population lives but the remaining people are mostly scattered in very small towns (I personally grew up in a town of 800 people) or in a cornfield. Out of all of my high school friends I’m pretty sure I was the only one who lived in an actual town although there was at least one other in our friend group who lived in a town which literally consisted of 6 houses on a State Road.
What I’m getting at is that most people don’t immediately think of Indiana as a good place to do some solid hiking. There are several state parks that break that bias, though. I took a Monday off a couple of weeks ago to visit my favorite one – Turkey Run State Park!
Turkey Run is one of the most popular state parks in Indiana. It’s about 90 minutes away from Indianapolis and it gets a TON of visitors every year. There are things to do for more or less all ages and activity levels so lots of families make it a tradition to visit at least once during the summer/fall season. The most popular attractions in the park are probably the suspension bridge and the trails with ladders. There are miles of different trails to go on (none of them are incredibly difficult) as well as a large campground. If you ever find yourself in the Crossroads of America, try to get some free time and take a visit to the park.
Also, if you do make your way to stay overnight but you aren’t sure of your food situation, be sure to check out the restaurant. Last summer I camped with my husband and some friends and we unfortunately forgot to bring along coffee (I still drank regular at that point so I really needed some to get moving!). We walked to the restaurant and grabbed some coffee for me and pancakes for him. It was pretty cheap for what we got an it was also pretty good. The servers are all local and very friendly. Be sure to keep that in mind when making your plans! There are also some little “cabins” (below) that you can rent if you still aren’t sold on going to this amazing park.
I started out at the Nature Center around 9AM EST. If we aren’t camping at the park, I tend to park in this lot. The inn, restaurant, cabins, and a ton of playing area is also right next to the lot so it tends to fill up quickly. Since the pandemic started, though, I think the hours for the park have scaled back a bit so I parked away from other cars towards the back of the lot.
Here’s a smaller version of the map of the park as well as the trails I actually went on during this visit.
From the nature center I took trail 1 down to the suspension bridge and crossed it. There are usually kids running around in this area since you can walk down to a sandy beachy area. You aren’t supposed to swim, though, so remember if you do that you’re breaking park rules.
Not pictured are all of the people tubing, canoeing, or kayaking that day. There were A LOT of them – even at 9AM on a Monday. There were also quite a few families out around the sand. Since COVID has changed most peoples’ vacation plans I think they’re getting out into parks more which is great! Hopefully they’ll feel the need to also give a few dollars donation or use the parks license plate when they renew next year.
From the bridge I hiked up to Rocky Hollow on trail 3 but by the time I got to the area just past the sign there was a huge crowd of people taking pictures and not really letting others by. This is probably petty of me but that’s really bad park etiquette. Take your pictures and make memories but try your best not to stop trail traffic. This is roughly when I turned around, hiked back to the suspension bridge (still on the north side of the river) and then took trail 8. This trail is never as crowded. It’s listed as moderate but I think that’s only because it isn’t paved. While on trail 8, I took a short detour to take a gander at the Salmon Lusk Home, then turned around and continued north on trail 4/8 then on to trail 4. At this point you could always take trail 8 back towards the suspension bridge but I didn’t drive to my favorite park just to walk down one trail!
Trail 4 is listed as moderate/rugged due to the fact that a decent portion of it is either in creek beds or right next to them. If you have bad knees I don’t recommend it but otherwise, it’s totally fine. There are also a few stairs you have to take but I think it’s only 10 or 12. When I hit the intersection of trails 4 and 3 I decided to go north to avoid Rocky Hollow. At this point in the day I was starting to see more people so I’m sure Rocky Hollow was even busier than earlier in the day. From trail 3 I went up through all of trail 10 to see Camel’s Back (not super impressive in summer because of the dense vegetation but I’m sure it’s beautiful in autumn), back down trail 10 to trail 3, through one of the ladders (there were families with REALLY little kids trying to do the ladders, as in the kids were preschool age and terrified which is such a bad idea), then I detoured over to the “140 steps” to avoid the traffic, and went by Bear Hollow on trail 5. After I reached the T in trail 5, I took trail 9 to the west a bit to see Falls Canyon but I turned around to take trails 5 and 3 back to the suspension bridge. By now it was about 1PM and I was almost out of water so I crossed the bridge and did a quick loop down trails 1-2 by Goose Rock and Lusk Earth Fill. Then I went back to the Nature Center and called it a day.
Again, Turkey Run is awesome. We usually avoid it during the summer because it does get pretty busy on the weekends but I was surprised to see that many people on a Monday. I’m sure some of it’s due to the pandemic but you’ve been warned. Autumn is a great time to spend a weekend out in the park as well – that’s generally when we go – but be sure to book your tent site if you’re going to camp.
Here are a few more pictures from the trails. Most of it is standard trees/vegetation. The creek beds you see are ones that you could expect to either cross or hike through on some of the trails. Be sure if you’re going hiking you have waterproof or resistant boots! I also tried really hard to keep people out of the pictures but there’s one of Rocky Hollow that I couldn’t swing. The angle is weird so that the majority of the humans aren’t included.