Backpacking in Indiana: TOP 5 Multi-Day Trails

Backpacking in Indiana: Forest Trail

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

Backpacking in Indiana is a wonderful way to discover the state’s diverse and breathtaking landscapes. Known for its rolling hills, dense forests, and picturesque lakes, Indiana provides a variety of environments for outdoor enthusiasts to explore.

From the rugged trails of the Hoosier National Forest, which covers nearly 203,000 acres in the southern part of the state, to the scenic paths along the shores of Indiana Dunes National Park on Lake Michigan, the Hoosier State offers a range of incredible backpacking experiences.

In this guide, we’ll share essential tips and the TOP 5 multi-day trails to conquer in Indiana. Whether you’re a veteran backpacker seeking a new adventure or a novice ready to embark on your first wilderness journey, Indiana has something to offer every skill level.

Interested? Let’s get started.

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. Bodies of water may have snapping turtles, so handle them carefully.
  • Wild 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 times to go 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 Backpacking Trails in Indiana

Here are the best multi-day backpacking trails in Indiana:

1. Tecumseh Trail

A breathtaking Monday night sunset casts a golden glow over the tranquil waters of Yellowwood Lake, nestled within the Yellowwood State Forest between Bloomington and Nashville, Indiana

d_stalion, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 41.1 mi / 66.1 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 4498 ft / 1371 m
Location: Morgan Monroe State Forest
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 14 200 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Embark on a challenging 41.1-mile point-to-point trail near Unionville, Indiana, best visited from March to October. This well-marked trail offers backpacking, birding, camping, and occasional solitude. Be prepared for ticks, limited water, muddy conditions, and creative creek crossings. Enjoy the shelter on Indian Hill and embrace the thru-hike adventure in all weather.

2. German Ridge Trail

The German Ridge Trail in Hoosier National Forest showcases a stunning autumn landscape with vibrant foliage.

Steven Higgs, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 18.4 mi / 29.6 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 2496 ft / 761 m
Location: German Ridge Recreation Area
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 7150 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Discover the challenging 18.4-mile German Ridge Trail loop near Rome, Indiana, perfect for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. This well-marked, year-round trail offers seclusion, diverse landscapes, and Ohio River views. Rated 5/5 for conditions, cleanliness, and scenery, the trail features clean vault toilets at the campgrounds. Enjoy the rocks, bluffs, and solitude on this excellent trail.

3. 140-Mile Visionary Trail

The Brown County State Park Overlook offers a breathtaking view of the landscape during the tranquil moments after sunset

Elizabeth Nicodemus, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 141.8 mi / 228.2 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 18 211 ft / 5551 m
Location: Borden
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 35 500 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Embark on a challenging 141.8-mile point-to-point trail near Borden, Indiana, ideal for backpacking, camping, and hiking in solitude. This extension of the Knobstone Trail connects to the Pioneer Trail and Hoosier National Forest, featuring a mix of well-maintained trails, scenic road walks, and access points for convenient shuttling. Though easy to get lost in some areas, the trail is generally well-marked.

4. The Adventure Hiking Trail Loop

The historic 100-foot (30 m) fire tower at O'Bannon Woods State Park, formerly Wyandotte Woods State Recreation Area, provides a stunning panoramic view of the park and Ohio River valley, once used to keep watch for wildfires in the early days

Paul, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 23.5 mi / 37.8 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 3861 ft / 1177 m
Location: O’Bannon Woods State Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 7500 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Explore this challenging 23.5-mile loop trail near Leavenworth, Indiana, perfect for backpacking, camping, and hiking from April through October. Enjoy solitude on well-marked trails, with water available at the horsecamp’s Bathhouse building A. Detour around logging operations using the Turkey Ridge horse trail. Find water sources like springs, streams, and ponds. Bring a map and compass, and consider using a horse trail map for a comprehensive view of the area.

5. Adena Trace Loop

Brookville Lake shimmers under a clear blue sky on a beautiful sunny day, showcasing the natural beauty of the area

Anna Hesser, CC BY-SA 2.0, via flickr

Length: 24 mi / 38.6 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 2519 ft / 768 m
Location: Brookville Lake Recreation Area
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 7200 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Explore this challenging 24.0-mile loop trail near Brookville, Indiana, ideal for backpacking, hiking, and running from March through June. Enjoy well-maintained, marked trails and ample water sources in a secluded setting. If camping overnight, check in at the main entrance, 2.4 miles from the camp store. Wear waterproof shoes and bring extra sandals for creek crossings during spring rains.

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.

Alternative Backpacking Destinations

Not sure if Indiana is right for you?

Don’t forget to check out our backpacking guides for Ohio and Michigan.


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.

Spread the word →

Why you should trust us

At Hikinglite, we're all about helping you hit the trails with lightweight and ultralight outdoor gear that won't weigh you down. Our crew of content creators? Real outdoor enthusiasts who've logged countless miles on the trails.

Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

Have any questions?

More Insights

Suscribe to Our Newsletter

Stay smartly informed with our weekly newsletter

Follow us

hikinglite logo white
© 2024 Hikinglite - All rights reserved

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe now to stay ahead of the pack with the most up-to-date outdoor content.