Best Hiking near Bloomington

Travel

Waterfalls, Caves, and Trails

If you are looking for fantastic hiking spots near Bloomington, Indiana, you have come to the right spot! As a photographer, I am always looking for the most rewarding trails. It is a fine risk vs reward balance between the length/difficulty of the hike versus the destination. I am willing to walk a short distance for an alright-looking waterfall, but not 3 miles. However, I have no problem with walking 8+ miles for something truly amazing and unique.

That being said, here are the four parks I visited on my recent three day trip to Bloomington, Indiana, along with my recommendations from each. I have actually been to 3 of the 4 before, but had no regrets giving them a revisit. While in Bloomington, check out my restaurant recommendations as well to fill your stomach in between hikes!

Cataract Falls State Park

This is one of those amazing parks with a perfect risk vs reward ratio. There is parking directly next to both the upper and lower cascade falls. That's right, two amazing sections of waterfalls, BOTH with nearly no walking required. Not only that, these are honestly some of my favorite waterfalls in Indiana, and I have gone all over looking for the best! Now, it is about a 45 minute drive from downtown Bloomington, but definitely worth it. Check out some photos of them below!

Leonard Springs Nature Park

This one is just a short 15 minute drive from downtown Bloomington. There is a tiny little parking lot, which I personally like to see as it shows you that there won't be much traffic in the park. There is just one big loop of a trail that is quite scenic, and conveniently the waterfall is first on the trail so you can quickly get to the falls. These falls are a bit less impressive if you have just come from Cataract Falls, but for the location and short walk I rank this definitely as "worth it".

Lower Cascades Park

You will find this little guy just 10 minutes north of downtown, Bloomington. It was not the easiest to find the waterfall without some digging. Your best bet is to park at the Skate Park at Upper Cascades. From there, the falls are less than a 5 minute walk north. The trail is not marked or easily seen, just follow the short paved sidewalk to the west of the basketball court and then you will see a small and narrow walking trail leading you through the woods north to the falls.

This waterfall was pretty disappointing when I arrived, not having much waterflow. I would probably not return here again, but if you are in Bloomington it may be worth a quick visit.

McCormick's Creek State Park

Just 25 minutes from downtown Bloomington, this one is well worth putting on your list. This is a very nice sized park with lots to explore. My favorite two spots are the Canyon Falls and the Wolf Cave. Canyon Falls has quick access parking, with lots of steps down to the falls from there. This one is set beautifully in the canyon and has plenty of different viewing spots to explore, as well as a great river to cross with scattered stones.

Wolf Cave is found from Trail 5 and is a bit of a longer walk, maybe about 45 minutes roundtrip. It is flat for half and then a bit steeper the rest of the way. The first part of the trail that I have in the photos below is a very serene patch of trees and is my favorite trail in the park. Wolf Cave itself is very cool, and you are allowed to climb through it if you want! It is dark, so bring a flashlight. Also....spiders....lots of them. If you fear them, I advise against crawling through. But the trail connects to both ends of the very short cave, and one of the ends has very cool and open cave tunnels you can explore (spider free - as much as anywhere can be).

My favorite part of this visit was a group of kids that were doing a tour and seeing their reactions after having gone through the cave. The boys seemed to have a blast and all the girls were complaining about spiders. I chuckled to the tour guide that they seemed to have had fun, to which a girl touted back "No we did not!" Spider-infested caves are not for everyone, that is for sure! I dared the crawl a couple of years back and got some shots of what was inside, and so didn't feel up for that "adventure" this go around.

Check out the photos

I've saved the best for last! Here are some of my favorite shots from all 4 parks, along with a couple of other shots from my trip. Comment below which park is your favorite, or if there is one I missed!

Cataract Falls State Park - Upper Falls

Cataract Falls State Park - Upper Falls

Cataract Falls State Park - Upper Falls

Cataract Falls State Park - Upper Falls

Cataract Falls State Park - Upper Falls

Cataract Falls State Park - Upper Falls

Cataract Falls State Park - Lower Falls

Cataract Falls State Park - Lower Falls

Abandoned Quarry

Abandoned Quarry

Leonard Springs Nature Park Falls

Leonard Springs Nature Park Falls

Leonard Springs Nature Park Old Fence

Leonard Springs Nature Park Old Fence

Lower Cascades Park Falls

Lower Cascades Park Falls

Lower Cascades Park Moss

Lower Cascades Park Moss

Lower Cascades Park Trail

Lower Cascades Park Trail

Amazing Random Telephone Pole

Amazing Random Telephone Pole

McCormick's Creek State Park Falls

McCormick's Creek State Park Falls

McCormick's Creek State Park Falls

McCormick's Creek State Park Falls

McCormick's Creek State Park Trees

McCormick's Creek State Park Trees

McCormick's Creek State Park Trail through the Trees

McCormick's Creek State Park Trail through the Trees

McCormick's Creek State Park Cave

McCormick's Creek State Park Cave

McCormick's Creek State Park Growth on Rock

McCormick's Creek State Park Growth on Rock

McCormick's Creek State Park Jagged Rocks in Cave

McCormick's Creek State Park Jagged Rocks in Cave


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About the Author

Nicholas Klein

Founder and visual artist, specializing in all aspects of a businesses presence from imagery and video to graphics and web. A graduate of IPFW with a Bachelor in Fine Arts, Concentration Photography as well as an Associates Degree in Business. His personal photography works are focused on landscape, travel, and aerial photography.

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