Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park, Indianapolis
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Summary Amid residential and commercial development, Ft. Harrison State Park is the centerpiece in
this example of how communities can execute adaptive reuse successfully.
Location 5753 Glenn Road, Indianapolis, IN 46216; northeastern suburban Indy near 56th Street and
Post Road, almost at the geographical center of Indiana.
Google Map to the park entrance
Maps and Elevation Profiles The Schoen Creek MTB trail
can be found on our Garmin page but did not upload to our
RideWithGPS page. The Camp Glen trail is on these pages:
Garmin and RideWithGPS.
Phone For the park office it’s 317-591-0904.
Timing There is no bad time to visit, but... Winters can be
cold but when there’s snow, the sledding hill is open.
Summers can be hot and humid but it’s always cooler on the
trails. Spring has damp and chilly periods but the wildflowers
are beautiful then. Autumn is by far the most appealing time
with warm, dry days, cool nights, and an abundance of
colorful leaves from late September to late October but that’s
when the tourist traffic peaks.
Where to Stay Not much in the vicinity near the park but the
park itself has several options. The only one we’ve stayed at
is the Main Lodge, which is on Post Road just south of the
park entrance. It was one of the most comfortable rooms
we’ve ever had anywhere (pictured). We also had a family
reunion where several guests shared one of the park’s 3-
bedroom Officer’s Homes. We stayed with our son and his
family but did nose around the guest house. It was large,
comfortable, and worked well for our purposes with a full
kitchen and several spacious rooms for dining and visiting.
In general the facilities are old and look it. They have the
feel of homes from the 1950s. If you can’t remember that
time, staying here is a good way to nestle into post-War
America. If you do remember the ‘50s, welcome home.
Where to Eat The Garrison is your best bet. It’s part of the park. When we’ve eaten there we’ve found
the food to be adequate but not awesome. We’ve not been there for a while, though, and things may
have moved toward awesomeness. Otherwise there’s a selection of chains just outside the park,
including Panera Bread, Culver’s, IHOP, and Quizno’s. There’s also a sports bar or two and at least
one each pizza and Mexican restaurant.
Ft. Ben, as we knew it, has been part of our context for decades. Rich went there regularly in the
1970s to attend meetings of the Cold Nickel group. As you might expect, there’s a story behind that but
it’s a story he shares only in person; ask him about it next time you see him. Julie’s sister’s husband
worked at the Army Finance Center at Ft. Ben for years; it was the
position from which he eventually retired. When the Fort closed in
1996 at the directive of the Base Realignment and Closure
commission, we were already living in Madison and didn’t stay
attentive to what took place. And what took place was an amazing
redevelopment that blended commercial, residential, and
recreational opportunities into one large area. Many of the existing
buildings were repurposed as commercial rentals; many were sold
as individual family homes. New homes were built that fit right in
with the architecture of the older structures. It’s an effort that
remains ongoing and a success that continues to grow.
One of the key developments was the setting aside of 1,700 acres
to create Fort Benjamin Harrison State Park. That sounds like a lot
of land but by the time you cull out a quarter of the area for a golf
course there’s not a lot left to work with. The Department of
Natural Resources did a good job of protecting the interests of a
wide range of users, and they are to be applauded for allowing
mountain bike trail development here despite stiff opposition from
some other groups. Equally worthy of recognition is the Hoosier
Mountain Bike Association. Long proven capable of designing,
building, and maintaining great trails, HMBA honed their political
and organizational skills while addressing the concerns of their
The MTB trails aren’t long or complex and there certainly is not
enough MTB mileage here to make this a destination. However,
the trails are exceedingly well-designed. Crossings of intermittent
streams are well-armored. Crib walls are solidly constructed of
native rock. Both trails are designated for one-way riding going
counterclockwise. The Schoen Creek trail is a perfect
intermediate-level trail. While there are no really challenging
features, the entire trail is exciting and fun to ride. The layout gives
the sense that the trail is more difficult to ride than it actually is; in
reality it flows very well. The scenery is enjoyable. The Camp Glen
trail is a perfect beginner’s trail in that it has all the elements of a
more advanced trail but in smaller scale. Smaller bridges. Smaller
dips. Smaller rock gardens. Rich has long touted the beginner’s
trail at Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, Alabama as the best beginner’s trail he’s seen, and he
always took attendees of the Big Ring Adventure Team’s MTB 101 classes to Brum Woods in
Batesville, Indiana, for their first taste of authentic singletrack. Both sites have dropped a notch; Camp
Glen now rules as his Number One pick for beginners.
There are lots of metro-area parks with better mountain bike trails. South Mountain Park in Phoenix,
Oak Mountain State Park in Birmingham, Alabama, and Lebanon Hills in the Twin Cities come to mind.
There are parks with better dining options, such as Natural Bridge State Park in Kentucky and DeSoto
State Park in Alabama. (More info on Natural Bridge in our Red River Gorge review and our review of
DeSoto is here.) In fact you could pick any single feature of Ft. Ben and find parks that do it better. But
you’d be hard-pressed to find any park that does as good a job of meeting the needs of multiple user
groups as well in as little area, and none that did so by repurposing a former military installation.
Let us know what you think. Send us an e-mail (e-mail addresses are on the Contact page) or post
your comments on our Facebook page.
1. Delaware Lake offers fishing.
2. The Garrison includes a restaurant.
3. The State Park Inn has large, comfortable rooms.
4. Schoen Creek trail has great flow.
5. One of several bridges on the Schoen Creek trail.
6. Like all the features on the Camp Glen trail, the bridges are smaller than those on Schoen Creek.
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