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Hiking Hoosier trails

The COVID-19 pandemic presented many challenges, but it also offered  opportunities to explore and rediscover exploring and hiking. Around the country, outdoor activities saw a marked increase during the past year, as people searched for safe activities outside the home.

Indiana boasts 24 state parks, one national park and copious other parks and public lands that offer recreational opportunities. Angie Frost, 4-H youth development and healthy living Extension specialist, said she thinks this trend in increased outdoor activities will continue.

“Hiking and being outdoors has many benefits both physically and mentally,” Frost said. “Hiking helps build stronger muscles and bones, improves balance and decreases the risk of some respiratory problems. Being outdoors can also boost mood, reduce stress, calm anxiety and reduce the risk of depression.”

Frost added that there are a number of different resources for finding Indiana hiking trails of varying difficulty, from Department of Natural Resources maps to individual park websites. She also recommended the website AllTrails, which lists 913 hiking trails throughout the state and ranks them by most popular.

According to AllTrails, these are some of Indiana’s most popular trails, all rated from easy to difficult.

Cowles Bog TrailThis loop navigates through part of the Indiana Dunes National Park and also skirts some wetland. At 4.3 miles with some elevation change it’s considered a moderate hike, especially in the warmer months when shade is limited.

Clifty FallsThis trail is located in Clifty Falls State Park in Southern Indiana. The trail features a waterfall and is rated at a difficulty level of moderate. Several different road access points and cut-throughs allow hikers to shorten or lengthen the hike according to ability. At its full length, the trail is 5.4 miles.

Three Lakes TrailAt 10.4 miles this trail is rated difficult. While there is little elevation change the full loop will take most hikers the better part of a day. Located near Martinsville, IN, the mysteriously named Three Lakes Trail winds around two large lakes in the region.

Turkey Run Trail #2 and #11Turkey Run State Park offers a wealth of interconnected hiking trails with a rich and varied terrain. A favored route is to connect trails 2 and 11 to complete an 11-mile loop. Hikers will experience a difficult hike with elevation changes and dramatic scenery comprised of ravines, ridges and waterfalls.

Hemlock Cliffs National Scenic TrailThis trail offers an alternative for less experienced hikers. At 1.2 miles the loop drops hikers into a canyon and passes under a large rock outcropping. The trail, rated moderate due to significant elevation changes, also passes by a waterfall.

Creek Camp and Fall Creek Trails: Located at Fort Harrison State Park these two trails are graded easy. With little elevation change and a wide, well-groomed trail, this loop is appealing to hikers of all ages and skill levels. Passing through forests and along the creek, the 2.7-mile loop offers a gentle, scenic route.

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