Written By Katie Surfleet from Hiatt Magical Vacations
When I was a child growing up in Arizona, my family’s favorite activity to do together was camping. I loved everything about it! The smell of the ponderosa pines, the crackling of the campfire, searching for critters like horned toads (we called them horny toads), breathing in the fresh crisp air and taking in the various sights and sounds of sweet mother nature. A sweet memory that I will forever treasure is that my brother and I use to place coins with a dated little note in bags and bury them on hikes for someone else to find our treasure one day.
When I started my own family in Indiana, I wanted to instill that same love of the great outdoors in my son. We did our first family camping trip when my son was 5, and we also fell in love with the beautiful Indiana State Parks from that point forward. 7 years later, and we are still going strong with the camping. We initially started off with tent camping, but we have since invested in a Jayco X213 travel trailer that we have been enjoying for the last few years. There is no wrong way to camp! Find your style and go with it! All that matters is that you are having fun and creating wonderful memories. Camping is a wonderful multi-generational activity that can be enjoyed by all ages and abilities.
Every year, my family invests in an annual Indiana State Park Pass, since we visit the parks so frequently throughout the year. You can purchase a pass/permit at any of the 32 State Park property locations across the state. State Park permits can also be purchased online at this link.
My son and I purchase one for my husband every year at Christmas, so it can be enjoyed throughout the upcoming year. Did you know that camping is available year-round at Indiana State Parks? If you plan to camp during the winter, be sure to check out these tips offered on the DNR’s website.
Camping can also be enjoyed by “glamping.” You can rent a cabin or reserve a room at a lodge at many of Indiana’s State Parks. Visit this link to view locations and rates for cabin rentals. For information on reserving rooms at one of Indiana’s State Park Inns, visit this link.
My family kicked off our 2020 camping season on Memorial Day weekend by reserving 4 nights at O’Bannon Woods. This park is located on the far southern part of the state and borders the Ohio River. O’Bannon Woods is located inside 2,400 acres of the Harrison-Crawford State Forest, but is managed separately, along with Wyandotte Caves State Recreation Area.
O’Bannon Woods has some historical details. This state park was the location of one of the few African American Civilian Conservation Corps units. The property also has a restored working hay press barn, complete with oxen for power and a pioneer farmstead. Indiana’s first natural river, scenic Blue River, flows through O’Bannon Woods and the Harrison-Crawford State Forest.
As you plan your next trip to O’Bannon Woods, here is some useful information:
Swimming O’Bannon Woods
Cost: $5 daily aquatic center admission per person, plus entrance fee into the park if you do not have a valid Indiana State Park Permit. This outdoor pool is accessible to all and includes a lift for those that need it.
NOTE: Depending on lifeguard availability, the aquatic center may have reduced hours of operation in the early and late parts of the season. Contact the property directly for specific hours of operation.
For pool operations, all infants, toddlers or small children who are not potty trained are required to wear an elasticized swim diaper before entering and while using the pool area.
For children age 12 and younger to enter a beach or pool area, they must be supervised by someone age 16 or older.
Wyandotte Cave Tour
Wyandotte Caves offers cave tours on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays from Memorial Day through Labor Day Weekend as follows:
Little Wyandotte Cave is an easy 30-minute tour (all ages welcome) typically offered at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays only. Cost is $8 for ages 12 and older; $4 for ages 6-11; and free for ages 5 and younger. Maximum group size is 15. For additional tour descriptions and guidelines, visit O’Bannon Woods State Park’s webpage.
Big Wyandotte Cave is a 2-hour rugged headlamp/helmet tour for ages 6 and older only. Tours are typically offered at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Cost is $18 for ages 12 and older; $9 for ages 6-11. The minimum group size is 15 and the maximum is 25. For additional tour descriptions and guidelines, visit O’Bannon Woods State Park’s webpage.
Reservations should be made in advance for groups. Reservations can be made for individuals and families, but not required if space is available. I do recommend making reservations to secure a time and ensure there is space. To make reservations, call the O’Bannon Woods State Park office, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at (812) 738-8232.
O’Bannon Woods Fire Tower
The fire tower is made of steel and stands around 100 feet tall with 9 flights of stairs to access the lookout at the top. You can drive to the tower to explore it or you can access it by foot.
O’Bannon Woods Hiking Trails
There are 12 trails within O’Bannon Woods State Park for day-use hiking that range from easy to rugged trails. There are trails available for mountain biking and horseback riding as well as hiking by foot. If you are up for a challenge, one notable trail is the Adventure Hiking Trail. It is a 25.5-mile rugged backpacking trail designed for the serious outdoor enthusiast. A National Recreation Trail and part of the American Discovery Trail, the Adventure Hiking Trail is one of Indiana’s longest, scenic, and most interesting backpacking experiences. Typically, this trail takes about 3 days to complete. It offers five overnight shelters available at first-come, first-use. The trail is marked with green and white blazes. Day trips are also possible at several access points. This trail is recommended for hikers in good physical condition who have the proper equipment and necessities to stay hydrated and safe.
Blue River Fun
Eleven miles of Blue River downstream from S.R. 462 bridge are available for canoeing, tubing and boating. There are a few different locations near by outside of the park where you can rent canoes and tubes from or you can bring your own. You can also fish at Blue River.
Camping at O’Bannon Woods
O’Bannon Woods offers a modern electric campground with 234 reservable sites equipped with modern restrooms, hot water and showers. There are an additional 36 electric sites with modern facilities reservable for horse camping only. Fresh water fill-up available throughout the modern campground, along with 50-amp service and 45-foot pad. A 50-site, reservable, non-electric horse camp is available with a modern restroom, hot water and showers. Stage Stop primitive campground and youth rally camp, with 50 sites is non-reservable. Occupancy is limited to 14 consecutive nights. Reservations are available through the online Central Reservation System or by calling (866) 622-6746.
Katie Surfleet is a contributor for Indy With Kids. She is also an independent travel planner contracted with Hiatt Magical Vacations, a local and family-owned, full-service travel agency located in Noblesville, Indiana. You can follow Katie on Facebook at Katie Surfleet at Hiatt Magical Vacations. Katie is also on Instagram @Travel_Disney_With_Katie. Katie loves to travel! Her favorite type of vacation is anywhere via a cruise ship. She also loves all things Disney. Most of all, she enjoys spending time with her family.
7234 Old Forest Road