Located a leisurely 3 hour drive from Chicago, Turkey Run in west-central Indiana is a beautiful yet busy nature outing with one of the more memorable hikes in the midwest. Plenty of campsites are located in the immediate area, but hotels within 30-45 minutes are limited, though there is Turkey Run Inn which was booked in advance when we visited the park. You will also want to make sure you bring a change of shoes/ clothes – you will get muddy.
A side note for the trip. Attica, Indiana is a quaint town about 45 minutes north of Turkey Run. We made a few stops – Brown’s Accents, a gift store with great prices on candles and other household decor. Additionally, Wolf’s Candies provided the perfect sugar and caffeine boost for the ride home.
Just a Little Out There
Turkey Run sits about 45 minutes from any city, and the immediate Turkey Run area offers a few dining options, as well as spots to rent canoes and campsites.
Entrance to the park is $9/ car for out-of-state residents and we found it to be well worth every penny. It’s worth noting that at 11 AM on an early autumn Saturday there was a 10 minute lineup at the entrance gate.
Upon entering the park are a number of lots with a Nature Center/ Information Center in the middle of it all. A guide at the center suggested two hikes for the day we had and we decided to jump right in.
Trail 2 – A Pleasant Hike
Trail 2 provided an hour-long overview of the park and within 10 minutes of hopping on the trail we escaped the congestion of the central area of the park. After an initial ascent, we engaged with one of the sandstone canyons, Box Canyon, which the park is known for. A good pair of hiking shoes will be helpful as you climb up and down the carved stone stairs.
Moving through the upper reaches of the canyon we entered a well-canopied forest where we observed a number of deer playfully jumping through the brush.
A fork in the road left us with the decision to move towards the historic covered-bridge, providing a path across the Sugar Creek river which bisects the park.
We hugged the opposite side of the river on Trail 4 which led us back to the central area of the park. Through a few more ups and downs we came across a gated entrance to an abandoned coal mine before spying the suspension bridge where we first began the hike. Both trails 2 and 4 are a bit rugged, but not much of a challenge for those who frequent nature.
Trail 3 – The Wow Factor
Let me get a few things out-of-the-way: the trail is muddy (your shoes will be caked), it’s congested, and it is exhausting with plenty of climbing up and down. However, unless there are physical limitations, this should not deter you from doing this roughly 2 hour hike. Without a doubt, this is one of the best hikes I have been on in the midwest, and frankly, one of the best in all of my travels.
Trail 3 can be picked up across the river from the nature center, or by connecting from Trail 4. After a short planked path, you are immediately immersed in the canyon floor, trudging through the muddy depths as the sandstone walls rise along the sides. Enormous boulders stand like sentinels guiding you along your path.
The bulk of this trail takes place within the floor of the canyon, and hikers find themselves occasionally traipsing through water and climbing long fallen tree trunks which have criss-crossed the path. There are a few hefty climbs up and down stairs, as well as 3 well-secured ladders to climb deeper into the canyon. There is no “easy” way out, but hikers can move at their own pace throughout most of the hike – interrupted by one or two bottlenecks where fellow hikers make their ways through tight spaces.
This trail was almost otherworldly – with little direct sunlight making its way into the canyon you could easily forget that you are in Indiana. By the end of the hike we were tired, wet, and muddy – but if there was ever a time it was worthwhile, this was it.
There are a number of other hikes in the park, but after about 4 solid hours, we were ready to split, knowing we could come back for more. If your willing to put a little time into the drive, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best nature experiences the midwest has to offer.