Exploring Indiana underneath a layer of snow is like being in a whole, different world. Take a hike this winter with family and friends and you'll understand.
Our state parks and nature preserves are just as enjoyable to visit in the winter as they are in the summer, spring and fall. Some places even have more outdoor fun opportunities when the snow falls like cross country skiing, tobogganing, ice fishing and more.
The following is just a short list of some of Hoosier's favorite winter hiking grounds and getaways.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Chesterton - Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing allowed; bring your own as there are no rentals. Guided hikes with a ranger are available on most Saturdays and Sundays all winter long.
Pokagan State Park, Angola - Tobogganing is a favorite winter sport at this northeastern state park. Cross country skiing is also available.
Portland Arch, Fountain County - You won't want to miss how beautiful the landscape appears under a layer of snow and ice. Don't forget your camera!
Shades State Park and Pine Hills Nature Preserve, Montgomery County - Interested in a long, scenic winter hike? Adding the historical Pine Hills (the first nature preserve ever obtained by the Conservancy) to the Shades' trails is your best bet.
Brown County State Park, Nashville - Look for eagles and ospreys overhead as you enjoy Southern Indiana's beautifully rugged Brown County hills. While you're in the area, check out the Conservancy's Hitz-Rhodehamel Woods or stop in Nashville for a delicious after-hike cup of hot chocolate.
Spring Mill State Park - Not only a perfect place for a winter hike, but Spring Mill also offers a number of seasonal special events and programs.
For more information on Indiana's state parks, visit the DNR's Division of State Parks and Reservoirs. The Nature Conservancy also has posted information on nature preserves we currently, or historically, owned.
Like the Boy Scouts motto states, it's always best to be prepared. The following are some good tips to make your hiking adventure safe.
Dress Appropriately - Dress in layers in the winter. Wool and clothing that wicks away moisture from your body will keep you warm and dry. Don't forget the gloves and hats!
Pack Wisely - There are several items that every hiker should keep in their pack regardless of when and where they plan to hike. Essentials include: map (topographic, if available); compass; water-proof matches; firestarters; flashlight; pocket knife and first-aid kit. Extra clothing, socks and food are also a good idea.
Trail Snacks - The ideal winter trail food is high in carbohydrates and protein. Trail mix is the perfect snack as it's easy to pop in your mouth while keeping a move on. Bring water and/or hot drinks like cider and herbal teas. Oh, and don't eat the snow!
Know the Weather - Before you head out, check the day's forecast. If rain, wet snow and high winds are predicted, consider canceling the trip. Even when sporting layers and rain gear, the cold may be too much even when a little bit wet.
Make Contact - Always let someone know where, when and what time you'll be leaving/returning on a hiking trip. If any changes, make sure to follow up with your in-case-of-emergency contact - his/her information should be kept on you and in your vehicle, just in case.
Follow the Trail - Snow can obscure the trail which increases your chances of wandering off it. Know how to use a compass and keep it handy. Follow the trail signs and keep a map of the trails handy while winter hiking.
Caution Water! - Be careful around lakes, ponds and streams. Assuming the ice is thick enough to walk on could be your biggest mistake. Getting wet in winter is trouble; if you can't replace a wet sock or shoe with a dry one, you're better off heading home. For example, don't walk across icy logs over semi frozen streams, because you could get frost bite!