In our world today with all that has happened in the last few months we all need something to help get us back to a near normal lifestyle. Perhaps a good walk or two might help to relieve the stress and strain we have all been under. Hoosiers are lucky to have a lot of opportunities to walk or hike just a short distance from where they live. Most towns or cities have parks or some area where you can get out and help get your body back in shape and enjoy the great outdoors.
We have state parks, state nature preserves, fish and wildlife areas, state forests, the Hoosier National Forest, three National Wildlife Refuges and in addition there are trails presently open or in the works all across Hoosierland. A hike outdoors can do wonders for not only your health, but also for your mental and spiritual wellbeing. One place you may never have considered as a great place to hike is our state forests. There are 15 in Indiana and while most are in southern Hoosierland, one, Salamonie River, is in the northern section of our state. They total thousands of acres of prime hiking fun and adventure and range from a mile or so in length to over 60 miles if you are up to that kind of walking. In total our state forests have over 300 miles of hiking trails, three back country trails, 41 miles of biking trails, and another 270 miles of trails set aside for equestrian usage. There are even a few very easy quarter mile trails for those who want a short easy walk. Then there is the Knobstone Trail, the state’s longest at 60 miles. This can be a rugged trail as it winds across some very hilly terrain in Jackson-Washington State Forest, Elk Creek State Fishing Area, Delaney Washington County Park, Clark County State Forest and finally ends from the north or starts from the south in the Deam Lake State Recreation Area. If you only want to hike a part of the trail you can use several of its trailheads for an enjoyable smaller walk or modest hike.
Up north in Morgan and Monroe counties is the Tecumseh Trail. It is 42 miles in length and runs for the Morgan-Monroe State Forest to the trailhead at Panther Creek near Brown County State Park, which also has miles of hiking trails.
Another long trail is the 25-mile Adventure Trail that runs through both the Harrison-Crawford State Forest and the O’Bannon State Park in the lovely wooded hills just north of the Ohio River. Most of us in southern Indiana are only an hour’s drive from a state forest that has several trails or wooded roods that you can hike over.
Several of our state forests are quite large. The largest at 25,884 acres is Morgan-Monroe, with adjoining Yellowwood at 25,117 acres next in size. This is in a large wooded hilly section of the state that also has Brown County State Park at 15,815 acres, which is also Indiana’s largest state park, the 13,202-acre Lake Monroe project of which 10,750 acres are water, thousands of acres of Hoosier and National Forest lands, all of which have several hiking trails which lead over some of the most picturesque landscape in the Midwestern U.S. and can provide days of quality outdoor recreation.
Other large Indiana State Forests are Clark County with 24,675 acres, Harrison Crawford at 24,329 acres, and Jackson-Washington with 18,418 acres. All of these have a number of hiking trails that also have very scenic vistas and wildlife that can offer hours of great outdoor fun. Our smallest state forest is the new Covered Bridge State Forest Retreat at 296 acres in Park County, which is really a small recreation area, Selmier in Jennings County with only 350 acres, and Salamonie State Forest, our only northern state forest at 950 acres.
In between are Ferdinand at 7,809 acres, Martin County with 7,821 acres, Pike County at 4,964 acres, Owen-Putnam at 6,663 acres, and Greene-Sullivan with 9.046 acres, all with great trails to hike over and enjoy.