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Turkey Run State Park Guide — Nature Center, Hiking, and More

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Keri Stooksbury

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Turkey Run State Park is a true gem for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. It has been voted as Indiana’s favorite state park and for good reason. The park boasts stunning sandstone gorges and awe-inspiring views along the picturesque Sugar Creek. From hiking and swimming to nature trails, historic sites, and fishing, there’s something for everyone here.

How To Get to Turkey Run State Park

Where Is Turkey Run State Park?

Turkey Run State Park is situated in Marshall, Indiana, approximately 69 miles west of Indianapolis. The park is located in the state’s central region and covers an area of 2,382 acres. The park boasts sandstone gorges, and the picturesque Sugar Creek flows through the heart of the park, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers.

Turkey Run State Park Opening Hours and Seasons

This state park is open every day of the year, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. However, there might be some areas with reduced hours or that are open only seasonally. It’s recommended to call ahead and ensure that everything on your must-do list is available before planning your trip.

Nearest Airports to Turkey Run State Park

Turkey Run State Park is located approximately 68 miles away from Indianapolis International Airport (IND), which is a little over an hour’s drive. This airport has been ranked as the Best Airport in North America by Airports Council International and Best Airport in America by readers of Conde Nast Traveler for several consecutive years. 

The airport provides world-class service and serves as a gateway to Indianapolis. Many nonstop destinations are offered by this airport, including Atlanta, Boston, Cancún, Las Vegas, Toronto, and Washington, D.C. Allegiant, American, Delta, Southwest, and United are some of the major airlines that serve this airport.

Once you reach IND, you can find several car rental kiosks to arrange the final leg of your journey to the park.

Driving to Turkey Run State Park

This park can be easily accessed via I-74 West. The park is situated on State Road 47, just 2 miles east of U.S. 41, so no matter where you’re coming from, you won’t have any trouble finding it. Driving to this park provides stunning views of the landscape along the way.

Taking the Train to Turkey Run State Park

Taking the train to the park is an excellent option to avoid the stress of driving and navigating in an unfamiliar city. Although there is no direct train service to the park, you can get reasonably close by taking Amtrak to Crawfordsville, Indiana, which is about 45 minutes away. Once you arrive at the station, you can take a taxi or a ride-share service to the park.

Taking the Bus to Turkey Run State Park

There is no bus service to Turkey Run State Park.

Getting Around Turkey Run State Park

Turkey Run State Park is a beautiful natural reserve with amazing landscapes and scenic trails. To experience the park’s incredible beauty and serenity, you can explore it on foot by hiking its trails or canoeing through its waterways.

There are also several locations throughout the park that you can access by car, which makes it easier to explore all the park’s attractions and enjoy the breathtaking views.

What To See and Do in Turkey Run State Park

There is an extensive range of activities and sights to explore at Turkey Run State Park, which is why it has been voted the state’s favorite park.

Canoeing and Kayaking

Sugar Creek runs through the rolling hills of Indiana, offering a perfect setting for canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts. With crystal-clear waters, lush green forests, and abundant wildlife, Sugar Creek provides an unforgettable experience for nature lovers and adventurers alike.

Canoeing and kayaking are 2 of the most popular activities at the park. Near the park, you can find a range of rental options, from canoes and kayaks to tubes and rafts, to suit all skill levels. Sugar Creek is thrilling and rewarding whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler.

Bottom Line:

For a unique and exciting way to experience the beauty of Indiana’s outdoors, plan to paddle down Sugar Creek during your visit to Turkey Run State Park.

Fishing

Sugar Creek is a stunningly picturesque river within the park that is a true haven for anglers. The crystal-clear waters of the creek are perfect for fishing, whether you prefer to cast your line from the banks or a canoe.

The creek is home to a variety of fish species, with bluegill and bass being the most commonly caught. However, if you’re lucky enough, you may also catch other species, such as catfish and crappie. It’s important to note that a valid state fishing license is required to fish at Sugar Creek.

