Healthy Parks Healthy People
First Day Hikes in 2021
Take a hike on New Year’s Day! First Day Hikes are a healthy way to start the new year and provide a chance to get outside, exercise, and enjoy nature.
This year, in response to the need to practice social distancing and keep group sizes to those within our personal “bubbles”, we’ve created hiking opportunities that allow you to be your own “tour guide” while still starting your year with a great walk outdoors.
Here’s how it works:
- Decide which state park, reservoir or state forest property you want to visit.
- When you arrive, pick up an Indiana First Day Hike sticker. Stickers will be available at the entrance gates at Pokagon, Chain O’Lakes, Turkey Run, and Shades state parks, at Cataract Falls State Recreation Area, at the nature center at Indiana Dunes State Park, and outside all other state park and reservoir property offices. Salamonie River, Clark, Greene-Sullivan, Yellowwood, Morgan-Monroe, Owen-Putnam, Ferdinand, Pike, Jackson-Washington, Martin and Harrison-Crawford state forests, Deam and Starve Hollow SRAs will have stickers available outside their property offices as well. Wear your sticker proudly and be ready to say Happy New Year! to your fellow first day hikers on the trail.
- Choose your favorite trail and look for a “resolution sign” at the trailhead. Different signs propose different resolutions you might consider for the new year.
- Snap a photo of yourself with the sign at the trail you’ve chosen, then take a hike.
- Share your resolution and/or your hike photos or both on the Indiana State Parks Facebook page (link to facebook.com/INdnrstateparksandreservoirs.) In early January, we’ll randomly select participants to win park passes, inn and camping gift cards and more.
- As you hike, remember to practice responsible recreation—keep your dog on a 6-foot leash and carry out your pet’s waste, pick up litter if you see it, and hike only on marked trails.
Get moving outdoors with walking, hiking, biking or swimming
Combine being outdoors with a little bit of exercise – and surprise yourself with how great it makes you feel. Here are some ideas to help you get moving at Indiana State Parks and Reservoirs. View the calendar at the bottom of this page for opportunities to get moving.
Walking and hiking
- Favorite Hikes of DNR Staff
- Hoosier Quest: Spend Time in Indiana State Parks and Reservoirs
- National Trails Day
- Try one of our hiking challenges and earn stickers and shirts to purchase:
- 3 Dune Challenge at Indiana Dunes State Park
Challenge yourself, your friends and your family to climb the three tallest sand dunes in the park any day of the year. This 1.5-mile self-guided challenge trail begins at the nature center and is the toughest trail in the park, with 552 vertical feet to climb. Your reward is not only breathtaking views atop each of the dunes, but also a free 3-Dune Conqueror sticker from Indiana Dunes Tourism.
- Four Falls Challenge at Clifty Falls State Park
Enjoy the rugged cliffs and canyons of Clifty Falls State Park along with our four major waterfalls on this 4-mile hiking challenge. Hike part of the path of the old railroad that was once planned to cut through the park, and see the 600-foot-long tunnel they excavated through shale and limestone. See stonework completed by the C.C.C. on this 2-3 hour hike. Stop by the Nature Center first to pick up your map, and photograph seven specific waypoints along your hike. Show these photos to the nature center staff after completing the hike to receive your Four Falls Challenge sticker. Stop by the Nature Center or Clifty Inn front desk to pick up your map.
- 5 Mile Challenge at Turkey Run State Park
Explore the perimeter hiking trails in the Falls Canyon-Rocky Hollow Nature Preserve. You’ll traverse 3 canyons, climb a ladder, cross a suspension bridge, and see the park’s first steward's home. Plan on 2-3 hours. Portions of the hiking challenge may be impassable after large rainfalls. No water or bathrooms are available along the route, which starts at the nature center. See the 5 Mile Challenge brochure.
- 6 Ravine Challenge at Shades State Park
Enjoy the ups and downs of rugged hiking by traveling through six ravines. Climb ladders, enjoy beautiful vistas, and chase down a waterfall or two. Plan on 2-3 hours. Portions of the hiking challenge may be impassable after large rainfalls. Start at the Hickory Shelter, which is the only source of water and bathrooms on the challenge. Learn how to take the 6 Ravine Challenge.
