Hey there, fellow adventurer! Are you ready to discover some of the best Indiana backpacking trails? Don’t let anyone tell you that this state is just a flyover destination because it’s actually brimming with some of the most stunning backpacking trails around!
Picture this: rolling hills, lush forests, hidden caves, and plenty of exciting water crossings to keep you on your toes. From a quick overnight trip to a full-blown weekend excursion, Indiana has got you covered. And if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the options, don’t worry. We’ve compiled a list of the best Indiana backpacking trails that are sure to satisfy your craving for adventure.
Updated April 2023
Get ready to pack your bags and head out into the wilderness, my fellow adventure-seekers! Because in this article, we’re diving into the top 5 must-see backpacking trails in Indiana. And if you’re short on time, don’t worry! We’ve included a handy table of contents to help you jump straight to the trail that interests you the most.
Are you up for a challenge? Then get ready to conquer the epic 42-mile Tecumseh Trail, located in the heart of Indiana’s Morgan-Monroe State Forest. But listen up, fellow adventurers! You’ll need to plan ahead and bring your A-game if you want to tackle this one.
The trail starts at the Morgan-Monroe State Forest Headquarters in Martinsville, IN, and offers breathtaking views of rolling hills and lush forests. But here’s the catch: camping spots along the trail are limited, so you’ll need to plan accordingly. And parking areas can fill up quickly, so make sure you arrive early to secure your spot.
You can access the trail via 5 different trailheads
- On Crooked Creek Road, which is about 5 miles west of Nashville, IN.
- Yellowwood Lake, at the North boat launch. This is near the Yellowwood State Forest Office
- At Prange Pond on Dubois Ridge Road
- Bear Lake along Bear Creek Road
- At Morgan Monroe State Forest Headquarters (The beginning of the trail).
Are you ready for an Indiana backpacking adventure, but not quite ready to tackle the Knobstone Trail? No worries, my fellow outdoor enthusiasts! The Tecumseh Trail is the perfect choice for newer backpackers or those seeking a manageable challenge that won’t leave them collapsing on the trail.
The rolling hills on the Tecumseh Trail are stunning, and the views are simply breathtaking – especially around Bear Lake and Prang Pond. And if you’re lucky enough to hike during the fall season, the colorful foliage will take your breath away!
But be prepared to get your feet wet, because there will be stream crossings along the way. While some may be dry, it’s always a good idea to bring your favorite water crossing shoes just in case. And during heavy rains, some parts of the trail may be blocked due to flooding. Don’t worry though, you can always check current trail conditions by emailing Morgan Monroe State Forest.
While there are a few places to get water along the trail, don’t rely on them too heavily. Some of the sources can be unreliable, so it’s best to plan on carrying or stashing water along the way. And if you do decide to stash water, be sure to mark it with the date you plan to use it and hide it out of sight. Pro-tip: draw or write something memorable on your water jugs so you can easily spot them!
The Hoosier Hiking Council has created an incredible guide for the Tecumseh Trail, which includes mileage, water sources, camping and lodging locations, as well as more planning tips. It’s an invaluable resource that will help you plan your backpacking trip with ease. You can find their guide here.
Adventure Hiking Trail
Are you ready for an adventure that will test your endurance and take you through some of the most stunning forests in Indiana? Then the Adventure Hiking Trail, part of the American Discovery Trail, is calling your name! This trail may be rated as difficult due to some steep inclines, but don’t let that scare you away. The views from the top are absolutely breathtaking and are sure to make your heart skip a beat.
Located within the boundaries of Harrison-Crawford State Forest and O’Bannon Woods State Park, the Adventure Hiking Trail is a true gem of Indiana. As you hike, you’ll encounter some steep inclines, so be prepared to work up a sweat. But the effort is well worth it, as you’ll be rewarded with some of the most amazing views that Indiana has to offer.
Get ready to immerse yourself in the history of Indiana’s wilderness on the Adventure Trail! This 25-mile trail is a true gem for backpackers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts alike. With a total elevation gain of 3,374 feet, you’ll definitely get your heart pumping on this adventure.
But it’s not just the physical challenge that makes this trail special. The Adventure Trail has a rich history, with remnants of pioneer homesteads scattered throughout. One such remnant is the chimney from an old homestead built around 1855, which still stands tall at the Homestead Overnight Shelter.
In addition to the historic homesteads, this trail also boasts stunning cliffs, sinkholes, and caves that will leave you in awe. With so much to see and experience, the Adventure Trail is a must-do for anyone looking to explore the beauty and history of Indiana’s wilderness.
This trail boasts not only stunning views but also has five shelters available for hikers to use. One of these shelters is even fully enclosed with windows and doors, providing a cozy and secure spot for overnight stays. But don’t worry if the shelters are taken, there’s plenty of space along the trail for backcountry camping.
To make things even better, the shelters are well-maintained and come equipped with a broom to help keep them tidy. However, it’s important to remember to leave no trace and pack out everything you bring in
If you’re planning to spend the night on the Adventure Hiking Trail, it’s important to register with the O’Bannon Woods State Park Office located at 7234 Old Forest Rd, Corydon, IN 47112. This not only ensures that you’re following the park’s regulations, but it also lets them know that you’re out there and can come to your aid if needed.
It’s a good thing to know that there’s a campground along the trail where you can get water, but be aware that the creek beds can sometimes run dry. So, it’s best to carry or stash your water along the trail just to be safe. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than being thirsty on the trail.
Remember, there’s no permit required for day hiking, but if you plan to spend the night, registration is a must. Don’t worry, it’s an easy process and it ensures that everyone is safe and accounted for.
