Shades State Park is one of the coolest state parks I’ve ever been to. If you’re looking for a fun adventure with your friends and family, this is definitely the place to go.
Shades State Park is located in the mid-western section of Indiana, about 1 hour south of Lafayette or 1 hour west from Indianapolis. Park admission is $7 per car on weekends, $4 for weekdays, or you can get an annual entrance permit for $36. These passes allows you full access to the park.
There are lots of different trails that you can take of varying distances and difficulties. There’s also a trail that you can follow that will allow you to go into the Pine Hills Nature Preserve, which has a bunch of other exciting hikes.
Many of the hikes at Shades State Park are labelled as “rugged” or “very rugged”… and they mean it. It’s definitely a place where you want to wear hiking boots or shoes that you don’t mind getting ruined. I didn’t know this when I visited, so I ended up ruining my favorite pair of sneakers. It’s mostly shaded in the forest, and there’s a river and lake that you can go to put your feet in to cool off.
My introduction to the “rugged” hikes at Shades State Park was trail #2. We came from the east? side of the trail, at a different parking lot than the main parking lot because we also explored _ _ Nature Center, so I think that we started toward where most people exit. Oh boy. I’ve never experienced a hike like this before. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I would classify it as a “hike,” it’s more of a crazy stroll through a riverbed in a ravine and there’s not much elevation gain and you don’t get too much of an actual workout. It starts out as a trail, but the trail leads you down into a ravine and that’s where the trail basically ends. The trail turns into a streambed that you follow all the way to the end, where the stream meets a larger river. When I went, the water levels were very low so there wasn’t too much water, but it was enough water to create mini waterfalls and get my shoes completely soaked and muddy. There are notices that you cannot hike these trails if it’s rained recently or if the water levels are high for obvious safety reasons.
On this “trail,” you have to climb over fallen trees and boulders, step in puddles and mud. There’s a few sections where the stream is clear so it’s just a smooth riverbed, so be careful not to fall. Actually, you need to be careful on this entire hike. It’s quite precarious. I can imagine that quite a few people get hurt on these hikes if they’re not paying attention.
There are also a few sections where you just don’t know where you’re supposed to go. Your best bet is to always just follow the riverbed. Since we were coming from the opposite direction as most hikers, there were quite a few people who asked which way the trail went and how much further it was until they exit the riverbed. We figured that we were going the right way because we kept seeing people, and we followed the footprints in the mud.
Eventually you’ll reach the end of the riverbed and need to climb up stairs to exit the ravine. There’s a point in the stairs called “Lover’s Leap,” where there are ghost stories of lovers jumping off the cliff in order to “be together forever.”
After the stairs, it turns back into a real trail. There are a few sections where you walk on bridges over ravines and I think that it’s kind of ironic that they have you walk on a bridge in these sections considering that the trail is an actual riverbed for much of the trail. Why is there a bridge there and not over the other ravine? It’s very odd, but at least walking through the riverbed in the ravine is gorgeous.
If you’re planning on hiking with smaller children or older adults who can’t navigate a rugged terrain, maybe Trail #2 isn’t for you. There are plenty of other non-rugged hikes that are just as gorgeous and fun.
Overall, I really enjoyed this hike and thought that it was a lot of fun! I would definitely do it again and highly recommend it, if you don’t have any problems with getting dirty and wet. It’s like you’re going on an adventure through a non-discovered land and I always love adventures like that.
Thank you for reading! Have you ever completed this hike before? What about other hikes in the area? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!