Shade State Park in west central Indiana is simply beautiful. Its often overlooked as many Hoosiers choose Turkey Run, a nearby state park, but Shades has plenty to offer. Its usually less crowded with the views as still amazing. There is plenty of hiking between canyons and cliffs across the 3000 acres.
Shades State Park was originally a health resort with a 40 bed inn. Joseph Frisz purchased the land in the 1930s to protect it. The accumulated land (Frisz purchased more around it) was eventually sold in 1947 to the company “Save the Shades”. The land was passed to Indiana to become the 15th state park.
Why was the company named Save the Shades? The area was known as Shades of Death. Like many odd names from bygone eras, this one also has cloudy origins. Some attribute it to the dense forest that gives it a Bavarian Black Forest feel. Others folk tales tie it to a settler’s death, either at the hands of Native Americans or an angry wife.
Despite whatever illustrious past Shades may have, its a beautiful park today. Shades is similar to nearby Turkey Run State Park with sandstone cliffs and even the same Sugar Creek running through them. Sugar Creek is often busy in the summer with numerous canoes, kayaks, and tubes all available from local rental companies. Consider spending the morning hiking trails and climbing deep ravines at Shades before floating down Sugar Creek to cool off.
Shades has the advantage of a backcountry camping area. While state parks often have camping, most are for car camping and RVs. Backpackers can traverse a relatively short 2.5 mile trail to the backcountry area at Shades to spend the night. This makes Shades a convenient place for beginner backpackers to break in boots and test their gear before hitting more primitive areas.
Shades State Park is also differentiated by having an airfield. Yes, at one point people were able to fly into Shades State Park at the Roscoe Turner Flight Strip to spend the day hiking. The airfield is currently closed and plans to reopen it remain uncertain.