Are you ready for a serious challenge? If you’re an experienced hiker looking for a trail that will truly test your limits, the Knobstone Trail might be just what you’re looking for. With a nickname like the Little Appalachian Trail, you know you’re in for some serious elevation gain. In fact, the trail boasts a staggering 10,500 feet of elevation gain over its 48 miles!
But don’t let the challenge scare you off. The Knobstone Trail is a beautiful hike that takes you through hardwood forests, rocky outcrops, and wildflower fields. And if you start at Delaney Park and hike north to south, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most breathtaking views at the end of your journey. The New Chapel to Jackson Road section is particularly tough, but the views of Louisville (20 miles away!) from the top are absolutely worth the climb.
Choosing where to start your journey is important to ensure that you end up with the right mileage. Some hikers like to start at Spurgeon Hollow Lake, while others prefer to begin their adventure at Delaney Park, where you have multiple ways to connect to the trail.
The Knobstone Trail is not for the faint of heart, but for those who seek a challenge, it is a must-visit. Managed by the Indiana DNR, the trail can be a bit unpredictable due to land management operations such as logging. But don’t let that deter you! Before you hit the trail, be sure to check the DNR’s page or give them a call at (812)-837-9536 to make sure there aren’t any reroutes or detours that could affect your hike.
Water can also be a challenge along the KT, especially during the summer months. You’ll need to pack in your own water or stash some along the trail (just remember to mark it with the date you plan to use it).
Planning a hike can be overwhelming, but luckily, there’s a fantastic resource available to help you plan your KT adventure. Steve Schaftlein, the vice president of the Knobstone Hiking Trail Association, has created a website with everything you need to know before hitting the trail. The website provides mileage resources, downloadable maps, guides, GPX files, and an interactive map to make planning easier for you.
But wait, there’s more! Steve’s town guide is a game-changer with information on restaurants, grocery stores, and lodging along the trail. With Steve’s website at your fingertips, you’ll be able to plan your hike with ease, leaving you more time to focus on the stunning scenery around you.
Recently, the Knobstone Trail became listed on the AllTrails app. You can search for Knobstone Trail: 160 or click here.
German Ridge Trail
Whether you’re a hiker, biker, or horseback rider, this 24-mile trail has something for everyone. You’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Ohio River and the remains of old homesteads, as well as the sparkling waters of German Ridge Lake.
The German Ridge Trail is pretty flexible, offering different loop options of varying difficulty so you can customize your experience based on the number of days you want to hike. While the southern part of the trail is pretty easy, the northern section offers a bit more challenge, including some stream crossings.
But be prepared for the bugs! Ticks can be quite pesky along the trail, so be sure to pack plenty of bug spray. It would be a smart move to treat your hiking clothes and gear with Sawyer’s as well. And don’t forget to bring enough water with you, as the availability of water sources along the trail is heavily dependent on rainfall.
Luckily, hiking on the German Ridge Trail is completely free, and there are no camping fees for backpackers.
Are you ready to discover one of the best-kept secrets in Indiana? The Bloodroot Trail in Lagro is a true hidden gem that will take you on an adventure like no other. This 13-mile loop trail will lead you along the picturesque Salamonie Lake. It’s also the only backpacking trail in northern Indiana.
The Bloodroot Trail is for almost anyone that can handle the mileage. It’s a moderately challenging hike that will take you through rocky and rooty terrain. But trust us, the effort is well worth it. Along the way, you’ll find several backcountry campsites that offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape. You can reserve these sites at camp.in.gov for just under $13 a night. Keep in mind that these campsites are primitive, so make sure to bring your own supplies, including plenty of food and water.
One of the best things about backpacking on the Bloodroot Trail is that you’ll likely have the whole area to yourself. It’s a true escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We recently reserved Site 5 and it was simply amazing. The views were breathtaking, especially across the lake. We had plenty of space to pitch our tent and set up a couple of hammocks, which made for a comfortable and relaxing night under the stars. To be honest, after seeing all the sites, we think Site 5 was the best spot in the whole area. It was just so open, and the access to the water, which was steep but doable, really made it great.
Things to Keep in Mind
- Remember to plan your trip carefully and prepare for water shortages along the trails.
- Call and register as a backpacker with the proper authority and check trail conditions before beginning your trip
- Be aware of hunting seasons and dress appropriately for them
- You should always leave a hiking itinerary with someone back home. I have a free one you can download here.
- If you’ll be using backcountry water, remember to bring a filter/purifier to treat it with before drinking or using it for cooking.
- On any of these trails, please remember to practice Leave No Trace. Pack out what you bring in and clean up your camping areas for the next person.
Thanks and Recognition
I want to give a huge shoutout and heartfelt thanks to the Hoosier Hiking Council, Indiana DNR, and the USDA Forest Service – Hoosier National Forest for sharing their expertise, maintaining these trails, and/or providing stunning images of these incredible trails.
Their dedication and hard work in preserving and maintaining these natural wonders have made it possible for people like us to enjoy these beautiful trails and experience the breathtaking scenery. It’s not an easy task, and we are truly grateful for their efforts in keeping these trails in top-notch condition.
The images they shared give us a glimpse of the beauty that awaits us on these trails. Their expertise in the field has been invaluable in helping us plan our adventures and ensuring we have a safe and enjoyable experience.
So once again, a special thank you to the Hoosier Hiking Council, Indiana DNR and the USDA Forest Service – Hoosier National Forest for all they do. Let’s all make sure to do our part in preserving and protecting these natural wonders for generations to come.