There is an entrance fee to the park ($7 for Indiana residents and I believe a $9 fee if you are out of state) but I would always recommend buying an Indiana State Park pass which is $50 for Indiana residents and $70 for those who are not from Indiana. They pay for themselves almost immediately, especially if you regularly visit Indiana State Parks.
Parking is available at either the spillway or the Lakeshore Trail
parking area. For this description, I have the spillway parking as the trailhead. This trail is characterized by two main sections, the "easy" section and the "rugged" section.
Begin on the "easy" section of the trail and enter the Hornbeam Nature Preserve. This section is mostly flat and wide, and is good for hiking. An abundance of birds can be found, and Whitewater Lake can be viewed well in late fall, winter, and early spring. Once you reach the Lakeshore Trail
parking area, cross the road and begin the "rugged" portion.
This section follows a small valley, and is far enough away from the road to view more wildlife. I have seen deer, raccoons, and numerous birds and rodents on this section. The trail is much narrower at times, so hiking it is more difficult. Near the end of the trail, you'll come across an observation platform overlooking a rather large area of iron-rich water seeping out of the ground. You'll see more of the spring a little farther as you continue on the trail. After the observation area, the trail continues uphill and back to the parking lot. There is an optional spur to the right that goes to the bottom of the spillway for fishing, though I have never taken it.
Overall, this is a short and fun trail and is good for families with kids. This is probably my favorite trail in Whitewater Memorial State Park, along with Memorial Loop Trail
. As far as I know, dogs are allowed on leashes.
Old hardwood trees and birds are abundant in Hornbeam Nature Preserve. Deer, raccoons, and other animals can be found as well. This is a good trail for wildflowers in the spring.