It’s autumn, the season of crisp air, blue skies and a colorful display of fall foliage. This is the time of year when there’s no better place to be than outside enjoying the beautiful weather. Whether you and your family want to spend a single afternoon hiking in the forest or a long weekend climbing sand dunes, we’ve hand-picked five fun fall getaways to help you take advantage of the season.
Deemed “Indiana’s National Treasure,” Hoosier National Forest is 203,000 acres of outdoor recreation located in the heart of south central Indiana. Stunning any time of year, the forest is especially captivating in the fall when the leaves change color and the waterfalls are ripe with summer rains. The forest offers a plethora of outdoor activities that will suit the likes of everyone in your family – from hiking Buzzard Roost, a scenic trail along the Ohio River, to fishing off the piers on Sundance Lake. Both campgrounds and cabins offer accommodation in the forest but no matter where you sleep your family will be happy cozying up around the campfire in the cool evening air.
Hoosier National Forest (Park Headquarters)
811 Constitution Avenue, Bedford, IN
There’s nothing like watching the landscape pass by from the window of a train, and that’s especially true during autumn when the leaves begin to change color. Winding its way through southern Indiana, the French Lick Scenic Railway claims some of the best scenery in the Midwest and is the perfect way to take in the changing fall foliage. Scenic train excursions carry passengers through the Hoosier National Forest, past limestone rock formations and through the Burton Tunnel, one of Indiana’s longest railroad tunnels. The 18-mile round trip lasts nearly two hours and is a great way to spend time with the family while taking in the best of what autumn has to offer.
French Lick Scenic Railway
8594 West State Road 56, French Lick, IN
Located on the southern tip of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes State Park is the perfect place to slip into nature for the weekend. The park has over 2,000 acres of land for visitors to hike and camp in and ten swimmable beaches perfect for fitting in one last late-season swim. Of course, the main attraction at Indiana Dunes State Park is the dunes. Formed by the winds off of Lake Michigan, the impressive sand dunes tower almost 200 feet above the lake. A number of short hiking trails lead to the top of the dunes where hikers are awarded with unobstructed views of the lake. If your family likes a mix of city and nature, Chicago is only 45 miles to the west and makes for a great day trip. Likewise, the small communities surrounding Indiana Dunes State Park are quaint, charming and bursting with inns, restaurants and shops for visitors to enjoy.
Indiana Dunes State Park
1600 N. 25 E., Chesterton, IN
Well-known for its four major waterfalls and countless smaller falls, Clifty Falls State Park is the perfect weekend destination. Amateur archeologists will enjoy spotting fossils in Clifty Creek (but please don’t take them, fossil collecting is illegal in the park) and the stunning fall scenery is a photographer’s dream. Families can book a room in the historic Clifty Inn nestled on the Ohio River. Though camping in the park is also an option, the inn boasts a pool to keep the kids happy and a hot tub to help adults unwind. For a fun afternoon away from the park visit nearby Madison, Indiana, a small town well known for its antiquing, wineries and quaint bed and breakfasts.
Clifty Falls State Park
2221 Clifty Drive, Madison, IN
Less than 100 years ago it was possible to look into the night sky and see an unbelievable number of stars. Today, due to light pollution, there are many places in the United States where stars are no longer visible to the naked eye. Children born today may never see a night sky bursting with stars. For those kids, the Milky Way will be a natural phenomenon they only ever hear about. But the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is trying to change that. Committed to protecting the night skies for present and future generations, IDA certifies dark-sky parks, communities and sanctuaries around the world. One such place is Potawatomi Wildlife Park in Tippecanoe, Indiana. The preserve is Indiana’s first dark-sky preserve, 300-acres of forest and wetlands that allows amateur astronomers to observe the stars after dark. Before making the trip with your family call ahead to ensure access, then pack a blanket and prepare to stargaze.
Potawatomi Wildlife Park
16998 State Road 331, Tippecanoe, IN
This time of year just begs for a little road trip to take advantage of the season. So, grab the kids and hop in the car for a fun getaway before that first snowflake flies!