I don’t know about where you live, but Indiana State Parks are crazy busy right now. Last weekend, two of them were at capacity at 11:00 in the morning! I do get it though. We are all tired of being cooped up inside, and a state park is a terrific option. They are inexpensive, fun to explore and it’s fairly easy to keep a safe social distance. But, how do you make the most of your visit to a State Park?
Pick the right state park
The first step to making the most of your visit to a state park is picking the right park. Most state parks offer hiking trails, but some offer other amenities such as a swimming pool, horseback riding, a nature center, playgrounds, and even Inns. So a simple visit to a state park could easily turn into a weekend adventure!
Before you decide which park to visit, think about what you want to do. If a little bit of hiking is all you are after, perhaps visiting a less popular park or one with fewer amenities is a better choice. You’ll enjoy your day with fewer crowds.
However, if your goal is a full day of activity, pick one with many things to do (although call ahead to make sure the amenities you are interested in are open). Although hiking is typically our main goal when visiting a state park, we’ve learned some pretty cool stuff at the various nature centers too!
Figure out food
A few of the Indiana state parks have an Inn with a restaurant, but in general, state parks aren’t known for their food. Therefore, planning ahead for what you’ll eat is important.
Definitely pack a small cooler with drinks, and maybe throw a few snacks in your car as well. After that, there are two options – pack a picnic or look for a nearby town with a restaurant. Both can be fun – you could even do carry-out at a local restaurant and bring it into the park for a different adventure!
The easiest way to decide is to do a little research to see what towns are near where you are headed. Then hop on Yelp and look for local restaurants with at least a 4-star rating. If you don’t see any, you know to make a few sandwiches at home and plan on a picnic at the park.
Make sure that you have enough time
There is nothing worse than heading out for the day and realizing you have to rush back home midway through your fun. So be sure to map out how long it will take you to get to your destination, add in some time for whatever activities you plan to do and make sure you allow yourself the time you need.
We always try to pad our time too as you just never know what you’ll find on the way there or back. You might run across a cute little winery and wish you had an extra half an hour to stop and check it out. Or a quaint little town perfect for an hour of strolling and window shopping. If you’ve given yourself a bit of wiggle room you can take full advantage of these extra finds.
Pack the right stuff
In addition to being hungry or running out of time, there is nothing that will ruin your day at a state park more than not having the right equipment. No one wants blisters so make sure you all have shoes that are good for hiking yet don’t hurt your feet. If you think you’ll want to play in the streams or creeks at the park, pack some water shoes too. Having a clean pair of shoes to change into is also key – if the park is muddy the last thing you want to do is drive home in dirty, muddy shoes. Plus, forget stopping anywhere else if that is the case.
Planning on swimming or taking advantage of any other activities? Double-check that you have everything you need for whatever you plan to do. Also, don’t forget bug spray and sunblock! These two items can be lifesavers if the bugs are out or it’s a sunny day.
Do you need ideas for other things to have on hand? Check out my post on Everyday Adventure Essentials for a complete list as well as a downloadable .pdf. You’ll be prepared for this trip as well as any others you enjoy!
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