Backpacking in Indiana: Tips & Trails

Backpacking in Indiana: Forest Trail

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Backpacking in Indiana is pretty easy because the state is mostly flat. The trails take you through shady woods and near creeks and ponds, making it a fun place to adventure.

We recommend exploring places such as Hoosier National Forest and Shades State Park, both of which provide delightful nature trails through forests, hills, and along lakeshores.

But do read on, as this post is all about backpacking in Indiana from an ultralight perspective. We’ll provide you with some useful tips to get ready for your upcoming outdoor adventure.

We’ll highlight the TOP 5 trails in Indiana, divided into two groups: day hikes under 20 miles and multi-day trips with opportunities to restock your supplies every few days.

Key Tips for Backpacking in Indiana

  • What to expect: The landscape is generally flat, featuring rolling hills, valleys, and bluffs in specific areas. The elevation stays below 1,000 feet, and the trails vary from easy to moderately strenuous. Aside from a few well-known parks and trails, the Indiana backcountry offers peaceful and quiet surroundings. Be prepared for changing weather conditions.
  • Essential gear: When hiking or backpacking in Indiana, bring water filtration for natural sources, permethrin spray for ticks, tick removal tools, ankle gaiters for debris, anti-itch creams, mosquito nets, and bear bags (to protect food from raccoons). Also, include snake bite kits for remote areas.
  • Wildlife: Be aware of venomous snakes like copperheads and timber rattlesnakes in bushes and tall grass. Though black bears are rare, raccoons and foxes may try to steal food at night. Watch out for disease-carrying ticks in the brush. Be cautious around spiders like brown recluses and black widows in woodpiles. Rivers and lakes may have snapping turtles, so handle them carefully to avoid harm.
  • Wild camping: Camping in Indiana is mainly limited to designated campgrounds or backpack sites, with fewer options for wild camping. Some national forests and wildlife areas permit dispersed camping, but there are rules on group size, stay duration, and proximity to trails and water sources. Checking regulations for specific public lands is crucial, as policies vary. Overall, options for primitive camping are fewer compared to the western states.
  • Best time to go: The most ideal times to hike and camp in Indiana are spring and fall when daytime temperatures are mild and bugs aren’t as bothersome. Late April through May sees wildflowers blooming while September to November offers cooler weather and fall views. Summer brings more crowds, heat, humidity, and insects. In winter, trails are accessible but prepare for frigid temps, snow, ice, and fewer daylight hours.

Top 5 Day Hikes (Under 20 Miles)

Check out these great day hikes in Indiana where using lightweight gear will make your adventure even better:

  1. Clifty Falls, Hoffman Falls, Tunnel Falls (6.1 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Low Gap Trail (10.3 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Three Lakes Trail (10.6 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Lake Monroe Peninsula Trail (10.1 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Turkey Run Outer Loop (6.3 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Top 5 Multi-Day Trips

Discover these picturesque trails in Indiana, where you can find places to restock on supplies at least every two days:

  1. Tecumseh Trail (41.1 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Knobstone Trail (41.8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. 140-Mile Visionary Trail (141.8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. The Adventure Hiking Trail Loop (23.5 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Adena Trace Loop (24 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Annual Weather Averages

The great outdoors in Indiana experiences a diverse climate with four distinct seasons:

  • Winter (December to February): During the day, it’s usually around 30°F to 40°F (-1°C to 4°C). Nights can get colder, between 15°F to 25°F (-9°C to -4°C).
  • Spring (March to May): Daytime temperatures slowly go up, ranging from 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C). Nights vary from 30°F to 50°F (-1°C to 10°C).
  • Summer (June to August): It gets warm to hot, with daytime temperatures between 75°F to 90°F (24°C to 32°C). Nights are mild, around 55°F to 70°F (13°C to 21°C).
  • Fall (September to November): Days cool down, ranging from 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C). Nights get cooler, between 30°F to 50°F (-1°C to 10°C).

Before you make your gear selection and head to the trailhead, take a look at the weather statistics for Indiana (Indianapolis):

High °F364152647482858377655240
Low °F232635455564676556473727
Rain/Snow (D*)77911121212108888
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.
D* – Days of rain or snow.


Can I have a campfire while backpacking in Indiana?

While backpacking in Indiana, having a campfire is generally allowed. However, it’s important to check regulations for specific areas and seasons. Always follow any fire bans in effect, especially during dry conditions. If you plan on cooking over the fire, we recommend bringing a lightweight backup.

How to navigate through the wilderness while backpacking in Indiana?

Successfully navigating the wilderness while backpacking in Indiana requires being prepared with a few essential items in your bag. While hiking apps such as AllTrails or Komoot can aid navigation, also carry a detailed topographic map of the area you’ll be exploring and know how to read it. An accurate compass is also essential gear to help orient yourself and stay on course if you lose phone signal.

Is it necessary to obtain permits for backpacking in Indiana?

When embarking on a wilderness exploration in the Midwestern state of Indiana, backpackers should note that permits are generally not required for backpacking throughout most of the state’s public lands, parks, and forests. However, for certain designated wilderness areas, longer treks, or camping in particular protected sites, permits or registrations may be necessary.

What are some safety tips for backpacking in Indiana?

Journey into Indiana’s forests and meadows for a backpacking adventure immersed in nature, but remember to prioritize safety. Before following winding trails, acquire a detailed map and inform others of your planned route. Pack bright clothing, first-aid kit, flashlight, whistle, and plenty of water in your bag. Watch footing on uneven ground and near streams. Make noise to avoid surprising wildlife concealed in the lush natural landscape. Keep food properly stored at night to deter animals. With adequate precautions taken, you can fully revel in the Hoosier State’s natural splendor. Stay alert, be prepared for the unexpected, and focus on caution and responsibility so your Indiana backpacking trip can be the stirring adventure you envision while keeping safety first in the wilderness.

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