Adventure Travel

The Wabash River offers lots of outdoor recreational opportunities. PHOTO: Visit Lafayette-West Lafayette

Fresh air and physical exercise: a boon for both heart and soul. A bit of adventure provides an additional layer of benefits; most of all, a whole lot of fun. 

Story by Elizabeth Granger 

Bucket List Item: Toboggan run at Pokagon State Park.

“Done,” says Amy Troyer of Fishers as she zips through her cell phone photos. “I’d thought about it for years and years; I finally went.”

The popular refrigerated toboggan run, with 90,000 riders each season, was born in 1935 when the Civilian Conservation Corps built a wooden run for their own fun. It became refrigerated in 1971.

“It was fun,” says Troyer, who went with a couple girlfriends in January. “But it is not for everyone. It is physically challenging. After you go down the hill, you have to carry that toboggan up the hill and up the stairs. And it’s at least a 45-pound toboggan.”

She adds, “They say ‘no waving, no pictures, no leaning.’ Good advice.”

Explore Freefall in Franklin. PHOTO: Alan Trisler

But winter’s gone and adventure enthusiasts are looking toward warm-weather activities. Troyer says she’s intrigued by the Hell’s Point Challenge at Pokagon. “I have texted the girls to see who might be joining me in that 8-mile challenge.”

It’s a hiking route that links trails at Pokagon, typically taking three
to four hours to complete. Hell’s Point is the highest point in the park; the top is reached by climbing 84 wooden steps. There are prizes for participants who photograph six specific points in the park and show their photos to the nature center staff.

To Troyer, hiking just about anywhere is at the top of her preferred adventure list. Not a leisurely stroll along a paved trail but one that throws a few challenges at her, especially if it involves an incline. It qualifies as adventure travel, loosely defined by the Adventure Travel Trade Association as “any tourist activity that includes physical activity, a cultural exchange, and connection with nature.” The possibilities are endless. And because no article could possibly be all-inclusive, check your area for adventure opportunities.

Edge Adventures’ Koteewi Park in Noblesville. PHOTO: Edge Adventures

The 3 Dunes Challenge in the Indiana Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan takes participants on a 1.5-mile hiking trail. “This hike is the toughest in the park with 552 vertical feet to climb, but with breathtaking views at the top of each dune,” says Michelle Senderhauf, communications director of Indiana Dunes Tourism in Porter. First-time visitors to the Dunes are often surprised how difficult it can be to just walk in the sand.

The state park and the adjoining Indiana Dunes National Park have multiple hiking trails that range from easy to the not-at-all-easy Challenge. Many trails welcome biking, too. Fishing is popular; so is swimming. The annual Indiana Dunes Outdoor Adventure Festival in early October offers more than 70 events that showcase the region’s outdoor adventures. They include hiking, biking, paddling, geo-caching, photography, birding, and yoga.

An unusual Lake Michigan option is the WhoaZone water sports park, a summertime floating playground in Whiting. It’s a one-acre inflatable water challenge course with slides, tunnels, towers, bridges and jumping platforms for children at least seven and adults who can swim. In other words, a floating ninja course. How to get there? Swim out. Life jackets are required. Visitors can experience even more water adventures by renting paddleboards, kayaks, paddleboats, and waverunners at East Chicago Marina. Feeling adventurous? Experience the thrill of flying up to 30 feet over Lake Michigan on a fly board or jet pack.

In Hammond, Wolf Lake provides the calm waters that are perfect for windsurfing. This 804- acre lake was recognized by the New York Times as among the best in the country for windsurfing because of its 400 acres of shallow inland water.

Waters throughout the state – 

rivers and lakes, natural as well as manmade – are popular for canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding, paddle boating and pedal boating. Options include Cave Country Canoes on the Blue River in southeastern Indiana, White River Canoe Company in Noblesville, Whitewater Canoe Park, along Riverfront Fort Wayne, offers kayaking and paddle boarding as well as a treetop canopy trail with a slide into a playground.

The WhoaZone in Whiting is an inflatable on-the-water obstacle course. PHOTO: WhoaZone

Weekend whitewater rafting on the East Race Waterway in downtown South Bend has been popular for more than 30 years. Far calmer are the options at White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis; it has pedal boats and kayaks on the canal.

At Patoka Lake, near French Lick, adventure-seekers will find plenty of fishing, boating, and hiking. Boat rentals are available, as are floating cabins–the only accommodations of its kind in the state.

Indiana Caverns near Corydon offers underground kayaking as well as “strenuous” cave tours which require climbing a rope ladder. A zip coaster called the Bat Chaser has a free-fall drop option outdoors. Riders start 50 feet above a sinkhole plain, attached to a steel rail by a harness/ seat, and soar past the tree tops to the end.It is curved steel like a coaster but suspended by harness like a zipline.

Other possibilities on the Indiana Cave Trail include easier walking tours as well as boat tours and gemstone mining.

Wilstem Wildlife Park in Paoli offers ATV Adventure Tours. PHOTO: Visit French Lick-West Baden

Above ground experiences include skydiving in Franklin, Frankfort, Logansport and Michigan City.

In Franklin, you’ll find Explore Freefall, a branch of Jerry’s Skydiving Circus which has been

in business 40 years. Alan Trisler, videographer and “Accelerated Freefall” instructor at Explore Freefall, says skydiving is for every range of personality. “It’s certainly a ‘type A’ activity, but we get all types of people,” Alan says. “Some come Rental in Brookville, and Fort Wayne Outfitters.

Fort Wayne’s brand-new Promenade Park, along Riverfront Fort Wayne, offers kayaking and paddle boarding as well as a treetop canopy trail with a slide into a playground.

