Skip to main content

Shades State Park in Indiana

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.

Hiking, map, and info on this Indiana park.

Hiking, map, and info on this Indiana park.

Shades State Park Trails

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.

Here's what you should know before you visit.

Here's what you should know before you visit.

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.


Different Difficulty Levels

The easiest hiking at Shades State Park is along trails 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 of 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.

© 2009 Ruth Coffee

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

Tony Payne from Southampton, UK on July 09, 2011:

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.

Mary Beth Granger from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA on May 02, 2011:

Looks like a great place to hike. Blessed.

anonymous on October 25, 2010:

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 from Massachusetts on August 20, 2010:

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 on February 15, 2010:

Thanks for sharing your beautiful photos and info about Shades!

Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on October 20, 2009:

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

ElizabethJeanAl on July 28, 2009:

Another great hiking local.

Thanks for sharing


KimGiancaterino on July 27, 2009:

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

burntchestnut on July 15, 2009:

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

WindyWintersHubs from Vancouver Island, BC on July 02, 2009:

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

Nathalie Roy from France (Canadian expat) on June 26, 2009:

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

MacPharlain on June 14, 2009:

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.