Climbing Up Ladders & Crawling Through Ravines | Hiking Trails #4 & 6 in Shades State Park, Indiana

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 pretty and interesting 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.

If you’re in for a little adventure, I definitely recommend hiking trails #4, 5 & 6. They’re labelled as “rugged” and “very rugged,” and they involve climbing ladders! I’ve never experienced hikes like these before. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I would classify it as a “hike,” because it’s more of a crazy stroll through a riverbed in a ravine and there’s not much elevation gain. You also don’t get too much of an actual workout, as I would normally get in a real hike.

The lengths of the trails vary, but most of these trails are under a mile long. However, they still take much longer to complete because there’s so many obstacles on the trail.

We began on trail #4. It starts out as a trail for a short period of time, but it leads you down into a ravine and that’s where the trail basically ends. It turns into a streambed that you follow all the way to the end of the ravine, 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, and squeeze in between boulders and cliff faces. There are certain portions that can be quite precarious, so you need to be careful on this entire hike. I can imagine that quite a few people get hurt on these hikes if they’re not paying attention.

I would say that there are also a few sections where you just don’t know where you’re supposed to go, but honestly, your best bet is to always just follow the riverbed because there’s no real trail.

The end of the trails leads to a shallow river. There were quite a few people who had taken their shoes off and were walking around in the water or taking photos, and kids were swimming in the deeper ends. I’m not sure if I’d necessarily want to swim in this river or advise it, but on a hot day it might be nice to cool off. There’s also a little beach area if you want to bring a lunch or snack and munch before heading back.

On hikes #4 and 5, there is a ladder that you have to climb on each of those trails. On hike #6, there are two ladders to climb. They are made of thick wood planks and are attached to the rock with wire and bolts. They felt pretty safe to me and I wasn’t uncomfortable climbing up and down them.

We took hike #6 back to the main trails, which meant that we had to climb up two ladders to get back. The trail, difficulty wise, was the same as #4. Lots of climbing over trees, boulders, mud, and water.

These are seriously some of the most fun trails that I’ve ever been on. If you’re planning on hiking with smaller children or older adults who can’t navigate a rugged terrain, then these trails probably aren’t for you. But, there are plenty of other non-rugged hikes that are just as gorgeous and fun at Shades State Park, so check out the other trails.

Overall, I really enjoyed these hikes and, like I’ve said before, they were a lot of fun! I would definitely do it again and highly recommend these trails, if you don’t have any problems with getting dirty and wet. It feels 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!




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