Shades State Park | Outdoorsy

Shades State Park
Guide

Introduction

Resting almost 50 miles southwest of Indianapolis is Shades State Park, a hiker's dream come true. Shades State Park is not as well known as other Indiana state parks like the neighboring Turkey Run State Park that is just 10 miles away. However, it is just as beautiful with tall sandstone cliffs throughout the park that overlook the picturesque Sugar Creek below.

History lovers will be pleased to learn about how the steep cliffs were formed by an ancient ocean that flowed through the area millions of years ago, which also means the area has plenty of fossils waiting to be found, especially around and on the sandbars. The cliffs, canyons, and drastic terrain changes throughout the park have formed several waterfalls that are as serene as they are beautiful. This unique terrain makes this park a must for any RV traveler.

Another feature unique to Shades State Park is the small airfield that visitors used to use when landing their planes. Even though guests can't land a plane there anymore, they can canoe, fish, hike, picnic, and enjoy all of the beauty that spans from the Pine Hills Nature Reserve to one of the several natural overlooks found throughout the park. There is lots to see in Shades State Park and something to intrigue all members of the family during your RV adventure in Indiana.

RV Rentals in Shades State Park

Transportation

Driving

Once inside of the park, visitors should slow way down because the roads wind back and forth with a few hairpin turns. Although the campsites can accommodate RVs up to 55 feet, rigs this large will likely have difficulty maneuvering through the roads. Taking it slow on the park roads will lead to several parking areas scattered around the park, so even daytime-only visitors will have lots of parking options.

Should guests choose to bring a second car with them, it should be noted that no more than one type of vehicle is allowed at each campsite, so the additional vehicle will have to be parked in the general parking lot near the campgrounds. The exception to this is a minibike, moped, or similar vehicle for each person at the campsite. These make excellent alternative modes of transportation for getting around the park. Not all of the trails are suitable for bikes, especially with small children, but bikes can still make navigating the main roads of the park a bit easier.

Parking

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Shades State Park

Campsites in Shades State Park

Reservations camping

Crawfordsville KOA

There aren’t many things more relaxing than a gorgeous stay in the rural countryside of Indiana. With a great mix of dynamic valleys, interesting creatures, and stunning vegetation, Crawfordsville KOA brings it all and more with a nice set of amenities to make sure that campers feel right at home. Rent a canoe, enjoy some hiking, or take advantage of the pool and game room. This KOA has spots for RVs up to 70 feet, 50-amp hookups, Wi-Fi, and the type of atmosphere that makes renting an RV a real treat.

Shades State Park Campground

There are 105 non-electric, pet-friendly campsites available at Shades State Park, which means it usually isn't too busy. The campsites are by reservation only; however, if there is an unreserved campsite available when guests arrive, they can get it by local sale. During the peak summer months, it is still a good idea to make reservations, which can be made up to six months in advance.

Despite first impressions, the park isn't unsuitable for RVs just because there are no electric sites. There are still other amenities that serve the RV community such as a dumping station, showers, restrooms, water fill stations, and water hydrants. Each site comes with a picnic table and a fire ring. The maximum vehicle length is 55 feet.

The campground is made up of four connected loops, giving campers easy access to the nearby trails and the playground. Unfortunately, there is no overnight camping available at Shades State Park from November to March; however, there is overnight camping available just a few miles away at neighboring Turkey Run State Park.

First-come first-served

First-Come, First-Served Camping

Unreserved campsites become available on a first-come, first-served basis when guests arrive. Separate backpack and canoe campsites are also available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Seasonal activities in Shades State Park

Off-Season

Shopping

Shopping at Shades State Park is likely quite different from other shopping sprees that visitors are accustomed to, but there's plenty to gawk at and purchase in the park store. The store has some basic camping essentials and supplies that campers may have forgotten to put in their motorhome, and also tons of little trinkets and gifts to remind guests of their visit to the park. Be aware that the park store hours vary, so check the hours upon arrival, and make sure to plan accordingly so that you can visit the store before leaving the park.

Nature Watching

Shades State Park is overflowing with natural beauty. From scenic nature overlooks to waterfalls cascading throughout the park, there is plenty to see outside of the rig. For those guests who are willing to travel a bit on foot, some of the most scenic views and graceful wildlife lay in the Pine Hills Nature Preserve. The area is for hikers only and takes visitors through natural wonders such as Honeycomb Rock, Turkey Backbone, and the Devil's Backbone. On the journey, guests will likely come across animals such as wild turkeys, coyotes, squirrels, deer, bald eagles, and several variations of warblers.

Canoeing

The Sugar Creek winds its way through the park and is bordered by shady ravines that make it too dangerous to swim in, but it makes it the perfect place for a canoe trip. The Deer's Mill Covered Bridge just outside of the southern border of the park is the best place to set sail on Sugar Creek year-round. Even in the summer months, when the sun would otherwise be scorching hot, the ravines cast a cooling shadow across the water, making canoeing a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon in the shade.

Picnicking

With so many beautiful views and natural formations, it is easy for visitors to find an awe-inspiring view without having to go on a hike, or even wander too far from their campground. For those who are seeking a view that is a little closer to the RV, Shades State Park is full of picnic areas. Many of the picnic areas also come equipped with a shelter to provide guests with some cool shade on a hot day and protect them from the rain when those surprise rain showers strike. The sheltered picnic areas are available by reservation only, so campers will want to make sure that they have reserved it in advance. Take a break from the hustle and bustle and eat a snack while enjoying the quiet stillness that can be found in Shades State Park.

In-Season

Attending Interpretive Programs

During the peak season, plenty of interpretive programs are offered at Shades State Park that give children and adults the opportunity to explore the beauty of the park while simultaneously learning about the cultural and natural history of the area. Programs such as the Indiana Master Naturalist Program and Patch programs are the perfect way to get children more interested in the natural world around them. It's a great reason to get out of the RV and learn more about nature's hidden treasures scattered throughout the park.

Fishing

The freshwater Sugar Creek that flows through the park is the perfect fishing destination for anglers of all ages. Over 70 species of fish live in the creek including smallmouth and largemouth bass, bluegill crappie, sunfish, and catfish. Visitors will need to review all current rules and regulations in the park before fishing to be sure that they are in compliance with the laws. They will also be required to have a state fishing license before casting their line.

Hiking

Hiking is one of the most popular activities at Shades State Park since there are several miles of trails winding through it. Taking the trails can be a great way to get some fresh air, observe wildlife, and get some great views of the awesome natural landscape. The trails vary in length and difficulty, but most of them are pretty rugged and better suited for experienced hikers. The trails will take visitors throughout the park and to several points of interest such as the Kickapoo Ravine and Shawnee Canyon.

Stargazing

After a long day of hiking, fishing, canoeing and more, there is nothing better than lying outside underneath the stars for a while to relax and wind down. Shades State Park is located in a very rural area, which means there will be hardly any lights to block your view of the night sky. As long as it is not too cloudy, campers will easily be able to spot major constellations as well as name several of the most famous stars and planets up above. Be sure to bring along a map of the night sky to help point out the constellations that are harder to see.

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