Winter Hiking in Indiana
Are you a fan of hiking? It’s one of my favorite things to do when the weather is nice, so last year I decided I was going to try to continue to hike year-round. And, I discovered that as long as you plan a bit (and dress warmly), winter hiking in Indiana is not only possible, it’s fun!
Is Hiking in the Winter in Indiana Worth it?
Winter in Indiana is cold, long, and dreary. Getting outside and getting some fresh air in nature will boost your spirits. Plus, the extra exercise is much needed in the winter months. Finally, there is a real sense of accomplishment in finishing a cold and snowy hike – and that hot drink tastes even better after being outdoors!
👉 Related Post: Does it snow in Indiana?
Where are the best places to hike in the winter?
Luckily for us Hoosiers, there are many wonderful places to hike in the winter in Indiana. It’s easy to center a day trip or even a weekend getaway around winter hiking anywhere in the state.
Indiana State Parks
Indiana has a fabulous state park system. There are 24 state parks spread throughout the state. The landscape is surprisingly diverse from sandy dunes near Chicago to the hills and valleys in southern Indiana. Every single one of them would be a wonderful day trip, but a few of my favorites for winter hiking include …
Brown County State Park
Located near the adorable town of Nashville, Indiana, Brown County State Park is a hikers’ paradise. Although it’s especially stunning in the fall when the leaves are in full color, it’s also a lovely place to hike in the winter.
For a fun way to get started with winter hiking in Indiana, join the winter hiking series starting in December (check the DNR Website for details). If you want to extend your stay in the area, Brown County State Park has a lovely Inn with a small indoor water park.
If you choose to stay at the Inn, this area is perfect for a weekend getaway. Check out Shopping & Sipping in Brown County and 18 Best Things to do in Columbus Indiana for more things to do nearby.
Pokagon State Park
With a completely different feel from the hills of Brown County, Pokagon State Park is one of my favorites for winter hiking. It’s situated on the lovely Lake James, so you can enjoy water views, and of course, you can have fun on the toboggan between hikes.
As Pokagon State Park is in Northern Indiana, it tends to have more snow, so if you like hiking in the snow, it’s an excellent choice. Most of the trails are easy to moderate, so it’s a good choice for families or beginners.
A fun annual event is the Christmas Eve Morning hike – a great way to start off your Christmas holiday with fresh air and exercise!
Pokagon State Park also has the Potawatomi Inn, which has some amazing fireplaces perfect for warming up after an afternoon of hiking!
Want to learn more about Pokagon State Park (and that toboggan)? Check out An Overnight Adventure at Pokagon State Park.
Fort Harrison State Park
Indianapolis is a vibrant city with professional sports, swanky hotels, and award-winning restaurants, and it’s also home to a state park!
Fort Harrison State Park is a fabulous escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. There are six trails throughout the park ranging from easy to difficult. The terrain varies from wooded trails to paved, so there is absolutely a trail for everyone to enjoy.
In the winter, Fort Harrison State Park also has one of the state’s largest sledding hills – so pack those sleds if you plan on a little winter hiking at this park.
One of my favorite ways to spend a quiet winter afternoon is to hike a few miles in the park and then head over to nearby Triton Brewing Company for a flight of their delicious beers and a bowl of warm chili.
If you are in the mood for something a little less developed than a state park, consider one of Indiana’s nature preserves. Of the 92 counties in Indiana, 63 of them have at least one nature preserve, so you’ll be able to find one pretty much anywhere throughout the state.
Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve
Located in Fishers, Indiana just north of Indianapolis is one of my favorite local spots for winter hikes. Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve is a hidden gem – surrounded by office buildings and businesses, it’s a lovely spot to escape to when you need to relax.
The trails are all flat and will take you through wooded forests, fields, and even wetlands. We like to grab a coffee or hot chocolate and the dog and enjoy some quiet time in nature.
Prophetstown Fen Nature Preserve
Ever heard of a fen? A fen is an area of land covered mostly by water. The soil tends to be very mineral-rich. Located within Prophetstown State Park is Prophetstown Fen Nature Preserve. It’s one of the largest fens in Indiana.
There are two walking trails within the state park that will get you to the fen. It’s interesting to hike to this area in the winter, and then go again in the summer to see the difference.
Shrader- Weaver Nature Preserve
Although it’s a bit out in the middle of nowhere, another lovely nature preserve well worth exploring is the Shrader-Weaver Nature Preserve. The last time I had fun hiking it, I also enjoyed a tasty drive-in lunch afterward!
Due to its isolated location, the trails are quite serene and won’t be crowded in the winter. However, that also means you should consider bringing along a hiking partner!
Local Parks & Trails
When you don’t have time to drive to a state park or nature preserve, check out one of your local parks or trails. Although virtually every town has one, here are a few special ones worth checking out.
Pumpkinvine Nature Trail
I first heard about the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail from my friend Tanya from Traveling Tanya, and then got to see it for myself on a trip to Elkhart County.
The Pumpkinvine is a paved trail that connects three communities in Elkhart County – Goshen, Middlebury, and Shipshewana. Because it’s paved, it’s accessible for everyone to enjoy. In the summer and fall biking is a terrific option, but for the winter I’d stick with walking!
Spending more time in Elkhart County? If you weren’t planning on it, I highly recommend you change your mind! Get more info on all the fun you’ll have with these posts: Is Elkhart Indiana worth visiting? (spoiler – it is), and 15 Fun Things to do in Elkhart County.
Running 62 miles through Delaware, Grant, Henry, Randolph, and Wayne counties, the Cardinal Greenway is an easy trail to pick up here and there to enjoy winter walks whenever and wherever you can.
The Cardinal Greenway is an asphalt rail to trail. As the longest one in Indiana, it’s fun to enjoy a portion of it in Muncie and then again later when visiting Richmond. There are plenty of places to park and join a portion of the trail.
Prairie Duneland Trail
Near the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is the Prairie Duneland Trail. This 10-mile trail will take you by prairies, dunes and so much more.
Fully paved, it’s a wonderful choice accessible for everyone and a lovely addition to Indiana day trips to Chesterton or Indiana Dunes State Park.
👉 To make your winter walking more enjoyable, invest in the right shoes. A good pair of winter boots can make all the difference between a wonderful winter escape and a miserable, cold experience. I swear by my Columbia boots – I wear them every time I’m outside. On a super cold day, I’ll throw in some toe warmers for extra warmth.
Is it safe to hike in the winter?
Hiking in the winter is safe as long as you take a few extra precautions. Of course, use your standard hiking safety tips, but also be sure to wear appropriate clothing. The last thing you want to do is get frostbite or too cold by being out in bad weather.
Speaking of bad weather, be sure to check the forecast before you leave to ensure no storms are coming. The other important tip for winter hiking is to take someone with you if possible – trails can be slippery and so it’s smart to have a hiking partner in case you slip and fall and need help.
The sun sets early in the winter in Indiana, so be sure to schedule your hike before sunset so you don’t get caught in the woods in the dark.
Does Indiana have bad winters?
Winter in Indiana is cold, grey, and often wet. There will be snow, but there will also be the occasional sunny blue sky day – take advantage of those if you can as they are few and far between.
Conclusion: Winter Hiking in Indiana
Hopefully, this post gives you a taste of some of the variety of winter hiking in Indiana. If you can force yourself to get out there and explore, you’ll create wonderful memories and I bet winter will feel a little bit shorter.