Shades is a relatively undeveloped park that includes more than three thousand acres of woods and ravines along the banks of Sugar Creek. Unlike nearby Turkey Run, there is no swimming pool, no nature center, and no inn. These may be reasons why Shades receives far fewer visitors than its neighbor. For seekers of solitude, or at least relative solitude, this is a good thing.
A substantial portion of the park lies north of Sugar Creek, but that area is undeveloped and off limits to visitors. No worries. There’s plenty to see on the south side, starting with the ten numbered trails. Many follow the same basic pattern – you’ll start by heading north on top of a ridge line toward Sugar Creek, then return along the bottom of a ravine. Some of these return legs are a real scramble over pools, mud, loose rock, deadfalls, and vegetation. Some may even be unsafe during high water.
Spring wildflower displays along some of the trails can be quite impressive. Keep an eye out for squirrel corn, Dutchman’s breeches, and most especially colonies of drooping trillium.
Trail 1 is something like a squashed figure eight. It offers overlooks of Sugar Creek at Inspiration Point (observation platform) and Prospect Point. The eastern leg of the trail includes a long, steep staircase to Silver Cascade Falls, remarkable for the convex shape of the underlying rock. The return is through a striking canyon reminiscent of Turkey Run; it ends at the Devil’s Punchbowl.
Trail 2 is a lollipop that heads to the creek, then returns via Pearl Ravine, passing interesting rock formations and Maidenhair Falls en route. Trails 4 and 5 are notable for their ladders; #4 passes through a narrow canyon. Trails 7 and 8 are more subtle but nonetheless interesting, particularly the ravine bottoms. Trail 10 connects Shades to the adjacent must-see Pine Hills Nature Preserve.
Finally, Shades offers a short (2 ½ mile) backpacking trail that leads to a separate hike‑in only campground along Sugar Creek; I tried this trail on my first backpacking trip and recommend it. The rock formations at Shades are a bit more subtle than those of Turkey Run or Pine Hills, but the low visitor count is a strong point in its favor.
Directions: Montgomery & Parke Counties. From the intersection of IN 47 and IN 234, west 4.9 miles on IN 234, then left 0.8 miles on 800 S to the entrance. (Fee)
GPS: N 39 55.519 W 87 04.306
Facilities: Campgrounds, pit toilets, modern restroom