Weekend whitewater rafting on the East Race Waterway in downtown South Bend has been popular for more than 30 years. Far calmer are the options at White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis; it has pedal boats and kayaks on the canal.

At Patoka Lake, near French Lick, adventure-seekers will find plenty of fishing, boating, and hiking. Boat rentals are available, as are floating cabins–the only accommodations of its kind in the state.

Indiana Caverns near Corydon offers underground kayaking as well as “strenuous” cave tours which require climbing a rope ladder. A zip coaster called the Bat Chaser has a free-fall drop option outdoors. Riders start 50 feet above a sinkhole plain, attached to a steel rail by a harness/ seat, and soar past the tree tops to the end.It is curved steel like a coaster but suspended by harness like a zipline.

Other possibilities on the Indiana Cave Trail include easier walking tours as well as boat tours and gemstone mining.

Above ground experiences include skydiving in Franklin, Frankfort, Logansport and Michigan City. In Franklin, you’ll find Explore Freefall, a branch of Jerry’s Skydiving Circus which has been in business 40 years. Alan Trisler, videographer and “Accelerated Freefall” instructor at Explore Freefall, says skydiving is for every range of personality. “It’s certainly a ‘type A’ activity, but we get all types of people,” Alan says. “Some come for the thrill. Some want to conquer their fear of heights. Some just want to mark it off their bucket list.” One of their most popular offerings is the tandem skydive, meaning guests jump with an instructor. Minimum age is 18, but Alan says they’ve had guests as old as 80.

Fly in a sailplane at Soar Indy in Alexandria. PHOTO: Soar Indy

For more “in the air” adventure, check out Soar Indy at the Alexandria Gliderport where they fly sailplanes – that is, gliders. It’s the largest soaring operation in Indiana, and their “Discovery Flights” provide an opportunity for novices to experience what it’s like to fly in a sailplane.

Indoor ziplining is at Zip City in Indianapolis. Outdoors, Indiana Zipline Tours in Crawfordsville has a treetop canopy tour with eight ziplines, including the state’s longest, a swinging bridge and a suspended platform that hangs from the trees. Additional ziplining sites include Squire Boone Caverns Zipline Adventures in Mauckport, eXplore Brown County in Nashville, Zip Timber Lake in Huntington, and Dagaz Acres Zipline Adventures in Rising Sun. Most offer additional options which can include wall climbing or camping. While you’re at Squire Boone, be sure and leave time to tour their caverns, which include a living cave with rushing streams that carry more than a million gallons of water, and rarely seen underground waterfalls. In fact, you’ll find the largest rimstone dams accessible to the public in the United States right here.

Aerial obstacle courses are at Edge Adventures at Strawtown Koteewi Park in Noblesville and Rum Village Park in South Bend. Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis has Go Ape Adventures. Many sites also offer wall climbing.

Hell’s Point Challenge at Pokagon State Park. PHOTO: Steuben County Tourism

Youngsters, as well as others who aren’t sure about ziplining, can have a good experience at the Soaring Eagle Zip Line at Pioneer Park in Mooresville because they can ride 

with a buddy. Two can sit side-by-side, strapped into a molded plastic seat. The zip line also goes backward and forward.

Youngsters thrive at the Monon Center in Carmel, too. So do adults, with a fitness center, skatepark, track, gym, indoor pool, and outdoor waterpark.

Fort Knox Paintball is in Winamac and has 14 themed maps that attract players from all over the country. This northwest Indiana paintball theme park is striving to be one of the top attractions in the nation.

Speedway Indoor Karting offers go karts on three racing tracks with several sizes and kinds of karts. Owners Sarah Fisher and her husband started their racing careers in go karts.

ATVs are big at Wilstem Wildlife Park in Paoli, where visitors are also wowed by its resident elephants and grizzly bears. Their side-by- side ATV tours take participants on a one-hour adventure, led by a guide. Also popular is their 5,000- foot, nine-line zipline canopy tour. Horseback riding is available at Wilstem as well as at Crown Haven Center in Kokomo, Santa’s Stables in Santa Claus, and French Lick Resort.

The East Race Waterway in South Bend is the first artificial white water course in North America. PHOTO: Visit South Bend Mishawaka

Spectators will get their hearts racing just by watching the ATVMX Nationals on May 23 and for the annual Ironman Raceway Nationals on Aug. 29, which is Round 12 and the season finale of the 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Crawfordsville’s Ironman Raceway is one of the premiere motocross racing facilities on the national circuit, and host rounds of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, the Grand National Cross Country Series, and the ATVMX National Championship. Amusement parks are big on exhilarating options. Award-winning Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus – the world’s first theme park, even before Disneyland – adds something new each year. The Cheetah Chase, the world’s first launched water coaster, debuts this year. Ultra-popular favorites are roller coasters that include the Thunderbird, Legend, Raven and Voyage, and waterpark options that include the Wildebeest, Zinga, Watubee and ZOOMbabwe. Kid-friendly options are numerous.

One of the more unique physical challenges is the Wabash Fitness Court, a state-of-the-art outdoor public fitness court – think playground for adults – located along the Wabash River Trail. A total body workout is displayed and can be completed in seven minutes. A Fitness Court app can be downloaded for additional workouts. No matter your skill level, there are plenty of Indiana adventures waiting for you. Just get out there and explore.

The Wabash Fitness Court provides a challenging workout along the Wabash River Trail. PHOTO: Visit Wabash County

For More Information:

Pokagon State Park
www.visitsteubencounty.com

Explore Freefall
www.explorefreefall.com

Soar Indy
www.soarindy.org

East Chicago Marina
www.southshorecva.com

Patoka Lake
www.patokalakeindiana.com

Promenade Park
www.riverfrontfw.org

WhoaZone
https://whoazonewhihala.com/

Wolf Lake
www.southshorecva.com