Hiking Trails

Turkey Run State Park Hiking
Image Credit: State of Indiana

This state park boasts over 14 miles of hiking trails that wind through awe-inspiring sandstone cliffs and lush hemlock groves. Hiking is undoubtedly the most popular activity at this park, and for good reason. 

The trails here are nothing short of legendary. The suspension bridge over Sugar Creek leads to most of the trails, which are all numbered and range from easy to strenuous, catering to visitors of all abilities. 

Hiking on these trails is a truly immersive experience, allowing you to witness the park’s natural beauty up close and personal. From the deep canyons to the tranquil hemlock groves, there is no shortage of breathtaking sights to behold.

Historic Sites

Several captivating historic sites offer a glimpse into the rich history of Indiana. These sites, each with its own unique story to tell, are a testament to the pioneering spirit and resilience of the early settlers who once called this land home.

To explore these fascinating sites, visitors can traverse the park’s winding trails, each offering breathtaking views of the surrounding natural beauty.

Colonel Lieber Memorial

Colonel Lieber Memorial is a monument erected in honor of Colonel Richard Lieber, the founder of Indiana’s state park system. This memorial is a fitting tribute to Colonel Lieber’s lasting legacy and contributions to the park.

Lieber Cabin

The Lieber Cabin is a rustic log cabin once home to one of the park’s earliest settlers, General John T. Lieber. This cabin, built in the 1860s, serves as a reminder of the hardships and challenges the early pioneers faced as they tried to carve out a new life in the wilderness.

Log Church

Log Church is a quaint little church built in the mid-1800s by the local community. This charming little church showcases the faith and determination of the early settlers who built it.

Lusk Home

Lusk Home is a farmhouse built in the early 1900s by the Lusk family, one of the earliest families to settle in the area. A visit to this house is a way to see the hard work and resolve of those who settled here long ago.

Narrows Covered Bridge

Narrows Covered Bridge
Image Credit: Tom Gill via Flickr (license)

Narrows Covered Bridge is a picturesque bridge that spans the tranquil Sugar Creek. This impressive bridge offers a glimpse into the past and highlights the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the early pioneers who built it.

Nature Center

The park boasts a nature center that provides interpretive naturalist services all year round. Visitors can partake in various programs such as hikes, history talks, evening programs, planetarium programs, and a junior naturalist program.

The nature center also features informative displays, interactive exhibits, live wildlife, and a small theater for star shows. One of the most popular attractions here is the wildlife-watching room, where visitors can observe different kinds of wildlife feeding.

Swimming Pool

Turkey Run State Park allows visitors to swim in an Olympic-sized swimming pool. This is the only place within the park where visitors can enjoy a refreshing swim. The pool is typically open from the Saturday before Memorial Day until Labor Day, giving visitors ample time to soak up the sun and take a dip in the cool water.

Best Times To Visit Turkey Run State Park

Visiting Turkey Run State Park is an amazing experience, but some months are more suitable than others, especially if you have specific activities in mind.

Best Time To Visit Turkey Run State Park for Ideal Weather

The ideal time to go is in September when the weather is perfect. The temperature ranges between the mid-50s to the low 80s, making it pleasant. Additionally, there’s less chance of rain than in other months. If you want an excellent experience at this Indiana park, planning your visit around the weather trends is best.

Best Time To Visit Turkey Run State Park To Avoid the Crowds

Planning your trip to the park in November is recommended for a more relaxed and peaceful visit. During this time, the crowds are thinner, and you’ll be able to enjoy the park’s natural beauty without feeling rushed or crowded. You will be able to take your time to explore the trails, take in the stunning views, and appreciate the tranquility of the surroundings. 

Best Time To Visit Turkey Run State Park for Summer Activities

Turkey Run State Park Summer
Image Credit: Patrick Finnegan via Flickr (license)

The best time to visit and enjoy summer activities is during July. The temperature ranges from the mid-60s to the upper 80s, making it an ideal time to explore the outdoors. There is still a chance of rain, approximately 7 days during the month. Be sure to pack rain gear in case of a sudden shower.

