With more than 100 tree species native to Indiana—including maple, birch, hickory, and the state tree, the tulip poplar—summer slides into fall in spectacular fashion in the Hoosier state. Before deciduous trees lose their leaves, they transform into splendid golden yellows, blazing reds, and a lot of shades in between. And since few things are better for the mind and body than a fall hike or bike ride in the woods, here’s a list of nearby locales sure to get you out and into nature.
Near Nashville and just east of Bloomington, the hilly terrain of Brown County State Park—aptly nicknamed the “Little Smokies”—makes it a favorite of climbers and mountain bikers. Glaciers largely flattened the northern two-thirds of the state, but their meltwaters carved the slopes, gullies, and ridges of Indiana’s largest park, which boasts nearly 20 miles of tree-lined roads in nearly 16,000 acres. The hiking trails range from easy to rugged; you can also see the park on horseback. A 90-foot fire tower provides great views of the trees during leaf season.
- Addresses: North Gate, 1801 State Road 46 East, Nashville; West Gate, 1405 State Road 46 West, Nashville; Horse Camp, 4800 State Road 135 South, Nashville
- Contact: (812) 988-6406
One of the largest and newest of Indiana’s state parks, Charlestown State Park encompasses beautiful views of the Ohio River and the Fourteen Mile Creek Valley. Its trails rate as rugged or moderate terrain, with elevation changes of more than 200 feet overall. Birders will see 72 species here, including the occasional bald eagle.
- Address: 12500 Indiana 62, Charlestown
- Contact: (812) 256-5600
Established in 1903, Indiana’s oldest state forest has grown to 24,000 acres. It includes 160 acres of white oaks and more than 60 miles of trails, including short self-guiding paths and the long, backcountry Knobstone Trail, which winds its way through 32 miles of the forest.
- Address: 2 Service Road, Henryville
- Contact: (812) 294-4306
On Route 56 just west of Madison and overlooking the Ohio River, Clifty Falls State Park includes more than 12 miles of trails—ranging in difficulty from easy to rugged. There are also four waterfalls, each taller than six stories. Enjoy foliage from many vistas, including an ADA-accessible outlook at the north end of the park.
- Address: 2221 Clifty Drive, Madison
- Contact: (812) 273-8885
Opened in 1863, Crown Hill is the third-largest, non-governmental cemetery in the U.S. and the largest green space inside the city of Indianapolis. Drive up to James Whitcomb Riley’s tomb in this historic 555-acre cemetery to experience a spectacular 360-degree view from the highest natural elevation in the city, with the Indianapolis skyline in the distance. You can also walk among more than 4,100 trees (of more than 130 tree species), including some that date back hundreds of years.
- Address: 700 West 38 Street, Indianapolis
- Contact: (317) 920-4165
Within the 13,000-acre Deam Wilderness, the 110-foot tall Hickory Ridge Fire Tower provides a great view of the tree canopy from above; on the ground, there are 37.3 miles of hiking and horseback riding trails. But if you’re not a walker or hiker, you might want to choose one of the other day trips listed as wheeled and motorized vehicles aren’t allowed.
- Address: State Road 446 and Tower Ridge Road, Bloomington
- Contact: (812) 275-5987 or (866) 302-4173
Indiana’s first state park features diverse tree species, native wildflowers, ample bird watching, and amazing views of a limestone canyon. You’ll also find waterfalls, hiking, horseback riding, indoor recreation, primitive camping, and a full-service inn. Nearly 20 miles of trails range from accessible and easy to moderate.
- Address: 250 McCormick’s Creek Park Road, Spencer
- Contact: (812) 829-2235
Parke County’s Turkey Run State Park features deep sandstone cliffs and ravines, old-growth forests and views of Sugar Creek. There’s also a suspension bridge across the creek itself. Trails range from easy to very rugged. And if you want to spend the night, there are cabins and an inn. Hungry? Try the Narrows Restaurant.
- Address:8121 E. Park Road, Marshall
- Contact: (765) 597-2635
If you’re ready to go check out some of Indiana’s fall foliage, any of the day trips above will do the trick. You might even want to go a couple of times—this month and during peak season, which is from middle to late October in the areas we’ve listed.