After driving many hours through mostly flat farmland, it’s kind of a shock to make the turn into Turkey Run State Park, located near Marshall, IN. I had long wanted to visit based on descriptions friends had shared. It seemed similar to Starved Rock State Park (near Utica, IL), but a step up in difficulty in terms of hiking. (Most Midwest hiking isn’t particularly arduous or mentally demanding, so it’s worth searching out more difficult options.)
We arrived midday Saturday and the parking lot was pretty full, including several tour buses. I’m not a fan of crowds, especially when outdoors (getting away from people is why I head outside), but I was expecting it and just hoped it wasn’t too bad. After lunch at some tables near the car, we headed to the Nature Center to see what we could find there. Friendly staff but not a lot to see in there, so we kept it moving.
My six year old LOVED the suspension bridge – it easily was his favorite thing about the whole trip. He was really impressed with the cables, the cement anchors, and the way he could make it sway while crossing.
Once across, we headed along our chosen route – trails 3, 10, and 4 back to the bridge. It didn’t take too long before we knew we wouldn’t be doing Trail 4, as little legs are not readily made to climb over relentless rocks and up and down endless stairs. We kept the hiking at a reasonable pace and enjoyed splashing through the water and mud as we moved up the canyons to the ladders that climb a series of waterfalls. Initially a bit of a worry, my six year old had no problems scampering up the ladders and was only disappointed that there were only 3 of them. They really are a cool feature. Trail 10 proved to be mostly flat and meandering and, while a pretty walk, not as exciting as the trails through the canyons. Next time we’ll add 4 instead of 10 and see how that goes.
Hiking done, we headed over to the Turkey Run Inn, one of 7 Indiana State Park Inns scattered around the state. Originally built in 1919, the Inn has been expanded several times and undergone other renovations as well. In general, the Inn is in reasonable shape, though it does shows sign of its age, and funky smells occasionally pop up. The enclosed pool was an amenity we used both days (we suggest you bring goggles). The onsite Narrows restaurant is reasonably priced, but the decor and food are uninspiring, while the service is so-so (the ability of the waitstaff seemed all over the board in my opinion, some training to create some uniformity would be nice). I’m nitpicking somewhat and I know states in general have budget difficulties, but this is a beautiful old building that, with some money put into upkeep and training for the staff could easily become a destination worth driving for.
Sunday morning, we played in the pool and generally lazed about until checkout time. with rain forecast the entire day, we weren’t expecting too many people on the trails and we were right. While Saturday’s crowds numbered in the many hundreds at least, on Sunday we saw only about 30 people in all and got to hike in solitude for long stretches. We reprised our Trail 3 start (ladders!), then added a portion of Trail 5 and all of Trail 9 to boot. Trail 9 has a beautiful waterfall that we hadn’t read about so, even though it’s not one of the easier trails, we highly recommend including it on your itinerary.
And the rain? It rained before our hike and after our hike, but we didn’t feel a drop while walking until we literally were back at the car. The hiking gods love us!
The 3 hour drive home was uneventful (except stopping to check out an old armory and climb on a tank).
We’ll be back, to bring the rest of the family, perhaps canoe or kayak Sugar Creek, and definitely try our the horseback riding.