Winter is finally over in the Midwest. As temperatures creep up over 80 degrees, the birds are chirping, flowers are blooming, and around every corner, the call of the wild is being heard. With the ever-growing daylight hours, hikers, bikers and trail runners in the Hoosier State are rejoicing the return of the warmer weather, hitting the trails, and taking advantage of the greater Great Lakes Region’s beauty.
You can stay close to home, exploring the national forests and parks in state, or, if you are looking for a bit more adventure, you can head north to Michigan or go south to Kentucky to experience wilder environs. Wherever you decide to head out, Indianapolis is a great homebase to kickoff a summer of wanderlust.
Of course, before you head out anywhere, you need to be prepared. Finding a place that will hook you up with all the right gear and give you sound advice about your travels is key to ensuring a safe and fun time. There is a great shop right in Indianapolis that can cover both of these needs for you—Rusted Moon Outfitters.
The crew here can do everything from finding you the perfect backpack—their most popular are from the Osprey Aether and Ariel series, which are ideal for day trips and longer overnight adventures—to getting you set up with Osprey Hydraulics, which are perfect for those heading out on long biking trips or serious hikes, to just having a conversation about the best trails nearby.
Indiana is notorious for having some of the best hiking paths and sweet biking trails in it’s own Brown County State Park. Just an hour and a half from downtown Indianapolis in a region known as the Little Smokies, the trails here are full of rustic beauty around each bend, and the fantastic lake views will leave you speechless.
One of the most popular trails to hike in Brown County State Park is the CCC Trail, which has picturesque stone bridges and stairways through the woods. For a longer hike, explore the 3.5-mile HHC Trail, that takes you to Hesitation Point, one of the most underrated outdoor experiences. This is the perfect spot to unpack that picnic dinner you put in your Osprey Aether and catch the awe-inspiring sunset over the forests below.
Bikers also love Brown County State Park. Named one of the 33 best trail systems in North America by Bike Magazine, the park boasts 28 miles of incredible routes. Beginners need to experience the rollercoaster-like feel of the 2.2-mile Limekiln Trail. If you are looking for more of a challenge, check out the Schooner Trace Trail, a 4-mile, singletrack trail through the woods up to the aforementioned Hesitation Point. If this is a bit out of your comfort zone, do not miss the newer Green Valley Trail, which traverses amazingly scenic rolling hills.
However, the crown jewels of biking in Indiana are the 42-mile Tecumseh Trail and the 52-mile Knobstone Trail. Both are gorgeous, well-maintained, and perfect for seeing wildflowers and birding. The Tecumseh Trail is more gentle than the Knobstone, but both are pretty rigorous and should only be taken by those in shape and with appropriate gear.
For something a bit more rugged and wild, you’ll have to head out of state (but not to far), north to Michigan or south to Kentucky. Michigan’s numerous natural areas are great for multi-day trips. And while the Indiana Dunes are a great place to explore the sights along the Calumet Trail, a better adventure is found on the Warren Dunes in Michigan. With three miles of shoreline along Lake Michigan and six miles of unique hiking up and around the 260-foot dune, Warren Dunes is a great place to stretch your legs and get ready for even more rugged and remote destinations during the spring and summer.
To the south, in Kentucky, the Red River Gorge is quickly becoming the go-to destination for Indianapolis residents looking for stunning views and rigorous terrain. The natural wonders in Kentucky are unlike anything found in the Hoosier State, with the capstone destination being the trails that lead to the always-stunning arches of the region. The best route to see the incredible arches starts along the Double Arch Trail and passes Star Gap Arch and the Arch of Triumph. The route is 5.7 miles and requires a bit of route-finding, but nothing too insane.
Be it Indianapolis proper, Michigan or Kentucky where your adventure awaits, it’s time to make your plans, grab your gear, and go answer your own call of the wild.
– Via Roots Rated