Whether you’re new to hiking with your baby or toddler, or you’re looking for a new trail to explore, the Hike it Baby community is a valuable resource for finding family hiking trails around the country. In this article, we share three kid-friendly hikes in Indiana to explore with babies and young children.
If you think urban living is incompatible with nature encounters, or that you have to travel far from the city to find large areas of natural space to enjoy with the kids, Hoosiers think otherwise. Here we present three beautiful hikes for families with kids in Indiana ranging from within the city of Indianapolis to the sandy shores of Lake Michigan.
Eagle Creek Park Edesess & Blue Trails (Indianapolis, IN)
Eagle Creek Park is the largest municipal park in the United States, covering 3,900 acres of land and 1,400 acres of water within the Indianapolis city limits. While most cities have parks, few can boast that in the morning you might see a mother deer nursing her little one as you hike along one of several trails and then go kayaking later on. In fact, locals report seeing all kinds of wildlife thriving in the park – all in a city of a million people! There are also plenty of playgrounds where you can take a break with little hikers.
While the park is filled with toddler-friendly trails, Hike it Baby members recommend a route that starts at the Ornithology Center and encompasses sections of Edesess Trail and Blue Trail, an approximately 3-mile loop. Much of this route runs along the reservoir, which is perfect for toddlers to throw rocks in if you have a kiddo you need to keep busy. This flat section also goes through the bird sanctuary and is great for watching birds. On parts of the trail that head up and down the ridge to and from the Ornithology Center, the terrain could be a bit more uneven, making it harder for little feet, but it’s still doable. In addition to the playgrounds already mentioned, there are also some benches and even a picnic table along the bird sanctuary portion of the trail for taking a rest.
- There is a $5 parking fee for county residents, $6 for non-residents.
- Restrooms and drinking water are available.
- A large portion of this trail is surrounded by water on both sides, so make sure you keep an eye on any little runners.
- Even though this trail is in the middle of the city, you should pack a lunch and make a day of it! There is so much to see and explore, not only on the trails but at the Ornithology Center and Earth Discovery Center as well.
- Don’t forget sunscreen and insect repellent!
Eagle Creek is a stunning nature oasis and offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of Indianapolis without leaving the city limits. The last time we visited, my daughter was a year-and-a-half. She was excited to get down on the trail and walk with her dad. Also, she had a ton of fun with the rocks! – Abby Czachur
Once inside the park you can’t hear the city much, which is awesome to have that without going far. We hike it regularly, and I am always amazed at how big it is and how it feels like we keep finding new trails. – Bailey Ludlam
Turkey Run State Park Trails (Indianapolis, IN)
From municipal park we go to state park. Turkey Run State Park is a lush area full of canyons, or “runs,” far from Indianapolis in landscape if not in fact. The 2,382-acre park is crisscrossed by trails of varying difficulties and lengths, all numbered. This makes it very easy to custom-design a hike for parents and kids alike without treading the same ground twice in one trip. Several trails cross creek beds, and some trails include climbing ladders. However, you will see tons of children out there from babies and toddlers to school-aged kids.
In addition to seeing other children, kids should keep an eye out for deer, turkey, beavers and other wildlife. Or, they can check out little creeks, splash, look for frogs and climb up and down boulders. As for recommended trails, 1 and 2 are pretty toddler-friendly. Box Canyon may require a little bit of scrambling, but it’s manageable. Trail 4 is another toddler favorite. You walk on the canyon floor so there’s lots of room for toddlers to roam and plenty of places to splash. Toddlers will love the small and large boulders to climb and slide down. There is much more, and this park is worth staying the whole day if you can. Pack a lunch and explore it with your family!
- There is plenty of parking at the Nature Center … for a fee. The entrance fee is $7 for Indiana vehicles, $9 for out-of-state vehicles.
- Restrooms are available.
- Make sure you are wearing water shoes or waterproof shoes or plan on avoiding the creeks and pools of water.
- Watch out for slippery rocks, climbing ladders and drop-offs.
Turkey Run State Park is a gem nestled in the rolling farmlands of Indiana. Every trail has a new adventure around the bend. Each section of these trails offers a specific geological point of interest: the “Ice Box” on the No. 3 section of the trail, Falls Canyon & Boulder Canyon on the No. 9 section of the trail and, of course, the “Ladders” section on the No. 5 section of the trail. Each area gives a sense of being somewhere other than where you are – almost like getting lost in time. – Abby Czachur
Indiana Dunes National Park Dune Ridge Trail (Gary, IN)
Is 15 your lucky number? If not, how about 15,000 acres along 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline? That’s what you get at Indiana Dunes National Park – a lot of area to explore! This large area encompasses an incredible diversity of environments, from forest and prairie to wetland and beach. Such a diversity of habitat brings with it a diversity of species, native plants as well as animals. To see it all, there are 50 miles of trails to choose from. Need help deciding? Stop by the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center for more information, including short orientation videos, brochures, books and trail maps.
It’s difficult to choose one trail, but for our purposes, we recommend Dune Ridge Trail. The loop is moderate in difficulty and short at under a mile, but in that distance it takes hikers from what is essentially beach up to forest and offers great views of the area. Park at Dune Ridge Trailhead and Kemil Beach Parking Lot. Head south up and out of the sand until you come to the fork of the loop. Note that if you take the left fork on the old roadbed, you’ll have to turn right onto the footpath later. Otherwise, the roadbed will lead you away from the parking lot. You can read more about the trail in the Family Trail Guide.
- There are restrooms at the parking lot.
- Watch your step – and that of little ones – on loose sand or sandy soil, especially at the beginning and end of the hike.
- Dogs must be kept on a leash.
- Stay on the trail to protect yourself as well as the plant life. Many species are delicate. Also, poison ivy may be present.
- Poison ivy may or may not be present, but ticks almost certainly are. Wear long pants tucked into your boots, and don’t forget insect repellent!
- Walk or play on Kemil Beach north of the parking lot, but swimming is not recommended. Do so at your own risk.
As attractive and popular as the beaches are, don’t forget to check out the trails. They’ll take you through the forest, close to the beach, and in the dunes. The sand is amazing for little ones to explore, build sand castles and run through. If you’re up for it, take on the 3 Dune Challenge at the nearby Indiana Sand Dunes State Park and visit Mount Jackson, Mount Holden and Mount Tom. While they do have some steep sandy vertical areas, take the 1.5-mile trail one step at a time and you won’t regret it. The views are amazing and you’re toddler and preschoolers will love reaching each peak! – Bailey Ludlam
What are your favorite hikes in Indiana for families with babies, toddlers and young children? Leave a comment below!
MORE RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES WITH YOUNG CHILDREN
Indiana offers an abundance of trails for families with young children. For more family hike ideas, see:
- Hike it Baby calendar (or connect with local branches)
- Hike it Baby Family Trail Guide
- Indiana State Parks
- Hike it Baby: 100 Awesome Outdoor Adventures with Babies and Toddlers by Hike it Baby Founder Shanti Hodges
If you’re traveling through Indiana and need more information or recommendations on trails or would like to join a group hike, the nearest Hike it Baby branches are Bloomington, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Muncie and Seymour.
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