Made-in-the-shade getaway

Posted on Aug 25 2021 in Travel
Shades State Park
A seasonal waterfall flows over a rocky cliff into the Devil’s Punchbowl in Indiana’s scenic Shades State Park.

Seeking a getaway made in the shade? Shades State Park is a place that lives up to its name.

Located in west north-central Indiana straddling the Montgomery/Parke/Fountain county junction, this nature lover’s paradise is a favorite for hikers and canoeists. Its beautiful sandstone cliffs overlook Sugar Creek and trails take you through shady ravines. Trails go from easy to rugged. Some take you through a creek, over logs and rocks, and up and down ladders.

The park’s Pine Hills Nature Preserve is a beautiful setting for hiking with spectacular topography for those willing to take longer walks into the woods.

While the park lacks the more genteel on-site inns and restaurants as some state parks (like nearby Turkey Run) do, Shades does have over 100 primitive campsites for those who love camping in quiet surroundings without electricity. There is also a backpack camp that is accessible only by hiking.

Within the park, visitors will find lots of amenities and things to do. There’s an amphitheater, bath house, a playground, pavilions, picnic areas with shelters, a retail and concession shop, Deer Mill’s Covered Bridge, and nature and recreational programs. Folks can bike, bird watch, camp, picnic, fish, hike, run or jog, shoot photos, see wildlife and wildflowers, sightsee, and stargaze.

Shades offers 10 hiking trails, ranging from easy to rugged, from a half mile to 1.5 miles long. Plus there is a 2.5-mile backpack trail to the backpack camp.

Shades became Indiana’s 15th state park in 1947. The land with its ravines had been recognized for its beauty by Native Americans before the first European settlers came to this area in the late 1820s.

Since the shallow soils and broken topography of the lands that border Sugar Creek provided little enticement to farmers, the majority of the original forest escaped destruction. Through the rest of the 1800s, the area, with its noted landmarks and natural springs, was being developed as a health resort and recreation area known as “The Shades.” In 1887, a 40-room inn was built where the state park’s shelter house near Devil’s Punchbowl now stands. The inn was razed after fire damage and maintenance costs.

The “Father of Shades,” Joseph W. Frisz, purchased the land in 1916 and safeguarded the natural areas and dense forests. In early 1947, the park was purchased from Frisz’s heirs by a holding company until a public subscription campaign (“Save the Shades”) raised the purchase money to donate the land to the state.

Shades State Park is located at 7751 S. 890 W., Waveland, Indiana. For more information, call 765-435-2810 or go online to