Where to find nature close to downtown

Where can you go when you want to escape the city life? Here are my top five favorite nature escapes when I need to blow off some steam after a long work week and hit the trails. These spots are also perfect for just sitting and relaxing while soaking in the sights, scents and sounds of nature.

Eagle Creek

This city park is huge! It’s actually the biggest in Indy. There are a ton of trails to run, walk or hike. There’s even an excursion nestled in the trees if you’re looking for a fun team activity. You can rent kayaks, small pontoon boats and bikes for the day. My favorite activity are the trails because there are so many – I never feel that I’ve run the same trail twice. It’s easy to get “lost” and there are fun obstacles like small bridges, forks in the trail and logs to jump over, which certainly keeps me on my toes. The trails are really well-kept by volunteers. In early spring the deer run freely and it’s not unusual to see 4 or 5 running through the valleys, completely unaware of your presence. It’s quite beautiful! Oh, and the eagles, of course – check out the ornithology center!

There is a small entrance fee, which is cheaper if you bike in, or you can buy an annual pass.

After a day of exploring, I like to head over to Rick’s Café Boatyard to grab a drink and small bite to eat. It’s sometimes easy to forget you’re in Indiana while sipping on a Mai Tai, listening to Reggae music and watching the beautiful sunset over the water.

Holliday Park

This charming park is on the smaller side, yet it is equal parts manageable and magical. Upon entrance, the ruins and statues greet you. Head to the back of the park and that’s where you’ll find the pathway leading down to the winding trails. It’s a great spot for a picnic, too, so invite friends to meet you there! You can also check out the nature center to secretly spy on birds and squirrels (or cool off on one of the comfy leather couches).  And admission is free!

100 Acres

Located just west of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, not too far from downtown. This quirky art and nature park is a perfect getaway for a quick walk or jog around the loop. You could spend hours discovering, and playing on, all the fun art displays. You can also access this from the Canal Towpath. The best part? Free admission.

Fort Benjamin

This state park is open year-round. If you buy an annual park pass, it’s good for any park in the state. Here you can go horseback riding, hiking, picnicking and even ice fishing and sledding in the winter. If you’re a history buff, be sure to check out the museum to learn about the soldiers who once marched the grounds. The hiking trails are more on the easy/moderate side and are pup friendly!

White River & Canal

And last but not least – my favorite park! I truly can’t say enough amazing things about White River. There’s so much to love. You can run, take a gondola ride, visit the state museum or pop into the café to grab an Italian soda. You can rent bikes, paddle boats, and even a surrey with the fringe on top. In the summer months, you can take advantage of the live jazz music and concert series. You can’t miss the beautiful murals under the bridges and the war memorials along the canal.

My favorite trail goes across the river, behind the zoo and loops back around by IUPUI and the soccer field. You can spot the orangutan exhibit from afar and some of the most spectacular views of the city skyline!


Casey Dell is a Success Manager at Salesforce.com and a graduate of IUPUI’s Kelley School of Business. She loves living and working downtown. As a former 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl staffer, Casey is ecstatic with the continual impact the Big Game has had on Indy. When she’s not fostering kittens, you’ll find her trail running, instagramming and dining al fresco!

Instagram: @indy_casey

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