Cheapest Time To Visit Turkey Run State Park

If you’re looking to save money while traveling, it might seem like a daunting task. With some careful planning and research, it’s definitely achievable. The ideal time to visit this park for cost-effective travel is from mid- to late September. During this time, flights and accommodations are at their cheapest, possibly saving you hundreds of dollars in travel expenses.

Annual Events in Turkey Run State Park

Turkey Run State Park offers various events throughout the year, such as guided hikes, star shows, and history walks. Additionally, there are some yearly activities that you might want to check out.

Eagles in Flight Weekend

The Eagles in Flight Weekend is an annual event hosted by the Friends of Turkey Run and Shades State Park in late January. Visitors can explore bald eagle nests and roosts and learn about their hunting habits.

The event features a silent auction, Live Birds of Prey program, Conservation Connection with the Indiana Audubon Society, viewing roost sites with an expert, bird banding, and eagle field trips.

Bottom Line:

Attending this event is a great way to discover more about the national bird and how the park plays a crucial role in its life.

First Day Hike

On January 1, the Turkey Run State Park hosts the annual First Day Hike. It’s an amazing opportunity to start the new year with a refreshing workout while exploring the park’s natural beauty. This hike commences at the Nature Center and is led by a naturalist who guides participants through various park areas.

Where To Stay in Turkey Run State Park

When planning a visit to Turkey Run State Park, there are various accommodation options to choose from. Some options are within the park’s boundaries, while others are in nearby small towns or big cities.

Inside the Park

Various lodging options are available within the park’s boundaries, catering to travelers’ different preferences. Whether you wish to camp under the stars, stay in a primitive cabin, or enjoy the comfort of an inn, there is something for everyone.

Cabins

For those seeking accommodations with a roof overhead, the park offers 20 cozy cabin rooms, each featuring comfortable furnishings, air conditioning, and heating. These rooms provide a perfect retreat for couples, families, or solo travelers seeking a peaceful escape.

For those seeking a more immersive experience, the park also offers 3 fully-equipped cabins available for rent. Each cabin is beautifully designed with a rustic charm and features all the modern amenities you need for a comfortable stay. These cabins are perfect for families or groups of friends seeking a little more space and privacy.

Hot Tip:

If you plan on renting a cabin or cabin room, it is recommended that you make reservations in advance. These options tend to be very popular and can be reserved up to a year ahead of time.

Camping

This state park has a wonderful campground that offers 213 well-equipped campsites. Each site is thoughtfully designed to provide the best outdoor living, with essential amenities such as electric and water connections and nearby bathhouses. You’ll also find a fire ring and picnic table at each site.

In addition, the campground also features a dedicated Youth Tent Campsite, ideal for groups with a large number of campers under the age of 21. This campsite offers young campers a safe and secure environment, with all the necessary facilities to make their stay comfortable and enjoyable.

Turkey Run Inn

Turkey Run Inn
Image Credit: State of Indiana

Turkey Run Inn is the perfect place for visitors seeking a traditional and authentic stay. Steeped in history and charm, this inn was built in 1919 and has been updated over the years to provide modern amenities while retaining its original character. The inn only boasts 61 rooms, and due to its popularity, reservations need to be made well in advance, even up to a year prior to your visit. 

During your stay, the inn offers many facilities for guests to enjoy. These include an indoor heated pool, a gift shop where you can purchase souvenirs, a game room for some indoor fun, a cozy lounge to relax and unwind, and a covered veranda that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding nature. You can also enjoy mouth-watering meals at the on-site restaurant, which caters to all your culinary needs.

Towns Near Turkey Run State Park

There are multiple towns just a short drive away from Turkey Run State Park that serve as great home bases for visitors. Whether you prefer a peaceful town or a lively city, you can find the perfect option for your stay.

Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis is an excellent choice for visitors who want to enjoy the best of both worlds by staying close to the park while also immersing themselves in a lively and bustling city. This vibrant metropolis is about 75 minutes from the park.

The city boasts a wide variety of dining options, ranging from traditional American fare to international cuisine. The city also offers diverse accommodations, from trendy boutique hotels to well-known chain hotels.

