Shades State Park in Indiana

Updated on April 15, 2019
RuthCoffee profile image

I've lived in Indiana for much of my life, and I've explored lots of what the state has to offer. I can show you what's here to enjoy.

A Visit to Shades State Park

Shades State Park lies in west central Indiana along Sugar Creek, outside of Crawfordsville, Indiana. It includes 2,200 acres of land that is believed to have once been inhabited by the Piankeshaw Indians, a Miami Tribe, and was later home to a mineral springs resort.

Today the park offers camping and hiking, about 10 miles of it in total, for those who simply love the ravines and wooded area it contains. Most of the trails are fairly short although they can be rugged at times. Learn a bit more about Shades and take a look at the area through the pictures and video on this page.

General Information

First, a few things to know about the park.

  • There is no lodging in the park. No cabins or inn but primitive camping is available and includes a bathhouse and modern hookups.
  • There is also no dining such as a restaurant at the park, but there are a number of picnic tables and pavilions with grills.
  • Bicycles are not allowed on trails.
  • Swimming is not allowed in Sugar Creek.
  • As with all Indiana State Parks, visitors are expected to carry out their own trash.
  • Trails close at dusk.

The Trails

Many of the trails at Shades State Park, like others in the area, make use of ravine streambeds. It makes for some interesting hiking among rocky cliffs, ferns, moss, and trees towering above, but can also be a bit rugged at times. These trails include rocky footing, ladders in some cases, and significant ascents and descents for those who aren't accustomed to hiking very much. During periods of high water such trails can't be used at all.

Trails 8, 7, 4, and 5 all run down to Sugar Creek and loop back toward higher ground through the various ravines and small canyons. These trails are loop trails which are around three quarters of a mile long. (Trail 8 actually connects to trail 7 to make the return trip.) Many of the pictures on this page are taken in the Kickapoo and Frisz ravines, along trails 7 and 4.

When along the banks of Sugar Creek, you'll often see kayaks and canoes which can be rented in the surrounding area. In fact, there is a public canoe launch just northeast of the park, along highway 234 near an old covered bridge.

The easiest hiking at Shades State Park is along trail 9 (.5 miles) and 10 (1.5 miles) which don't use the stream beds at all.

Trail 10 will take you to the east boundary of the park where the Pine Hills Nature Preserve is located. The preserve is not part of the park but offers more moderate hiking. Within the preserve, there are a few interesting sights including Indian Creek with its rock bed and the honeycombed cliffs surrounding it. I've included a handful of photos from the nature preserve below which show the creek bed as well as a view from Turkey Backbone above the creek. Most of the hiking is moderate although there are a number of steps to climb.

Still within the park, however, Trail 6 is another short (.5 mile) and easy hike.

For those wanting a little more distance, there is a 2.5-mile backpack trail which is still a fairly easy walk.

Trail 1 (.75 miles) can also be a moderate hike which gives you a couple of opportunities to look out across Sugar Creek; a photo from Prospect point is included below. However, if hikers choose to take the Trail 1 spur down to Silver Cascade Falls, the ascent and descent are quite steep, although stairs are provided. Cascade Falls doesn't carry a large volume of water most of the year but is still a nice view. I've included a photo below.

Trail 2 is 1.25 miles long and is one the most rugged trails in the park. It will take you through Pearl Ravine and give you a view of Maidenhair Falls. The hikes through the ravines are easiest in the mid to late summer and autumn when there is generally less moisture. However, fallen leaves can add to the "slipperiness" although mud is less of a problem. During the warmer months, these hikes can also be a good choice however, due to the lower temperatures in the area.

For a map of the trails and other areas of the park see this page. On most days, Shades is a lightly traveled park and encountering a crowd is most likely to happen in the autumn.

Take a Look Around Shades State Park - Click on Thumbnails to View Larger Images

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A Brief Look at Pine Hills Nature Preserve

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A Late Autumn View of Shades

Shades in September 2011

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A small pond near the Dell Shelter at Shades.In the Pine Hill Nature Preserve at the end of Trail 10The field just south of Trail 10Trail 10 emerging from the woodsA wildflower along trail 7
A small pond near the Dell Shelter at Shades.
A small pond near the Dell Shelter at Shades.
In the Pine Hill Nature Preserve at the end of Trail 10
In the Pine Hill Nature Preserve at the end of Trail 10
The field just south of Trail 10
The field just south of Trail 10
Trail 10 emerging from the woods
Trail 10 emerging from the woods
A wildflower along trail 7
A wildflower along trail 7

Find the Park

Shades State Park, Indiana:
Shades State Park, 7751 S 890 W, Waveland, IN 47989, USA

get directions

© 2009 Ruth Coffee

Let Us Know You Stopped By! - If you've visited Shades, let us know what you think.

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    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 

      9 years ago from Southampton, UK

      This really does look like a great place to hike. I wish I could get back to Indiana and visit more of the state parks.

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 

      9 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Looks like a great place to hike. Blessed.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Hi my name is Phil Shade, I am interested in how and why Shades state park got its origin and name and from whom. Is there any info that you might send me for I am looking at every aspect of family history. Please send to 1440 e. loretta dr. , Inianapolis, Ind. 46227

      Thank you.

    • Kiwisoutback profile image


      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Beautiful place. I know very little about Indiana, except for the dunes area near Lake Michigan. On the next road trip, I'm planning more stops here.

    • JanieceTobey profile image


      10 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos and info about Shades!

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      10 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      I really enjoy reading about hiking trails. Lovely images and an interesting read

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Another great hiking local.

      Thanks for sharing


    • KimGiancaterino profile image


      11 years ago

      You've been blessed by a Squid Angel, and this lens was included in Another Day of One Hundred Squid Angel Blessings.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I've never been to Indiana - just through it. Shades State Park sounds peaceful (I don't like crowds).

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image


      11 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      What a great place for a hike. Enjoyed the visit to Shades State Park. It's so green! :)

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 

      11 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      Looks like a great hiking place! I love hiking, but never had a chance to visit US Parks yet.

    • MacPharlain profile image


      11 years ago

      Beautiful scenery. I've never been to Indiana and for some reason I always pictured it as all cornfields...glad to know I was wrong.


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