Shades State Park is located in Waveland, Indiana about 60 miles west of Indianapolis. If rugged hiking is your crew’s jam, then this is the park for you! This park is an absolute favorite of ours! The hiking trails are certainly rugged and will take you up the sandstone cliffs and down the shady ravines to some spectacular views of Sugar Creek. Even on the sunniest of days, an almost complete canopy of trees will provide some much-needed shade for these challenging hikes. You will want sturdy, waterproof footwear as most of the trails contain plenty of mud, slippery rocks, running water and trees or large boulders you will have to climb over. This park also offers both fishing and canoeing in Sugar Creek, however it is not safe for swimming.
Entrance Fee: $7 In State Daily Entrance, $9 Out of State Daily Entrance
Lodging: There is one non-electric campground and one youth tent area onsite. Reservations can be made here- Shades Camping.
Dining: Shades State Park has no food options onsite. There are several picnic areas and shelters for you to sit and enjoy food brought in with you.
Must Know Before You Go:
1. Most trails are quite rugged and wet so I highly recommend sturdy, waterproof hiking boots if you have them!
2. If you are not from the Midwest and are just visiting Indiana, I would recommend also spending a few days at Turkey Run, which is only 10 miles away!
Cell Service: No service on most of the trails. Occasionally, call only, but it is very sporadic.
Provided below is a very full, one day itinerary😊
One Day Itinerary
Trail 2- This 1.8-mile loop trail is marked rugged to very rugged and takes you to beautiful views of Sugar Creek, through Pearl Ravine and has you walking right over the lovely Maidenhair Falls. We absolutely love this trail! My one piece of advice- when you get to the split for the loop portion, go LEFT. It will have you climbing down an impressive amount of very steep stairs that I would definitely want to avoid climbing up. A gradual incline on the way back up will make it much easier to complete the rest of your day!
Six Ravine Challenge- The Six Ravine Challenge is the best way to see most of Shades State Park in one day. It makes for a very challenging but very awesome and adventurous day! Most of the trails on this challenge are considered rugged and there are three ladders between trails 4 and 5. Our crew has done these trails many times and often there are large trees down right across the ravine and large wet boulders to climb over most of your way through, so again, excellent shoes are a must😊 It is also very easy to take a wrong turn so I would definitely have a printed map with you before you head out ( https://www.in.gov/dnr/state-parks/files/sp-6RavineChallengeBrochure.pdf ). The map says this entire hike is 4.4 miles but honestly every time we’ve done it, we’ve marked it closer to 6 miles. There are also areas along the way to explore the creek, which we took advantage of, that could account for some extra mileage. Our kiddos love rock skipping, and Sugar Creek is a great place to do just that! 😊
Park at the Hickory Parking Lot for the entirety of the Six Ravine Challenge. Start at the east end of the parking lot. There are restrooms there to use before you head out and picnic and shelter areas if needed.
Trail 6-Start by taking a right onto Trail 6 (just past the first set of picnic tables, before you get to the larger restrooms). Trail 6 will take you through your first ravine- Red Fox Ravine. If you get to any splits in the trail, remember you want to go through the ravine, so choose the one that keeps you heading down into the ravine, not up. Once you are down in the ravine there is not much obvious trail so keep walking straight through the ravine until you find more marked trail.
Trail 9- Trail 6 will dead end you into Trail 9. You will come to a 4-way split. Do NOT go either way that is marked Trail 9, instead go left toward the pond. Once you are at the pond, continue on Trail 9, past a parking lot and restrooms until you reach Trail 1.
Trail 1- Shortly after getting on Trail 1, it will split. Go to the right, down the stairs, into the Devil’s Punchbowl (NOT left into the forest via a boardwalk). Once down in the Devil’s Punchbowl (you’ll know your there by the sufficiently dark and creepy vibes of the whole place), you can explore to the left a little bit before heading on the rest of the trail to the right. There will be very little on this trail that looks like actual marked trail. Just follow the path through the large sandstone cliffs. This area is beautiful and probably our favorite portion of the park😊 Trail 1 will run right into Silver Cascade Falls where there will be a lengthy set of stairs to your left. Head up the stairs to continue Trail 1. Once at the top, after you catch your breath, head right to Inspiration Point and Prospect Point for gorgeous views of Sugar Creek. You can not see much at Inspiration Point in the summer with the tree coverage but do not miss Prospect Point, as the views are amazing all year round! Trail 1 will take you back to the picnic, shelter and restroom areas. If you head right, across the field, playground and shelter, just past the bathrooms is the start of Trail 5.
Trail 5- The first part of Trail 5 will take you down through Kintz Ravine. When you get to the bottom, head left to continue back up the ravine to finish the rest of Trail 5. The first part of this trail is definitely rugged, as it has you climbing down the ravine over very rocky, very muddy terrain and includes one ladder you will have to tackle. Going up the ravine is more moderate in difficulty, as its only real challenge is the elevation change. Once you have made your way back up, Trail 4 will start to your right.
Trail 4- Trail 4 is very similar to Trail 5. You will walk down into Fisz Ravine, on very rocky and muddy terrain but will have to tackle two ladders instead of one this time. The second ladder is very tall and very steep, so it was obviously a favorite of ours! Once at the bottom of Trail 4, it will be time to head back up, head left to continue Trail 4. This portion of the trail’s only challenge is that its all uphill. Once at the top, head right for Trail 7.
Trail 7- The place you are most likely to get lost- between the start of Trail 7 and the start of Trail 8, so this is where you will definitely need a map! When you look at the map, your crew will be skipping the whole first part of Trail 7. At the first split (it is not well labeled), you will want to go left at Trail 7. Do not go right (like you have the last few ravines), or you will head into Trail 8 and completely miss the ravine. Once headed in the right direction on Trail 7, you will eventually come to a set of stairs with a sign that says, “This way to Trail 8”. Do NOT take those stairs. Instead, head right (which will be unmarked) to continue into Kickapoo Ravine on Trail 7. Take this trail all the way to Sugar Creek and head left to pick up Trail 8. We stopped at Sugar Creek for a quick rest, snack and rock skipping competition before heading up Trail 8.
Trail 8- Trail 8 is by far the most difficult and rugged, saving the best for last! Most of the way will be climbing up hill, over very large slippery rocks through Shawnee Ravine. Almost no part of this ravine looks like it should be trail, which is exactly why we love it! You will have to get creative in finding your own way up😊 Once you are through the ravine, there will be a set of stairs to your left. Head up the stairs and turn right at the top to take the Backpack Trail back to your car.
Backpack Trail- This is the last part of the day! And the easiest way back to your car. Luckily it is very flat and free of any tough terrain. Its only challenge is that portions of this trail can get pretty muddy, but after everything else you’ve walked through today, you should be more than fine!
* If you are up for two days of hiking, I would recommend doing the 6-ravine challenge on day one and hiking Trail 2 and 10 on day 2. Trail 10 will take you into the Pine Hills Nature Preserve which is another beautiful area to explore!
Hope you have a wonderful adventure!