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Shades State Park is that peaceful place you've been looking for. Located about 17 miles southwest of Crawfordsville (off S.R. 47), it is a favorite for hikers and canoeists. The beautiful sandstone cliffs overlooking Sugar Creek and numerous shady ravines provide the backdrop for your journey through this nature lover's paradise. Adjacent Pine Hills Nature Preserve affords spectacular topography for those willing to take a fairly long hike.

First of all, Be careful of the wood stairs and wood foot-bridges when it’s wet. They are all very slippery! I almost fell down a thirty foot fight of stairs while it was pouring. I slid down five steps, but luckily I was able to grab the rail with my arm.

Backpacked and camped at the backpacking campground this weekend with my 6yo daughter. The campsites are nice. Water, privy and firewood are available.
No need to request firewood to be delivered as told in the trail description. There are bundles stacked up in a small wood shelter, and there is a slot to drop your money, $5 per bundle.
You must register for your campsite at the main gate and it costs $12 plus tax per night. Seven sites are available and they’re on a first-come-first-serve basis.
The raccoons are aggressive so don’t leave your food or trash out unattended even for a few minutes. I went it to my tent to get my daughter ready for bed, and I heard something fall from the pic-nick table. A raccoon snagged our six pound food bag, and I had to chase him 100ft down the trail and into the woods to get it back!
Friday night there was only one other group of campers. We were the only ones there on Saturday. There’s lots of animal sounds at night, many I couldn’t recognize.
The canoe camp is less than a half mile walk away from the backpacking camp. There is a very nice view of Sugar Creek from there. I was surprised that we didn’t see anyone camped there either night. Though, there was quite a bit of rain this past weekend. As far as registration for The canoe camp, no need to register at the gate as the ranger will come around in the evening to collect fees from the canoe campers. As the park’s trail guide states, there is no limit to how many can camp there, all canoe campers must be accommodated as there are no other camping options.

we hiked a combination of trails 7&8. Some of the trail required navigating creek beds with slippery surfaces. Trail 8 would not be recommended for inexperienced or poorly conditioned hikers.

Great trail with some good views! With the exception of climbing over two 4-5 foot rock bluffs and one steep downhill climb the rest of the trail was moderate.

camping
17 days ago

Trails at the Shades never disappoint. In my opinion Shades trails are the best in the state. For this particular trail I would do the trail clockwise (go left when the choice first presents itself). This will take you down the many many stairs and then up the ravine. Otherwise you will be climbing up the stairs and that is NO fun.

hiking
20 days ago

Could only do a portion due to closed trails. Still decent.

This was a great hike! Would definitely go back.

hiking
27 days ago

Fun hike

on Trail #10

1 month ago

Mostly gravel & rock ,very flat, a ok stroll through the woods ,, nothing to see until preserve. Which is worth seeing.. I would say ten is wheelchair accessible until preserve, for those who may want an outdoor adventure ..

Excellent trail for a quick overnighter, or for beginners .. The campsites were excellent , having the means of firewood, water and facilities right at camp is nice .Short walk to sugar creek ,.. My real only complaint is that the trail is so peppered with signage,..Prob, close to 50 signs on a 2.5 mile stretch.. Two dozen were completely not needed and takes away the feeling of "being out there" .. But , all in all , very nice. Would recommend .

hiking
1 month ago

The views are beautiful. markings are a little confusing.

2 months ago

took the kids today. we had fun!

Just came off trail and it was fantastic. One of my new favorite places. A must see. It just rained two days ago and the water in the creeks was running fast something to definitely see and do. Going back tomorrow and adding in a couple shades trails.

3 months ago

it started as a moderate trail overlooking the sugar Creek but then you come to the huge staircase down into the ravine close to where the stream empties into sugar creek. The rest of the trail is a rugged journey back into the ravines as it gradually ascends back to the top. the whole time going against the stream's currant. we should have done this trail first instead of last. It kicked our butts. great trail!

on Trail #2

3 months ago

Suggest taking the creek side first (clockwise) so you’re descending stairs and going down creek. Great trail with lots of creek walking.

on Shades State Park Trail

3 months ago

Challenging, fun, beautiful. Rugged section is well worth the effort. Not too difficult, but highly suggest trekking poles.

hiking
6 months ago

Completed this trail in 2012. nice little trail, ladders made it fun.

So much beauty. This first nature preserve in Indiana gives us all a glimpse into what the forest should look like. The other areas: Devil's Backbone, Honeycomb Rock, The Slide, etc. are amazing. This is one of my favorite hikes in the state of Indiana.

Started in a mist of rain but finished up with a little sunshine. Shale was slippery after the rain near the creek. Walked the little creek all the way to sugar Creek.

hiking
8 months ago

Hiking/Backpacking - Did a bit of hiking on Friday, then backpacked for the night. We noted that the park maps are not correct with the trails. Trail 5 is reverse of the map. Trail 8 does not intersect the backpacking trail twice. We were going to cut off the backpacking trail to 8/7 to get back to the parking lot, but the connection indicated in the map doesn't exist.

Backpacking note... It's kind of like backpack glamping. The backpack campground has large sites with picnic tables and fire rings. There is a shed with firewood for sale, nice pit toilets, trash bins, and running water.

8 months ago

Fun, short, and ladders...

hiking
8 months ago

Very fun hike, walking up the ravine. Our ten-year-old loved it.

9 months ago

Most of the trail follows a creek bed. It was mostly dry when I was there on Labor Day. I would definitely bring water shoes if you are hiking this trail between March and May. Would love to hike this trail again when the water is running.

I enjoyed my time on this hike but had expectations for it to be a little more difficult. It is considered the most rugged hike that the park has. I only saw one family of two adults and two teenagers on my journey. Has some very nice views and lots of stairs. I wouldn't might going back.

Hidden gem! Scenic forest, cliffs, stream. Lots of stairs. Extremely steep drop offs on Turkey Backbone and Devils Backbone. Like, if you misstep or lose your balance you will die. Legit. Be very attentive to children.

Great trail to hike! I was amazed by the views this trail had to offer especially for being in Indiana.

on Trail #5

hiking
10 months ago

Definitely had a Jurassic Park feel to it, love the terrain and plant diversity. Definitely recommend!

on Trail #10

hiking
10 months ago

Great to have a trail connect the park and the nature preserve!

hiking
10 months ago

Really enjoyed Devil's Backbone, great payoff even if it was just a short part of the trail. Really fun, and you can easily loop back and do it again :)

hiking
11 months ago

Listed here as EASY. Park guide lists as RUGGED (0.875 mi.) Nice loop trail including hike through gently sloped rock streambed of Kickapoo Ravine.

hiking
11 months ago

Listed here as EASY. Park guide lists it as RUGGED/VERY RUGGED (1.25miles). As others have recommended, take the trail clockwise, which is to say, go left at the loop start. Steep descent down a couple hundred stair steps. Beautiful trek up Pearl ravine with nice rock/tree overhangs up to Maidenhair Falls (a small 6-8ft fall). A little further out of the ravine and then several series of more easily navigated stairs back to the trailhead. IMO, this is one of the more rugged trails in this part of the state.

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