It’s no secret that more people and families are getting outdoors this year and there is no better time to explore what Indiana has to offer in the terms of camping and outdoor recreation.
We’ve gotten to travel and camp all over the country and Indiana still has some of our favorite campsites. Whether you’re just trying to pitch a tent for the first time, looking for serene getaway with your sweetie, or wanting a weekend adventure with the kids, we’ve compiled a great list to check all your boxes.
Please note the camping cost listed does not include entry fee to the parks.
Best for Families
A great spot to camp with your family is McCormick’s Creek State Park. If your kids are like our son, he loves to creek stomp; this place is perfect for putting the water shoes to use. There are great beginner-friendly hikes with waterfalls and limestone bedrocks to walk in, stomp through, or splash around in. Make sure to check out Trail 5, where you and the family can explore Wolf Cave for a fun adventure.
Cost: $14-$30 per night
Best for First-Timers
Are you just getting into camping or want to see what it’s like to really rough it? Shades State Park has options for first-time tent campers in their campground, along with a beginner primitive backpacking area with fresh water, a pit toilet, and firewood available to purchase. Enjoy scenic day hikes here with sandstone cliffs that overlook Sugar Creek. Turkey Run State Park is just 14 miles away and has lots to offer from day hikes to paddling and if you’re up for a longer hike check out Pine Hills Nature Preserve.
Bonus: If you’re into canoe camping, check out the canoe campground located on the bank of Sugar Creek.
Cost: Tent camping starts at $19
Backcountry area camping $11 per site (cash or check)
Indiana has some of the most beautiful sunsets in the Midwest. The Indiana Dunes State Park is less than a mile from the sandy beaches where you can bask in these picturesque moments. This is the closest campground to the beach and is the most popular so make sure to book early to get the spot you want, everything in the campground has electric hookups, bathrooms and shower houses.
Cost: $30 per night
Clifty Falls State Park has something for every couple to enjoy. It’s home to Indiana’s top-rated waterfalls with beginner-friendly hikes. The quaint town of Madison, Ind., is close by, so make sure to stop in one of the local wineries or bakeries. The state park also has electric and non-electric hook up camping sites available.
Cost: $19-$30 per night
Best for Adventure Seekers
Are you looking for some weekend thrills? Brown County State Park has activities for every level of outdoor enthusiast. It has one of the top-rated mountain bike trail systems in the country, picturesque hiking trails with overlooks and vistas along the way, paddling on Ogle Lake, horseback riding in the park, or a zip line just outside the park. Explore the outdoors during the day and relax at night with live music at one of the local restaurants, distilleries or wineries in the town of Nashville.
Bonus: Yellowwood State Forest is close by with great hiking trails and a beautiful lake you can take any non-motorized boat on. Make sure to look up, there are eagles in the area!
Cost: $19-$30 per night
Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Spot
Our first backpack trip in Indiana was in Charles C. Deam Wilderness, it still stands as our favorite primitive site in the state. Once you go, you’ll see why. The backcountry camping area can be found by hiking the 5 or 8-mile trek through Hoosier National Forest, or you can paddle in from Cutright Boat Ramp in Bloomington, Ind. The designated camping spots are along the Lake Monroe shoreline, you get one of the best sunset views in the state here. The camping is completely primitive, so you’ll need to take everything you need for the weekend or night.
Note: Make sure to take plenty of purified water or if you are filtering water bring back ups, Lake Monroe can easily wear out a new filter after one use!
Muscatatuck State Park is natural wonder in the southeastern part of the state. Muscatatuck translates to “Land of Winding Waters,” which is the main attraction of the area. The park has 10 miles of multi-use trails for hiking or mountain biking that overlook the Muscatatuck River and impressive limestone cliffs. This is the only park and place in Indiana that you can rock climb in, bouldering only.
Cost: $15-$28 per night
Indiana has awesome parks with excellent campsites that are great for any level of outdoor enthusiast. Whether you’re RV camping or roughing it in the backcountry, remember to practice Leave No Trace and clean up your campsite so it’s better than when you found it.
Also, consider purchasing the Indiana State Park annual pass to get you into any State Park, it’s $50 per year ($70 out of state) otherwise $7 daily for in state and $9 out of state.
Make sure to check for any COVID-19 restrictions or closures on the Department of Natural Resources website before your weekend adventure to make sure the trails and areas you want to see are open.
Remember, take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, and kill nothing but time.
Danielle Wolter Nolan and Kate Nolan founded and own DNK Presents. They organize and guide empowering adventure experiences for individuals, groups and businesses. Their trips focus on getting people to step outside their comfort zones, try something new and in turn gain confidence and increase health and wellness through experiential learning. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.