If you’re looking for the perfect camping destination to tell spooky stories around the campfire, Shades State Park is the place to do it. Just 16 miles southwest of Crawfordsville, the area’s original name was Shades of Death. This harkens to some of the grizzly legends from early settlement years that originated under the area’s dark and foreboding forests. In the late 1800s, a health resort named “The Shades” was built on the site, taking advantage of the many natural springs in the area. Today, Shades State Park offers a pleasant and serene outdoor getaway among 3,000 acres of beech and oak woods and sandstone ravines, where Sugar Creek flows through and spills over small waterfalls.
Open from April through October, the campground in Shades State Park offers 105 drive-in campsites, 7 hike-in sites, and 10 boat-in sites. The main sites are equipped with tent spaces, picnic tables and fire rings, and can accommodate trailers and RVs up to 55 feet. Hookups are not available in this park, but there is a dump station. A limited number of sites are ADA accessible. Facilities in the campground include drinking water, flush restrooms, hot showers, picnic areas and playgrounds, and sports fields. An amphitheater hosts seasonal nature programs, and ice and firewood are available to purchase onsite. Campsite rates range from $10–$24/night; hike-in and boat-in sites are first-come, first-serve.
For exploring the area, more than 10 miles of hiking trails are available for exploring the Shades’ woods, waterways and canyons. Take a short, easy stroll along Red Fox Ravine, or more moderate hikes around Devil’s Punchbowl and Silver Cascade Falls. For more adventure, hike into the adjacent Pine Hills Nature Preserve on the east side of the park. Or, for a fun nighttime alternative, take a guided, full-moon hike with one of the park’s naturalists. Swimming and wading in Sugar Creek is not permitted, but you can cast a line for bass and bluegill, or visit one of the canoe outfitters outside the park to take a float down the creek.
This is our favorite state park to camp at. We started here in tents, and moved up to a travel trailer. We have stayed here at various times over the past 5 years. Camp sites are all non-electric. The park is typically pretty quiet except for the sounds of children playing during the day. The park roads are easy to walk, and trails abound! Trails range in difficulty, so read the park pamphlet before setting out. Views are amazing from the trails! Turkey Run SP and Raccoon Lake Rec Area are close by, and the campground pass from Shades gets you into both. Camp sites vary in size and shape, and most can get really muddy after a rain, so check the weather and plan accordingly. There is only one shower house that can get crowded on a busy weekend. Overall an amazing park and a great campground. Pictures attached are from site 102.
Loved the trails and nice wooded area throughout. Great to have bathrooms, drinking water, firewood & ice available at the gatehouse. We stayed in sites 9 & 10, which didn’t have as much flat grassy space as we saw with some other sites, so maybe would choose a different site in the future. Lots of families, not too noisy at night.
Camped here with my wife and sons. We had a blast hiking Shades State Park and nearby Turkey Run State Park. We enjoyed that not every site was packed and we had some privacy.
My boys enjoyed the playground and my wife enjoyed the modern showers.
Shades State Park is a great place to unplug and reconnect.
We experienced a strong thunderstorm while we were at the campground but because of how well the canopy is above the sites we stayed with a fire the whole time. Some sites have a lot of privacy and some have a little less. This would be a great place to have a few groups go together as little pathways between sites would be nice. We did some hiking and it was enjoyable for us as there were some nice views and we didn’t run into too many people. This campground is a bit away from Turkey Run. It was nice to be in a primitive campground as people actually got out and talked to one another.
Neat geological features and water features. More than enough trails to explore and adequate camping. Went in mid-september, probably a little too late in the season it was starting to get too cold at night but the trees were pretty.
Nice quiet campground with spacious sites. Canopied by the big beautiful Indiana trees. Close to some good hiking trails.
Nice campground to visit,decent sites and close to turkey run for tubing, canoeing,hiking,etc.
Much less popular than Turkey Run this state park is great for hiking! Many trails lead to gorgeous rocky cliffs, the river and a gorgeous waterfall. Love that it’s much less populated giving you are your crew more space and less noise.
We stayed at site 60 for a weekend. We got lucky and was pretty quite, since we didn't have any RV's running their generators next to us (there is no electricity at any of the camp sites) . The modern bathhouse is clean and well maintained, didn't look at the pit toilets since we brought our own. We had plenty of room at our camp site for all of our stuff. There is a lot of good short trails at Shades, that connect to a central picnic area with a modern restroom. There is also Pine Hills Nature Preserve right next to Shades with turkey & devil's Backbone (natural land bridges), and other neat rock formations.
So the campground itself is all primitive camping regardless of tent or rv. There were several people with generators, but we chose to stay off the grid. There are also dump toliets along the way, but in the middle they have a comfort station with restrooms and showers, also a few plug ins inside the comfort station. Raccoons were a serious problem when we were there, worse than anywhere I've ever been. The hiking is nothing short of amazing, and be sure to drive a few miles and get some trails in at Turkey Run.