- 7 Vista Challenge
Brown County is known for its great views of the county's forested hills. This challenge visits seven places where you can enjoy sunrises and sunsets or just drink in the colors of the seasons. Download your map, take a photo using the Vista Challenge frame at each location, and show your photos at the nature center, Abe Martin Lodge, or the Brown County Visitors Center in Nashville to earn a free sticker and purchase a T-shirt. The vistas featured include West Lookout Tower, Hesitation Point, Friends Trail Vista, Weedpatch Vista, Nature Center Vista, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Vista, and Hohen Point Vista. Completing the challenge takes about an hour by car or two hours by bike.
- Hell's Point Challenge at Pokagon State Park
This is an 8-mile loop trail connecting many of the park’s trails—including a visit to Hell’s Point, the park’s highest peak. Route maps can be picked up at the nature center. Along the way, hikers need to photograph six specific waypoints and show these photos to the nature center staff at the end of the hike. Finishers will receive a sticker and a water bottle while supplies last.
- 9 Lake Challenge at Chain O' Lakes State Park
This nine lake paddle challenge will take you 5 miles across the park via nine connected kettle lakes. Enjoy the natural landscape from the unique vantage point of your boat. Download or pick up a paddle map to guide you, take pictures along the way at the nine designated locations, and then show your photos to the staff at park headquarters. Upon completion, get a free sticker and purchase your 9 Lake Challenge merchandise and be able to officially say I PADDLED THE CHAIN! See the 9 Lakes Challenge brochure.
- Spring Mill 10 Mile Trail Challenge
Enjoy three nature preserves, a National Natural Landmark, cave lookouts, a view of the Pioneer Village, a beautiful lake, a walk by Spring Mill Inn, and the beauty of native flora and fauna. The challenge can be completed in a day or in shorter segments over the course of a year. After completion, visit the Friends of Spring Mill State Park Facebook page to purchase a Trail Challenge T-shirt for $20. If you complete the challenge again in a different year, you can purchase a trail challenge sticker or another T-shirt.
- 3 Dune Challenge at Indiana Dunes State Park
State Park Fitness Challenge
Get healthy at an Indiana state park and be entered to win an Annual Entrance Permit at the same time. Between March 1-Nov. 30, we invite you to walk, bike, paddle or swim at least 25 miles inside one or more of Indiana's state park or lakes. Entry form is available in PDF and Microsoft Word format.
- Family Biking: Asphalt Park Trails at Potato Creek, Pokagon, Fort Harrison, Ouabache and Prophetstown
- DINO Adventure Races
- Hoosier Mountain Biking Association
Take your child outdoors
Every Indiana child should have the opportunity to play and have fun outdoors. Check out the Indiana Children's Bill of Outdoor Rights for a list of things to do with your child, grandchild, students or groups.
Mountain bike trails are available at several state parks and reservoirs. Get out your helmet and take a ride through forests and meadows in some of Indiana’s most scenic places. Trails are available at:
- Brown County State Park
- Fort Harrison State Park
- Harmonie State Park
- O'Bannon Woods State Park
- Potato Creek State Park
- Salamonie Lake
- Spring Mill State Park
- Versailles State Park
Keeping parks healthy
About 15 million visitors use the 178,330 acres managed by Indiana State Parks each year. Properties feature incredible natural resources from deep, rocky canyons to beautiful sandy beaches. They also contain:
- more than 560 miles of hiking, biking and horseback riding trails that wind through forests, cross meadows and skirt marshes teeming with wildlife.
- 7,452 campsites and 131 cabins.
- about 17,000 picnic tables, 174 picnic shelters and 163 playgrounds.
- more then 39,000 acres of lakes, accessed by 75 boat ramps and 17 marinas.
- thirteen year-round nature centers and eight seasonal centers. They are visited by a half-million people each year. Programs are attended by a quarter of a million students, teachers and families.
- about 2,080 buildings.
- seven State Park Inns with 612 rooms, the fourth largest state park inn system in the country.
- about 69 thousand acres of public hunting land on reservoir properties
- 350 wood duck nesting boxes.
What makes each property unique?
Read Discovering a Sense of Place (PDF) to learn where you can find features such as historic homes, great wetlands for birding and unique geologic formations. The publication includes information about each property.
Healthy habitat and wildlife
Managing a park's ecosystem is a difficult task and requires balancing vegetation and animals. Here are a few ways this is done:
- Limited controlled hunts of deer (PDF). For additional information, review the Resource Management Spotlight (PDF).
- Discourage feeding of wildlife, including raccoons (PDF).
- Use of carefully planned fire to manage prairies, fields and even sections of forest.