Staycate at a DNR cabin this Year

A family cabin at Brown County State Park. PHOTO: DNR

story by DNR

Embrace winter, minus the crowds

Start 2021 right with a getaway that’s outdoorsy by day and super cozy overnight, with plenty of privacy and space to spare. The destination? A cabin at a DNR property. Each of your many options is nestled in a spectacular setting. These are places to embrace winter, minus the crowds of summer or fall, or usher in early spring, with sight lines unobstructed by leaves on the trees.

A select group of Indiana’s State Parks and Forestry properties offer these homes away from home year- round. Within that group are two categories. One, the group managed by the property itself, and reserved at, are a much warmer and more private step above camping. The other, reserved through IndianaInns. com, is managed by State Park Inns. They generally offer more creature comforts. All boast a private entrance into the Hoosier state’s great outdoors.

Pokagon State Park Cabins

Properties in the first grouping that offer cabins year-round include Harmonie, McCormick’s Creek, Potato Creek, Shakamak and Whitewater Memorial state parks, and Morgan-Monroe State Forest’s Cherry Lake Lodge. The cabins are cleaned and disinfected
in between stays. Groups can cook and clean to their own comfort level, without interruption, while they are there, and before they leave.

The Pease family of Shelbyville, after years of tent camping, rented a cabin for the first time late last fall at Whitewater Memorial. Bill Pease was so impressed he wrote a poem about the experience. It’s posted on the State Parks Facebook page.

“If you enjoy being close to nature but you don’t necessarily want everything that goes with that, this is the way to go,” says Pease, who was joined by his wife, their niece and her friend, and his sister. “It was fun to be able to cook over the fire and sit around outside and talk—but it was also nice to be able to walk in and hit that queen size bed.

“Staying in a cabin is a luxury, and it’s not that much more expensive than camping.”

Their cabin came with two bedrooms and a pullout couch, a living room area, a full kitchen and a small dining area off the kitchen, one bathroom, a screened-in porch with a picnic table, and a fire ring outside. Amenities vary by cabin and property.

Staying at one of the inns-operated cabins offers a similar experience to the Pease family’s, but with maid service and linens included. These cabins are at Brown County, Pokagon and Turkey Run state parks. The experience leans more toward staying in hotel room, but with more space and privacy, as well as handier access to one the main reasons you’re probably visiting in the first place.

A cabin suite at Brown County State Park. PHOTO: DNR

“A big difference between staying in an inn versus staying in a cabin is that, in a cabin, you are in the woods,” says James Teel, regional manager for State Park Inns.

And no state park has more forest than 16,000-acre Brown County State Park, which offers three styles of cabins. With the family cabins, which are the largest option, your nearest neighbor would be about 40 feet away.

“It’s just like being at home with a house next to you,” Teel said, except for all the trees. “There’s a full kitchen, wood burning stove, and plenty of isolation if that’s what you are looking for.

“Guests can bring an entire feast for the weekend and stay in the cabin and cook and just enjoy the outdoors without having to worry about doing anything else.”

Skiing at Pokagon State Park

If you prefer, any or all meals can be purchased at the on-site inn. Brown County’s family cabins are two-story, with the bedrooms upstairs, one with a king and one with a queen, plus two sleeper sofas in the living room. Its modern cabin suites, which are five years old, are like duplexes, with a separation in the middle. They come with a wet bar, mini fridge, microwave, and coffee pot. The historic cabins, built in 1932, offer a more rustic experience. All options come with access to the park’s indoor aquatic center in Abe Martin Lodge, which oversees them.

Turkey Run’s sleeping cabins just came back on the market in August of last year after undergoing total renovations. Each is divided into four private rooms with private entrances.

Each has two full beds with bathroom, a 42-inch TV, and mini fridge, and microwave. Add all the trails and scenery that Turkey Run and Turkey Run Inn are famous for, and you can’t miss.

For a place where winter is likely to linger longer, try the cabins at Pokagon State Park near Angola, managed by Potawatomi Inn. The main attraction for many is the toboggan run, which operates through January and February, snow or no.

Potawatomi offers eight historic cabins that were renovated in 2019. For a more hotel-like experience but with more living room, there are four cabin suites that accommodate up to five people each.

To get a full list of all of what’s offered at each type of cabin at each of the properties mentioned, check out the last page of the DNR Recreation Guide at There you’ll also notice various other lodging options that are more like renting an actual house.

No matter where you go, these are hideaways to escape the stress of everyday life, get outdoors, see nature and wildlife, hit the trails, play games, and make memories.

Chances are there’s a cabin option that’s perfect for you and your crew.