Resting almost 50 miles southwest of Indianapolis is Shades State Park, a hiker's dream come true. Shades State Park is often forgotten to other Indiana State Parks, but you're just missing out on all of the natural beauty that fills the park. The tall sandstone cliffs throughout the park overlook the picturesque Sugar Creek below, where canoeists flock year round. Any history lover knows that the steep cliffs had to be 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 and canyons and drastic terrain changes throughout the park have also formed several waterfalls that are as serene as they are beautiful. This unique terrain makes this park a must for any RVer.
Another neat feature, unique to only Shades State Park, is the small airfield which visitors used to land their planes on, although it is now defunct. Even though you can't land a plane in this historic park, you can canoe, fish, hike, picnic, and enjoy all of the beauty from Pine Hills Nature Reserve or one of the several nature overlooks throughout the park. The point is, there is lots to see in Shades State Park and something that will intrigue all members of the family during your RV adventure to Indiana.
RV Rentals in Shades State Park
Transportation in Shades State Park
Shades State Park can be accessed using State Road 234 after getting off of US 231 South. Once you get into the park you should slow way down because the roads are a bit winding, with a few hairpin turns. Although the campsites can accommodate RVs up to 55 feet, rigs this large will likely be difficult to maneuver throughout the roads. Taking it slow on the park roads will lead you to several parking areas scattered around the park, so even if you are just visiting for a day you have lots of parking options. If you choose to bring a second car with you it should be noted that no more than one type of vehicle is allowed on a campsite, so you would have to park it in the parking lot near the campgrounds. However, the exception to this is you can have a minibike or small moped or similar vehicle for each person at the campsite, which make excellent alternative modes of transportation for getting around the park if you don't want to tow and pay for an extra vehicle. 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.
Campgrounds and parking in Shades State Park
Campsites in Shades State Park
Shades State Park Campground
There are 105 non-electric pet-friendly campsites available at Shades State Park, which means it isn't super popular with the RV crowd, but that also means it usually isn't too busy so you can get a site by local sale when you arrive if you didn't make reservations. During the peak summer months it is still a good idea to make reservations, which can be made up to six months in advance. The park isn't unsuitable for RVs just because there are no electric sites, there is still a dumping station, showers, restrooms, water fill stations, and water hydrants. It's just not as luxurious as some other campgrounds and offers a slightly more primitive approach to camping.
The campground is made up for four loops, which have easy access to the nearby trails and playground. Unfortunately, there is no overnight camping available at Shades State Park from November to March, but don't let that stop you from dropping in and seeing what makes it so famous. There is overnight camping available just a few miles away at Turkey Run State Park if you really want to stay near the park. Separate backpack and canoe campsites are also available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Shades State Park Campground
No campsites are set aside for local sale only, so the only way to guarantee you will have a campsite is to reserve it in advance. Whatever sites are not reserved when you arrive can be booked on site, but it is done on a first-come, first-served basis.
Seasonal activities in Shades State Park
Hiking is one of the most popular activities at Shades State Park since there are several miles of trails winding through the park. Taking the trails can be a great way to get some spot 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 you all throughout the park and to several points of interest, including Kickapoo Ravine and Shawnee Canyon.
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, so you never know what you're going to get. Make sure you are complying with all rules and regulations, including any limits that may be in place, by obtaining a state fishing license before casting your line.
Attending Interpretive Programs
During the in-season plenty of interpretive programs are offered at Shades State Park that gives kids and adults the opportunity to explore the beauty of the park while learning about the cultural and natural history of it. These fun and engaging programs, such as the Indiana Master Naturalist Program and patch programs, are the perfect way to satisfy your adventurous nature-loving side or get children more interested in the natural world around them. It's also a great way to get out of the RV and learn more about the park.
The shady ravines and river that wind through the park are too dangerous to swim in, but make the perfect setting for canoeing. 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, canoeing can be a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon in the shade.
This park is overflowing with natural beauty, from scenic nature overlooks, to waterfalls cascading throughout the park, so there is plenty to see outside the rig. However, if you're willing to take a longer hike, some of the most scenic views and graceful wildlife lay in the Pine Hills Nature Preserve. The area is for hikers only and takes you through natural wonders such as Honeycomb Rock, Turkey Backbone, and the Devil's Backbone. On your journey you'll likely come across animals such as wild turkeys, coyotes, squirrels, deer, bald eagles, and several variations of warblers.
Shopping at Shades State Park is likely quite different from other shopping sprees you've been on, but there's plenty of still to gawk at and purchase in the park store. The store has some basic camping essentials that you may have forgotten to put in your RV and also tons of little trinkets and gifts to remember your visit by. However, the park store hours may vary so check the hours when you arrive and make sure you plan accordingly if you want to visit the store before you leave.