One of the great things about living in Indianapolis is the sheer number of parks and the proximity to some amazing hiking trails and paths. Driving around the city, you don’t have to go far before you discover yet another place to play with your children. Many of these parks not only have play equipment and hard surfaces for sports activities, but they also have hiking trails that you can enjoy. Escape urban living for minutes or hours and enjoy the great outdoors in the center of a bustling city.
Where to go Hiking with Kids in Indianapolis
There’s no question that there are some very special places to go hiking, but the best spots for a hike with kids are really in the eye of the beholder. We look for hikes with a variety of trail distances and terrain. We love places that have nature centers or special kits or nature backpacks for making the hike more interactive with nature.
The EcoLab at Marian University
This is our top pick for hiking with young children and preschoolers. The EcoLab at Marian University is open to the public for exploration and is also available for field trips, guided hikes, summer camps, and more. The NMP EcoLab boasts native plants, birds, beavers, bugs, owls, and more wildlife. There are so many things to see at the EcoLab, and there are even scheduled nature programs during certain times of the year. Check the calendar for birdwatches, beaver educational events, and more.
How to get to the Eco Lab: Parking is available off the driveway from Cold Spring Road. If the gate is closed or parking is full, find spots above the Eco Lab near the Allison Mansion. Please pay attention to parking restrictions.
Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park
The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park, also known as the 100 Acres at Newfields, is free and open to the public. Guided hiking tours are available during specific times, but the trails aren’t too difficult to navigate on your own. Take the long hike around the lake or explore the art sculptures throughout the park. Mobile tours are available on your smartphone.
Eagle Creek Park
Eagle Creek Park is one of the largest city parks in America and is definitely one of the gems of Indianapolis. There are a variety of activities to enjoy such as the Ornithology and Earth Discovery Centers, boat rental, playgrounds, and the swimming beach. Eagle Creek also boasts a number of hiking trails that the whole family can enjoy. Pack a picnic lunch and make it a day trip that you’ll want to repeat often!
If you know me, then you have heard about why Holliday Park my favorite park in the city! A nature center, great playgrounds, a number of shady spots for picnics and Frisbee, combined with the beauty of the “Ruins” make this a park you can find me at year-round. The hiking paths are easy enough for my 3-year-old, but long enough to get lost in for over an hour. Paths lead hikers down to the White River where there are plenty of opportunities to go creek stomping. Here are a few more places you can creek stomp, too.
Fort Benjamin Harrison
Enjoy many different types of trails including staircases, elevated boardwalks that overlook the river, paved trails great for stroller hiking, and wooded trails for more challenging terrain.
Flowing Well Park
In addition to trails for hiking, Flowing Well Park has cold drinking water that flows from a well (hello, namesake), wetlands, fishing and a creek for splashing around in.
Have you already visited Eagle Creek and Holliday Park and want to go hiking somewhere less popular? Check out Southeastway Park or Marott Park for urban hiking experiences that everyone will enjoy. You definitely don’t have to leave the city to feel like you’ve escaped the hustle and bustle!
StoryWalk Hikes Near Indianapolis
StoryWalk® was created by Anne Ferguson in 2007 as a way to encourage kids to stay healthy and active. The premise is book pages are laminated and posted along a trail and you follow the trail to read the story. The trail is typically about a quarter of a mile. These engaging, literary strolls are popping up everywhere, but here are a couple to get you started.
Each month, the Fishers Library and Fishers Parks and Rec reveal a new story on their StoryWalk. The StoryWalk rotates between Ritchey Woods, Billericay Park, and AMP Theater.
Hummel Park Story Walk in Plainfield
The displays include a complete picture book with literacy activities to enjoy together and at the end of the story a list of suggested books to read and activities to do outdoors. There are 18 displays at Hummel park, with each display featuring a page of the deconstructed book. The StoryWalk at Hummel Park begins at the playground and follows the trail towards the Splash Pad and Restrooms. The trail is an easy-to-walk, non-gravel trail for all walking abilities and is accessible for adults and children in wheelchairs.
Stroller Friendly Hikes for Families
Maybe you have very young children and are often pushing a stroller. Or perhaps you have multiple children and you can’t baby-wear all of them. No worries – we have you covered! Here are some more great hiking (well, more like scenic walking) experiences that you can do with your children in tow. Get outside and enjoy the great outdoors.
If you live in Indianapolis, surely you know about or have frequented the Monon Trail. Try something a little different next time and make it a fun event! Park near the 75th street entrance to the trails and walk south to Broad Ripple. Once you hit Broad Ripple you can grab lunch, coffee and snacks, or ice cream at the trailside ice cream parlor BRICS. Other similar paved trails include the Zionsville Rail Trail, Pennsy Trail in Greenfield, Fisher’s Nickel Plate Trail, and the Fall Creek Trail. Note that the north part of the Fall Creek Trail has some crushed rock, so this wouldn’t be great for lightweight strollers.
The “Tow Path” that runs from the Monon along the canal south will lead you past several other stroller-friendly walking trails including the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s 100 Acres Art Park. This park has a number of art installations, throughout the woods, and around a lake. From the 100 Acres you can cross the bridge over to Butler’s campus to explore Holcomb Gardens. Better yet, park in Broad Ripple to walk or bike the path and experience all three trails in one day!
Many other parks have walking spaces that are stroller-friendly, as well. There are paved and unpaved trails at Independence Park, Fort Benjamin Harrison, Meadowlark Park, Holliday Park, to name a few.