Indianapolis and the state of Indiana is under a “stay at home” order right now.
However, that doesn’t mean you cannot leave your house at all. There are lots of ways to get outside and do so safely. And in fact, getting outside in nature while keeping a safe distance from others (at least 6 feet) can do wonders for your mental and physical health.
As ordinances change daily, be sure to check with local authorities before heading out. During this time, know that all playgrounds, enclosed picnic areas, basketball courts, recreation centers and other areas where people can congregate are closed. You should also keep in mind these things:
- Do not use parks or trails if you are experiencing symptoms.
- Always maintain at least a 6-foot distance between yourself and others. This means no congregating, and only being around those in your household.
- Follow the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidance on personal hygiene before visiting parks and trails.
On nice days, more people will want to be outside — that’s just a given. On these days, it might seem like it’s more difficult than other days to practice social distancing. If you find yourself in a place where you can’t maintain proper social distancing, it’s best to leave and opt for a different place that is away from others. We want to ensure that parks and open spaces continue to be places that people can enjoy during this time, so we all need to do our part to enjoy these outdoor areas responsibly! Here are some ways to do that:
- Only venture out by yourself or with people from your household.
- Think local. Visit a park or nature area close to your home.
- If possible, visit parks during off-peak hours.
- Look for less popular trails or areas of the park.
- Remember to “Leave No Trace” when you visit a park. This means that everything that came with you into the park must also leave with you.
If you’re looking for some areas to enjoy nature while social distancing, consider one of these places!
1235 Central Park Dr. East, Carmel
This 159-acre park sits between 116th Street, 111th Street, College Avenue and Westfield Blvd. If you are looking for a more immersive nature experience, visit the east entrance of the park, where you will find unpaved (but clearly marked) paths and three miles of trails that go between prairies, wetlands and woodlands. On the other side of Central Park, you’ll find a boardwalk and paved paths and tunnels.
Cheeney Creek Natural Area
11030 Fishers Point Blvd., Fishers
Nature is waiting to be explored at this 25-acre wooded park in Fishers. This wildlife oasis is a northside hidden gen, you will find a grassland corridor that runs along the Cheeney Creek Greenway, which is a perfect place for a scenic hike in nature. This park is dedicated to preserving wildlife and its natural habitat, so birders will delight in hearing songbirds and waterbirds, and the woodland areas are known for abundant wildlife sightings, including deer, squirrels and more.
Cool Creek Park
2000 E. 151st St., Carmel
Drive past the playground (tell your kids to cover their eyes!) and head to the back of Cool Creek Park. That is where you will find the nature center — which is closed for the time being — and nature trails that lead into the woods. There is a 1-mile trail and a 1.5-mile trail, and both start at the nature center and are easy enough for all ages. Jump back in the car and drive even farther back into Cool Creek Park, and you will find even more wooded trails to hike, as well as a nature area with logs and tree stumps to jump on.
Creekside Nature Park
11001 E. Sycamore St., Zionsville
This little Zionsville park is located in a former floodplain, and includes trails that will take you alongside Eagle Creek. There are many places along the way to stop and observe nature — you will probably see lots of birds along the creek!
Daubenspeck Community Nature Park
8900 Ditch Rd., Indianapolis
Daubenspeck is a 22-acre urban oasis for nature lovers, and features bridges, boardwalks and an observation deck where you can view the restored prairie, woods, wetlands and more. The walking paths are mostly not paved, so be prepared to wear boots if you visit during wetter days.
Eagle Creek Park
7840 W. 56th St., Indianapolis
When you think about getting out and getting a good dose of nature, this is probably the park that most people in Indy think about. Eagle Creek Park typically asks for a small entrance fee, but right now, the gates are not being manned and they are asking that people use their park passes or the honor box for admission. You’ll find lots of hiking trails — some short and perfect for kids, but some longer and good for when you really need to walk. Eagle Creek has an Ornithology Center that is closed right now, but outside of the center is a bank of birdfeeders, and it’s a perfect place to stop for a minute and observe the birds who are visiting the area.
Flat Fork Creek Park
16141 E. 101st St., Fishers
This park is probably best known for its gigantic sledding hill, which, when it isn’t being used for that, is a great place to run up and down and burn off some energy. It is probably also well known for the treehouses that are located throughout the grounds, but for the time being, those are off limits and should be avoided while we are social distancing! But not to worry, there are lots of hiking trails that go along the river and into the woods.
Gray Park Loop
Southport Road & Sherman Dr., Indianapolis
Located just south of Indianapolis, Gray Park is a 0.8-mile trail in a forest setting that loops around, so you end up right back where you started. The trail is good for all skill levels and is primarily used for hiking, walking, trail running and nature trips. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
7350 N. College Ave., Indianapolis
This park, located in the Meridian Hills neighborhood, is unassuming. As you drive by it on College Avenue, it looks like … well, it looks like nothing but a big field and a parking lot. But walk toward the trees and you will see a trail opening. That will take you down into the most amazing and woodsy area that is perfect for hiking with young children. You’ll find bridges to cross, trails to travail and streams to splash.
Hazel Landing Park
10601 Hazel Dell Pkwy., Carmel
Look sharp when you’re driving on Hazel Dell Parkway, or you’re liable to miss the almost-hidden entrance of Hazel Landing Park, a park that sits against the White River. This park is basically a big, open field with a few wide, meandering trails that wind into the woods. It’s a good place to run around and get some energy out!
Pogue’s Run Art & Nature Park
2300 N. Dequincy St., Indianapolis
Take a walk around this trail that loops around while you view public art installations that are set among nature. The northern trailhead is located at I-70 and Emerson Street. The southern part of the trail begins at N. Olney Street just south of N. Brookside Pkwy Drive, and goes southwest before ending at Rural St. and S. Brookside Pkwy Drive. The trail runs through Brookside Park.
Fort Harrison State Park
5753 Glenn Rd., Indianapolis
Located on Indy’s northeast side, Fort Harrison State Park is an outdoor oasis. It is a huge park with lots of different walking trails, as well as some paved trails that are good for bike riding. The 2.75-mile hiking trail has some elevation changes, so it’s good for older kids and adults looking for more of a challenge. But the 1-mile hike on the south side of the park is perfect for kids and will allow you to see what’s blooming in the park this spring.
Ritchey Woods Nature Preserve
10410 Hague Rd., Fishers
This nature preserve in Hamilton County features greenways and lots of opportunities to get your daily dose of Vitamin N (Nature). Richey Woods includes 2.25 miles of nature trails that are perfect for walking, running and enjoying the sights and sounds of Indiana nature.
Skiles Test Nature Park
6828 Fall Creek Rd., Indianapolis
On the northeast side of Indy, you’ll find this 80-acre park located near Fall Creek Road and Shadeland. This nature park has lots of paths and trails for walking, and people looking for a slightly more challenging hike will appreciate the steep hill at the beginning of the trail. For those looking to get into the woods, there are numerous unpaved paths that wind throughout the park, some that will take you down to a creek down below.
Southeastway Regional Park
5624 S. Carroll Rd., Indianapolis
This sprawling nature park is 188 acres of hiking trails, paved bike paths, forest trails in 80 acres of forest, several prairies, a pond, Buck Creek, and a big hill. There are a couple of playgrounds at this park that you will need to avoid for the time being, but keep them in mind for when we’re all able to visit playgrounds again!