If fresh air is the cure for what ails you, Indiana offers plenty of healing hiking territory to check out across the eastern, western, northern, and southern portions of the state. Whether you’re more of a leisurely fair-weather ambler or a rugged outdoor adventurer, you’ll want to dust off your boots and set a course to these happy trails. Here are our top picks for the five most scenic hikes in Indiana.
Pokagon State Park[/caption]
Pokagon State Park - Bluebird Hills Trail
Moderate / 1.8 miles
Famous for its winter toboggan run and home to several of the glacier-formed kettle lakes that define this northeastern Indiana region, Pokagon sits just a few miles shy of the Michigan state line. The Bluebird Hills Trail (Number 7) bursts into gorgeous bloom in the springtime, especially the spectacular dogwood trees, rolling out a colorful backdrop of grasses and wildflowers for looping hikes through an open meadow and a wetlands restoration area.
This trail begins below Hell’s Point off Trail 3 and ventures deep into the park confines, reconnecting to the start point after almost 2 miles. In addition to the bluebirds and other avian friends, you might also spy deer, rabbits, and other animals just waking up from their winter slumbers which makes it the perfect location for a scenic hikes
Prophetstown State Park
Trail 2 - Moderate / 1.9 miles
Trail 3 - Moderate / 3.5 miles
Located near Battle Ground where the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers converge, Prophetstown was a Native American village established in 1808 by the mighty Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa, the legendary “Prophet” himself. This storied landscape teems with wildflowers and native plants each spring, a vibrant welcome mat for hikers of all skill levels. Trail 2 spurs off of the easily navigable Trail 1 north of the Blazingstar picnic area, traveling through tallgrass prairie, along the banks of Harrison Creek, past a fishing pond, and over a boardwalk into the fen — a wetland habitat created by seeping calcium-rich groundwater.
Feeling spry? Keep the journey going by continuing onto Trail 3, gravel/dirt path terrain that leads right up to the river’s edge. Grab a quick breather at the wildlife viewing area, and make sure to stop for a minute and appreciate the wetlands restoration and replacement tree plantings (a joint project of the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Department of Natural Resources) before hugging along the Tippecanoe River back to the pond. Trail 3 sometimes floods during heavy spring rains, so be ready to alter your route if needed.
Sandhill Crane walking in the Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana Dunes National Park - Heron Rookery Trail
Moderate / 3.3 miles
To round up our list of scenic hikes, we have Heron Rookery Trail. At one time home to as many as 100 nests, the straight-line Heron Rookery Trail along the Little Calumet River that runs through Indiana’s newest national park served as an active nesting ground for these majestic birds for 60 years. Although the herons have since moved on to greener pastures, many bird species continue to make their dwellings here, including kingfishers, woodpeckers, and migrating warblers.
Avid birdwatchers will want to pack a pair of binoculars for closer observation. Add in a dazzling natural carpet of sunlight-dappled trillium, hepatica, mayapples, Dutchman’s breeches, and other native wildflowers, and you’ve got all the makings of a memorable spring hiking adventure. For the most color, plan to visit when the flowers are at their peak between late April and mid-May.