Why is Indiana off the beaten path?


There is but one lonely state that does not have a single inch of the National Trails System (Historic or Scenic) contained within its boundaries. Sadly, that is my birth state of Indiana.

National Trails map

Source: National Park Service – link to the whole map -http://www.nps.gov/nts/maps/National%20Trails%20map.pdf

How can that be? Is Indiana so devoid of history or scenery, that the state does not want to promote it? No, I personally know that is not the case from having lived for there for my first 22 years and visited numerous times thereafter. Granted, I personally believe the Midwest and Great Lakes states are the most over-looked, dismissed, as well as short-sighted parts of the nation when it comes historic and scenic designations. We certainly don’t toot our own horn very well.

Is the state so far off the beaten path that no one wants to venture there? I doubt that as well, given its nickname as the “Crossroads of America.”

So what is it? A lack of will – perhaps. A lack of money – also a possibility, though there seems to be plenty of money being thrown at other projects (worthy and unworthy) across the state including several very nice multi-purpose trails like the Monon Trail in the Indianapolis area.

Not a priority? Hate to say it, but I fear that may be a plausible explanation, as Midwestern modesty may be part of our problem.  Just a quick glance at the National Trail System Map shows how deficient the Midwest and Great Lakes are compared to most other parts of our country.

There is certainly a wealth of history in Indiana that deserves some type of recognition and despite the myth that Indiana is flat, the state has numerous areas of scenic beauty and changeable terrain. So, here are my unsolicited suggestions for historic and/or scenic trails that Indiana (and perhaps neighboring states) should consider adding to the National Trails System:

  • Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Trail – from his birth in Kentucky, to his boyhood in Indiana, to his career in Illinois.
  • George Rogers Clark National Historic Trail – following the path of his historic march from Vincennes, Indiana to Kaskaskia, Illinois.
  • John Dillinger National Historic Trail – from his boyhood in Mooresville and Indianapolis to his amazing escape in Crown Point and ultimate death in Chicago, this would be one seriously interesting trail.
  • Bring a small snippet of the North Country National Scenic Trail into Steuben County, Indiana near Angola, so that hikers can enjoy the awesome beauty of the Pokagon region.
  • Johnny Appleseed National Historic Trail – highlighting the life of this American legend who is buried in Fort Wayne.
  • Birth of Aviation National Historic Trail – linking Wilbur’s birthplace in Millville, Indiana with Orville’s birthplace in Dayton, Ohio and their bicycle shop in Dayton.
  • Potawatomi Trail of Death National Historic Trail – you think the Trail of Tears is sad, the government was extra nasty with this forced removal of Native Americans.
  • LaSalle Portage National Historic Trail – extending from St. Joseph, Michigan south along the St. Joseph River to South Bend, Indiana and then overland to the Kankakee River.
  • Triple T (Tippecanoe, Tyler, & Tecumseh) International Historic Trail – connecting key battlefields from the War of 1812 in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario.

Food for thought, folks. It is high time for Indiana and the Midwest/Great Lakes in general to start touting their amenities. Not only will the effort instill greater pride, but also help preserve many of the best things about our region and increase tourism dollars coming from other parts of the country and from around the world. Sounds like a win, win, win situation to me!

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3 Responses to Why is Indiana off the beaten path?

  1. You’ve got some excellent suggestions here! I haven’t traveled much in Indiana yet, but I do know that the southern part has lots of hilly terrain, while much land in the central and northern parts are nearly flat.

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  2. Ryan says:

    Well I think the main reason Indiana is left behind is because not many people in Indiana want to create a trail system. Usually these are trails that are already there and might need a little expanding. Not just the history behind them. Look for trails that stretch from one side of the State to the other and see if you can start up a group to get one going.

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