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Spring Mill State Park has a lot going for it, including caves, sinkholes, old timber, trails, natural wildlife, a lake, and excellent campgrounds. Find it at 3333 State road 60 E, Mitchell, IN 47446. / Image: IG user @rdhelweg

A Day Trip To Spring Mill State Park Is The Best Way To Kick Off Fall

Located just south of Bloomington, the 1,358-acre Spring Mill State Park is filled with caves and sinkholes, trails and wildlife, fast-moving waters and a gorgeous man-made lake.

It isn't Indiana's largest state park -- not by a long shot. But it just might be the best place to welcome in that crisp autumn air. (If, you know, it ever actually gets here.)

PARK CURIOSITIES:

Two Different Trees: Spring Mill is predominated by a forest that was recently regenerated by the park. Though the trees are gorgeous eye-candy during fall hikes, they aren't of the ancient, enormously dense forests that covered North America before colonization. But there is a parcel of old virgin timber at Spring Mill, and it's worth checking out if only to see what North America used to look like.

Man vs. Nature: Spring Mill's premier natural attraction is its cave system, which you should definitely explore. The park's premier man-made attraction is its lake, which offers many opportunities for some Dawson's Creek-style staring pensively into the sunset. And it just so happens that those two attractions are working at cross-purposes, as silt from the caves is actively infilling the lake. Interesting.

Traveling Through Time: The park is home to Pioneer Village, one of those “lost in time” jams where everyone pretends they’re from, in this case, the 1860s. Nearby, there’s a memorial to area native Gus Grissom, one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 accident. So in the same afternoon, you can live provincially on the prairie and step into the stars on a Gemini 3 spacecraft.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:

Trails: The park has seven trails, from a one-mile loop around the lake to a two-and-a-half mile hike through forests and caves. You can combine all the trails into a ultra mega trail, and that’s probably a tidy little 10k.

Caves: There are several caves in the park, but the two largest are the Twin Caves and Donaldson Cave. The Twin Caves offer boat tours that take you around 500 feet into the mouth.

Nature Center: Open daily, March-October, the Nature Center overlooks Spring Mill Lake and is filled with exhibits on the park’s natural history.

Camp Sites: If you’re looking for an extended stay, the park has a campground featuring 188 Class A campsites. Four “comfort stations” are located in the campground, and I’ll let you guess what those are for.

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Spring Mill Park is located at 3333 State road 60 E, Mitchell, IN 47446.

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