State Park Cabins Blend Modernity, Outdoors for Memorable Stays

dedication of centennial cabin with Luetkemeier family

Story by Ethan Rice
Photos by Indiana Department of Natural Resources

While Indiana’s state park inns and campsites provide a great experience for staying overnight at state park properties, their cabins combine the amenities of inns with the autonomy of camping.

Some properties have recently added and improved cabins at several locations, including classics like McCormick’s Creek, Brown County and Pokagon. Even if you’ve stayed at these parks before, it might be time to experience them in a new way.

McCormick’s Creek State Park’s Centennial Cabin opened in 2018. Jim, Glenn, and Maurie Luetkemeier provided much of the funding for the structure in honor of their parents, Louise and Oscar Luetkemeier. The family visited McCormick’s Creek many times over the years and saw the need for a cabin that could house a large family.

Potawatomi Inn at Pokagon State Park.

The Centennial Cabin is the realization of that vision. Overlooking McCormick’s Cove Nature Preserve, the cabin sleeps eight people and measures 1,400 square feet. There are three bedrooms and two full bathrooms with showers. It also has a kitchen, living room, dining room and four-season porch. The first floor is fully accessible.

“It’s a beautiful cabin,” said McCormick’s Creek property manager Dwight Brooks. “It’s a one- of-a-kind cabin in our state parks system.”

The Friends of McCormick Creek donated money to complete the interior, and the Indiana Hardwood Association donated materials for the building.

Rentals start at $199, and the cabin is available year-round. There is a two-night minimum stay.

Brown County State Park’s cabin suites at Abe Martin Lodge are another newer option. Sleeping six people, the duplexes are packed with modern amenities. Features include kitchenettes, free Wi-Fi, smart TVs, and a full ensemble of basic household appliances. Those who want to be more rustic with their cooking can use the fire pits outside.

Trine State Recreation Area is one of DNR’s newest properties.

Missy Myers, general manager at Abe Martin Lodge, said that since their opening, the suites have proven popular, drawing guests who want to enjoy the atmosphere of staying at the lodge while still maintaining the comfort of modern household conveniences.

“We try to offer something for everyone,” Myers said. “The suites add a different level to that. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Suite guests also have full access to the amenities of the main lodge, including its aquatic center.

The park is best known for drawing guests to admire its multi- colored seas of fall foliage, but it has something for everyone year-round.

“It’s just as beautiful in winter,” Myers said. “And it’s quieter, too—people can relax in the lobby. Sometimes, we’ll find guests curled up by the fireplace, wrapped up under blankets, and reading books.”

Rentals for the cabin suites start at $189. They are available year-round. Brown County also has rustic cabins for those who want to be closer to nature. They are open April 1 to Oct. 31.

For those looking to stay farther north, Potawatomi Inn at Pokagon State Park in Steuben County has recently renovated its historic cabins.

“Our guests have been ecstatic about the changes,” said Potawatomi general manager Emily Burris.

McCormick’s Creek’s Centennial Cabin.

Over the summer of 2018, the cabins were completely remodeled, with two made accessible to people with disabilities. Custom-built units include televisions, microwaves, and refrigerators. New touches include pictures from the park. Updates have also been made to the lighting system. According to Burris, what were once basic cabins are now fully-furnished hotel rooms.

Pokagon is also a year-round park. From its activities on Lake James in the summer to the toboggan run in winter, there’s always a reason to visit.

For a quieter retreat, try one of DNR’s newest properties, Trine State Recreation Area, which lies within a few miles of Pokagon, which manages the SRA. The property was purchased by Ralph and Sheri Trine in 2006 and transferred to DNR in 2007.

The property’s history started in the 1940s, when Ben and Helen Swenson, former managers of Potawatomi Inn, started their own resort called Wing Haven on the shores of nearby Gentian Lake. A naturalist and artist, Helen designed each of the 12 cabins in the theme of a different bird.

After Wing Haven closed in 1972, the property changed hands several times before a group of citizens approached the Trines about buying it. After the transfer to DNR, the state recreation area was created. DNR began to renovate the cabins with the help of many local partners, adding kitchenettes and outside grills.

Trine has cabins to fit any size party. Two-person cabins start at $69, four-person cabins start at $75, and six-person cabins start at $79.

Cabin Suite at Abe Martin Lodge.

This serene setting has many opportunities for recreation and relaxation, according to Nicky Ball, Trine and Pokagon’s interpretive naturalist. Kayaks, paddleboats, and electric boat rentals are available to enjoy Gentian Lake, though swimming is not allowed.

Several multi-purpose trails are also available for hiking and biking, including a trail for mountain bikes, which are not permitted within Pokagon State Park.

“At first, not many people knew about Trine,” Ball said. “We even had vacancies on holiday weekends. But now word is starting to catch on.”

Despite its growing fame, Trine remains a quiet place to enjoy nature, with a variety of wildlife, butterflies, and wildflowers calling it home.

Trine’s cabins are open seasonally, May to early October, but the Swenson Lodge Conference Center is open to reservations year- round. Equipped with a board room, kitchen, dining area and lounge, it hosts board meetings and retreats.

Cabins can provide something for every occasion. Whether your family or group is large or small, state park properties likely have one to suit you.