Looking for a place to take a summer hike away from the crowds? These are 13 of the top places to get outdoors before summer is over and guess what? They’re all protected by land trusts!
Plan your visit by going to the land trust’s website and/or social media pages for hours and policies.
Levinson-LaBrosse Lakes and Wetlands Education Center
Protected by Wawasee Area Conservancy Foundation in Kosciusko County
Take any of the three trails at Levinson-LaBrosse Lakes & Wetland Education Center in Kosciusko County to enjoy stunning wetlands, woodlands, and lakeshore. Take a late summer hike to see the most colorful display of blooms, especially on the lakefront and in the Memory Garden.
Protected by Little River Wetlands Project in Fort Wayne
Protected by Shirley Heinze Land Trust in Lake County
One of the rarest ecosystems in the state, the black-soil prairie at Cressmoor Prairie, has been dedicated an Indiana state nature preserve. Black soil prairies were once the most common prairies in Indiana. However, their rich, fertile soil was among the very finest agricultural ground anywhere in the world, so most were plowed under for farming. As a result, black soil prairies are exceedingly rare.
Take a summer hike on the trail in August and September and you’ll know the wonder that early settlers felt when they emerged from the great eastern forest to discover the sea of grassland that stretched from here to the foothills of the Rockies. Grasses reach eight feet skyward, sunflowers even higher. Visitors can expect unique plant life including compass plant (Silphium laciniatum), rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), rough blazing star (Liatris aspera), and whorled milkweed (Asclepias verticillata).
Protected by Indiana Karst Conservancy in Lawrence County
This is another dedicated Indiana nature preserve to add to your bucket list!
Protecting 37 acres of rolling land containing sinkholes, ponds, and caves, Buddha Karst Preserve offers an interpretive trail so that visitors can take in the unique beauty while learning about the landscape. While hiking through a 20-year old young hardwood forest, you can see a variety of ferns and mosses along the limestone karst features.
Part of the Long Ridge conservation area, Meyer Nature Preserve’s steep slopes, ridges and valleys offer a dramatic hike through a large forest block unbroken by roads. Its forest interior habitat shelters rare native species like Eastern box turtle and the state-endangered cerulean warbler.
Plants characteristic of the acidic, sharply drained soil of the ridges are chestnut oak, black oak, pignut hickory, greenbriar, and star chickweed. American beech, red oak, and white ash are found in the more protected ravines of this beautiful state-dedicated nature preserve, and in August, visitors may get to see the unique Ghost pipe plant!
Protected by LC Nature Park in Allen County
Located in the historic Little River Valley, LC Nature Park was once the reserve of Akima Neewilenkwanka (Chief Bigleg) of the Myaamia (Miami) Nation.
On the website aacimotaatiiyankwi.org, historian Dr. John Bickers, Ph. D wrote,
“Growing up, [Chief Bigleg], would have played games that helped prepare boys for a life as hunters. One particular game that was played with bow and arrow consisted of someone throwing a ball, which was formed out of twisted bark, into the air and the shooter would try to hit the ball with an arrow while it was in the air.”
This unique park honors the past while protecting the natural features for generations to come. Beat the heat exploring the shady forest, and view bison and elk that graze nearby in the restored tallgrass prairie as pollinators abound. All programs and visits are scheduled and guided for your safety and the wellbeing of the bison and elk that live on the preserve.
Let’s go to the beech! The loop trail at Fall Creek Woods is a fantastic hike any month of the year. Winding through Smith-Crisler state dedicated nature preserve, this site features massive trees, steep bluffs, and a wandering creek. Visitors can experience many stages of growth of an Indiana forest, from young trees to towering ancients.
The diverse landscape provides a more challenging hike. Enjoy the view from a bench overlooking a glacially-carved bluff and soak in the beauty of the woods. A large stand of maple trees makes this a dazzling autumn destination. In the summer, a colorful prairie next to the parking lot attracts birds and butterflies.
During your hike, keep an eye and ear out for red-bellied woodpeckers, red-eyed vireos, foxes, and don’t forget to admire the beech trees (big ‘uns!)
Visitors to Pehkokia Woods will find a peaceful retreat through a variety of habitats. As you enter the preserve, trails through rolling upland woods bisected by 20-foot deep ravines caused by natural erosion. In the fall, oak, hickory, beech and black cherry trees put on a colorful show of changing leaves.
Continue through Pehkokia’s grassland area where, even into September, you’ll enjoy the display of flowers like compass plant, purple coneflower and rattlesnake master. You can also find waterfowl and sunbathing turtles in the preserve’s two ponds.
Jackson-Schnyder Nature Preserve’s “Julius” Trail
Protected by Ouabache Land Conservancy in Vigo County
Set your sights on this easy hike west of Terre Haute, where the Julius Trail traverses a 4-acre restored prairie. Summer hikers will enjoy seeing compass plant, cup plant, rosinweed, wild bee balm, and prairie dock and the pollinators that find refuge here. “Full glorious bloom” is typically enjoyed in August.
Prefer to beat the heat? Jackson-Schnyder Nature Preserve also protects old growth forest on rolling ravines, making it a good option for getting outdoors without the full force of the summer sun!
Protected by Oak Heritage Conservancy in Ohio County
Just outside of Rising Sun, visitors to Monarch Meadows Nature Preserve can find themselves surrounded by dense swaths of wildflowers, humming with the breeze and the sound of hundreds of butterflies and happy pollinators. Before Oak Heritage Conservancy protected the land in 2018, Chrys Cook, an OHC Board Member at the time, knew this place was special: it was home to more Monarch butterflies than anywhere else she’d visited in southern Indiana. Monarch numbers had been falling for years, the board knew they had to try to protect the land where they still thrive.
To see the preserve in full bloom, visit in late July through August!
Brennan Woods at Clear Lake Nature Preserve
Protected by Clear Lake Township Land Conservancy in Steuben County
This open-grown oak forest is part of Clear Lake Nature Preserve. The trail and boardwalk take hikers through the property where they can observe red-headed woodpecker, great-spangled fritillary and giant swallowtail butterflies, and American toads that make their home among the towering oaks and colorful wildflowers.
Protected by Oxbow, Inc. in Dearborn County
Bird enthusiasts will especially enjoy a visit to the Oxbow. This is the site of a 2500-acre spread of river bottom farmland and wetlands in the central Ohio Valley. The southbound migration of shorebirds, waders and other waterfowl is well underway by late August through September, and the wetlands here are a busy staging ground where migrants fuel up for the next leg of their journey.
Upcoming event: Evening Fall Birding Walk: August 25, 2023 at 6 pm
Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve, Boonville Trail
Protected by Wesselman Woods in Vanderburgh County
If you haven’t visited an old-growth forest, this is your sign to plan a trip to Evansville to experience Wesselman Woods Nature Preserve. This plot of land is the largest tract of virgin forest within any city limits in the United States.
This dedicated Indiana nature preserve and National Natural Landmark protects trees older than the City of Evansville (founded in 1812). Visit the Boonville Trail to find a Champion Biltmore Ash and Champion Chinquapin Oak, surviving remnants of southern Indiana’s original forests. Under these ancient trees, hikers will also enjoy seeing jewelweed and spiderwort along the trail.