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Off the Beaten Path: Hiking Trails to Explore When You Want to Avoid the Crowds

The temperatures are (finally!) on the rise which means more time outside—here’s where to get your exercise while still practicing social distancing.

Indiana Hiking Trails

Soon after quarantine orders were in place cabin fever set in quickly at the Nolan household, especially for our 13-month-old son. Combine over two million people in a greater metropolitan area on stay at home orders with kids at home and the weather warming up, you have a perfect storm of trails, bike paths, and parks that were once an area of peace and relaxation, but are now another crowded place to avoid. 

Even in the outdoors we need to social distance, but being in nature is proven to increase our overall health and wellness. It’s a perfect opportunity to discover and explore the roads and the trails less traveled to seek solitude and adventure.

Based on some areas and trails around Indy I’ve labeled locations, Tame, Wild, and Wilder—so if you’re looking for a new paved trail to explore or are ready for a backcountry adventure these places will get your heart pumping. All of these spots are within two hours of Indianapolis so you can still stay close to home, but get as adventurous as you want to.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Tame 

If you like the Monon, the Central Canal towpath, The Cultural Trail, or the Fall Creek Trail: Check out the 15.7 mile People’s Trail in Columbus, the 9.5 mile Big-4 Trail (Lebanon to Thorntown), the 16 mile Vandalia Trail in Greencastle, or the 9.8 mile Delphi Historic Trails in Delphi, Indiana.  

If you’re wanting to search for more paved trails close to you the website Trail Links is a great resource: www.traillink.com/state/in-trails/

Wild

If you like hiking at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, you will love Brown County State Park in Nashville, Turkey Run in Marshall, Mounds State Park in Anderson, Versailles State Park in Versailles, or Morgan-Monroe State Forest in Martinsville.

Check the latest on trail closures during COVID-19 for any Indiana State Park on the DNR website. www.in.gov/dnr/

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Wilder

If you like Eagle Creek and are looking for something more backcountry you’ll love Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, Hoosier National Forest, Yellowwood State Forest, or the 42-mile Tecumseh Trail.

If you are looking for areas that are generally less crowded, check out trails that are part of nature preserves or land trusts. A few recommendations: The Sycamore Land Trust, Lara Hare Nature Preserve at Downey Hill, Trevlac Bluffs, or the Pine Hills Nature Preserve, which is close to Shades State Park in Rockport, Indiana.  

Apps like Hiking Project and AllTrails are also great to search for trails close to you.

PRO TIP: First, use the app when you have Wi-Fi to download an area or state. When you are hiking, if you lose reception (which usually happens in the wilder parts of Indiana) you’ll still be able to see where you are on the trail.

Before you go:
  • If you’re hiking alone make sure to tell someone where you are going and when you plan to be back.
  • If you’re hiking with your kids, bring plenty of snacks, food and water. 
  • Due to COVID-19, many public bathrooms are closed, some places have portable restrooms, but some do not. Some of the hikes mentioned that are part of nature preserves or land trusts have no bathroom facilities at all. Check the trails before you go and practice Leave No Trace.  
  • Some parks have seen a large number of visitors these past couple months. To avoid crowds, get out first thing in the morning or later in the afternoon. Usually trails are the most crowded in mid-day, you can make it part of your adventure to see the sunrise or sunset. 

Danielle and her wife, Kate, 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. 

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