Word of mouth is the best way to find out what campgrounds are the best in the Midwest. One day I was talking with another RV family who has spent time extensive time camping. This family not only camped most of America’s National Parks, but they also spent time camping across Europe. The mom insisted that Turkey Run State Park was the best camping area she had ever been to. It was hard for me to believe that just a short drive south would bring us to this well-traveled family’s claimed best camping experience.
I was determined to check out Turkey Run State Park for myself, so when the 2021 dates opened up, Turkey Run was the first camping trip we booked. I logged into ReserveAmerica and took a look at the pictures of the sites to determine where we wanted to set up our camper for a long weekend.
When I book a campsite I look for:
- Electric sites
- Close to a modern bathroom
- Sites off the main road, in the back of the campground to get away from the traffic
- Shady sites that back to a forest
- Concrete pad if it is an option
Turkey Run State Park Campground
We pulled in on a Thursday evening, and the campground was pretty sparse. We wound our way to the back of Turkey Run State Park Campground and pulled into site 234. It was a grassy site that backed up to a forest and ravine that the kids enjoyed exploring. I would recommend the site next to us: site 233, as it was on a nice concrete pad.
The site was perfect for the kids. They enjoyed biking around the area, playing at the playground, and it was a convenient location to the modern bathrooms as none of the sites have water hookups. We did fill our 45-gallon fresh water tank before setting up, which was plenty of water for our family of 5 for 3 nights.
Turkey Run State Park is off the beaten path with limited grocery shopping. We did bring in enough food for all of our meals, but we usually plan on stopping by a local ice cream shop after a day of activity. There were limited dining establishments, so we ended up picking up ice cream sandwiches at the local gas station. I will definitely bring in our own frozen treats next time we head back to Turkey Run State Park.
By Friday evening, every site was full, and the campground was lively, with kids biking and families sitting around campfires.
Turkey Run State Park Hiking
Hiking with kids ages 13, 11, and 9 turned into a chore as the trails close to our home lacked newness and adventure. However, as we entered Turkey Run State Park and crossed over the suspension bridge to access the hiking trails, their interest was piqued.
We hiked trail #3, which runs along a ravine streambed. Our Shih Tzu loved walking through all the water, and the kids climbed over rock beds, crossed streams on logs, and found the hardest way up through the nice cool streambed. The highlights of trail #3 were the Ice Box, Bear Hollow, and the ladders, which our pup had to be carried up. We only hiked part of the trail and thought we hit the jackpot with all the unique rock formations we saw.
The following day, we decided to enjoy the heat of the day hiking in the ravine, where it was much cooler. This time we decided to go through Rocky Hollow and the Punch Bowl on the other side of trail #3. This was our favorite hike in Turkey Run State Park. At times I wasn’t sure we were still on the trail as it climbed up the streambed. The kids’ shoes were muddy and wet, but their love for hiking was back, and they were ready to tackle the next obstacle. The Punch Bowl was an amazing rock formation, and it was a nice cool place to rest before continuing our hike.
Turkey Run State Park offers amazing hiking, but you need to make sure you are aware of the trail’s difficulty before you get started. On our first day of hiking, we hiked 50 flights of stairs, and many of those were steep. Our dog managed most of the trail, but the ladders are a single file climb. I was grateful we went up the ladders instead of down. We did our hiking during slow parts of the day, so we never had to wait in line. I had read reviews that, at times, it is so busy in Turkey Run State Park that it seems like a continuous flow of hikers. This was not our experience on a Thursday morning and late Friday afternoon. We felt like we were just by ourselves exploring nature which is just how I like to hike.
Turkey Run State Park Canoeing
On Saturday morning, we made reservations through Sugar Valley to rent two canoes. We chose a 6 mile trip down Sugar Creek to canoe with our family. The section of Sugar Creek we chose was less busy and had two covered bridges to see. The current was strong enough that it didn’t take much effort to canoe the portion of the river. We let the kids have their own canoe and they managed just fine. We stopped on a sandbar to enjoy lunch about 3 miles down the river. It took our family about 2 hours to complete this adventure at a relaxed pace.
Canoeing Sugar Creek was peaceful, refreshing, and away from the crowds. It was the perfect way for us to start our Saturday. Sugar Valley offers a 10-mile trip which we would do next time as well as a 3-mile trip that many young families were choosing.
Add Turkey Run State Park to your Camping List
Our family is already planning our next visit. We feel like we just scratched the surface of all the hiking trails. Turkey Run State Park offers horseback riding which we will plan for our next trip. There is also a nice outdoor swimming pool that wasn’t open for the season that our kids want to hit up.
Coming before Memorial Day weekend kept the crowds low but next year we will come a little later to ensure the pool will be available. One thing to note is that signs warn against swimming & wading in Sugar Creek within Turkey Run State Park. It was hard to find places to cool off in the afternoon that is why hiking in the streambed was a win for us!
After a quick camping trip to Turkey Run State Park, it is one that we highly recommend! Check out the area as you will see many beautiful covered bridges and you may even see Amish working their fields with a team of 8 horses as we did.