Bottom Line:

For those who crave adventure and excitement, Indianapolis provides an array of recreational activities, including museums, art galleries, sporting events, and music festivals.

Rockville, Indiana

Rockville is a charming town near Turkey Run State Park. It offers visitors a range of locally owned motels and bed and breakfasts. There are also several restaurants, boutiques, a winery, and a museum for visitors to explore. The park is just a 15-minute drive from the city, making it an ideal location for those who want a peaceful stay near the park.

Where To Eat in Turkey Run State Park

Only 1 dining option is available within the park’s boundaries, but there are many others just down the road. No matter what cuisine you’re craving, you can easily find something to satisfy your taste buds.

Narrows Restaurant

Narrows Restaurant is open to the public daily and is the only dining option available within the park’s boundaries. It is a casual restaurant that serves homestyle Indiana favorites for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The menu offers a wide variety of options, including omelets, pancakes, sandwiches, salads, and dinner specialties.

The best part about dining at Narrows Restaurant is that you don’t have to leave the park premises, allowing you to refuel and return to your park adventures. 

Thirty-Six Saloon

Thirty-Six Saloon is a cozy and inviting bar and grill found in Rockville, a small town located about 15 minutes away from the park. This establishment is known for its delicious and hearty American cuisine that offers something for everyone.

The menu here is extensive, featuring a tempting selection of classic American dishes that are sure to satisfy any appetite. Thirty-Six Saloon is a great place to grab a bite to eat and relax after a day of exploring the park. The friendly staff, cozy atmosphere, and mouth-watering dishes will make your visit memorable.

Turkey Run State Park Facts

Turkey Run State Park
Image Credit: State of Indiana

1. A New State Park

Turkey Run State Park was established in 1916. This beautiful park was Indiana’s second state park and is an incredible natural wonder that attracts visitors worldwide.

2. An Early Conservationist

Salmon Lusk, a veteran of the War of 1812, settled in the area in 1822 and established a business comprising of a gristmill and sawmill at the narrows of Sugar Creek. At that time, the area was covered by an old-growth forest. He purchased the first 288 acres of land, which eventually became the heart of the park. Lusk was an early conservationist who took measures to preserve the area’s old-growth trees, which still stand today thanks to his efforts.

3. Formed by Glaciers

This particular state park was formed due to glaciers’ melting and erosion of sandstone bedrock. If you’re interested in seeing a pothole created by glacial erratics captured in a swirling backwash, you should definitely visit the Punch Bowl on Trail 3.

4. What’s in a Name?

Legend has it that the park’s name, Turkey Run, originated from the abundance of wild turkeys that would seek shelter in the canyon bottoms during the harsh winters. During pioneer days, hunters would herd the turkeys into these natural funnels for easy capture. Due to the large number of turkeys residing in the area, the canyon became known as Turkey Run.

5. Saving Turkey Run

A committee led by Richard Lieber was exploring the possibility of creating a state parks system for Indiana. During their visit to this region of Indiana, Lieber developed a deep fondness for the area and launched a movement to preserve Turkey Run so that people could experience the joys of nature.

Final Thoughts

Turkey Run State Park offers endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. Whether you’re a hiker, a fisherman, or just enjoy camping, Turkey Run has something to offer everyone. The park’s natural beauty is matched only by its rich cultural history, which includes the remains of a 19th-century covered bridge and several historic buildings and landmarks.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to visit Turkey Run State Park?

The cost of entering the park is between $7 and $9 per vehicle per day.

Can I swim in the river at Turkey Run State Park?

Swimming is not allowed in Sugar Creek. The park has a designated swimming pool.

How much time should I spend at Turkey Run State Park?

Spending at least 1 full day exploring this state park is recommended. For a more immersive experience, consider spending the night camping, renting a cabin, or staying at the inn.

What are some things to do near Turkey Run State Park?

Some nearby attractions include the Historic Mansfield Roller Mill, Shades State Park, and Raccoon Lake.

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About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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