If you haven't experienced fall in Indiana, you are missing a spectacular sight as all of the leaves start changing color. One of the best spots to immerse yourself in fall foliage is right here in Hendricks County at McCloud Nature Park. It's no wonder, then, that Hendricks County Parks & Recreation holds an annual celebration of autumn at McCloud Nature Park called the Fall Colors Festival.

Located just southwest of North Salem, McCloud Nature Park has been one of my favorite spots in Hendricks County -- long before I started working for Hendricks County Parks & Recreation. Autumn is my favorite season of the year, and fall foliage is a big part of that, so I love how the trees at McCloud turn all sorts of different colors.Take a hayride through the fall colors at McCloud Nature Park on Oct. 21.

Visit Indiana regards McCloud Nature Park as one of the best fall foliage spots in the state, and Only In Your State included McCloud in its dreamy road trip to see the best fall foliage across the state. We're kind of a big deal in the fall.

The Fall Colors Festival celebrates that and more every year at McCloud Nature Park, and this year, it will be held on Saturday, Oct. 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Last year, we added a bunch of new activities to the Fall Colors Festival, all of which turned out to be insanely popular. Archery was one of those crazy-popular activities, so we're bringing it back this year. Instructors from Hendricks County 4-H Shooting Sports will offer kids and adults the opportunity to learn some basic archery skills and safety before firing arrows into targets, all for free.

Climb a tree at the Fall Colors Festival at McCloud Nature ParkWe also added tree-climbing to the festival last year -- an idea that came from our superintendent, Jeremy Weber, who holds a degree from Purdue University in Forestry and Natural Resources and who also has extensive experience as a tree-climber.

He brought the ropes and harnesses, and spent the day helping kids shimmy their way up and down a tree. The activity proved so popular that Jeremy stayed for an hour after the Fall Colors Festival ended because he couldn't say "no" to kids who want to climb trees.

So, we're doing it again this year, and it also is absolutely free to enjoy.

We're bringing back several other free activities that have been favorites for years -- pumpkin decorating and carving, candle-dipping and an apple cider press where you and your family can take turns cranking the wheel, crushing apples and tasting your own fresh apple cider.

Hayrides return as well with our park manager, Jim Holtsclaw, pulling wagons full of people along some trails at McCloud that give our visitors a wonderful view of the fall foliage at the park. Make sure you bring your camera, as well as a little cash because we charge $5 per person or $10 for a family of any size for the hayrides.

Our free, heron-themed Prairie Maze will be open for the whole family to explore during the festival. You can find maps to help guide you through the maze at the Nature Center and at the maze entrance.

(Insider tip: Make sure the whole family is wearing closed-toe shoes that you don't mind getting dirty or muddy inside the maze. The stiff, dried tallgrass stalks don't feel real great when they meet unprotected toes in sandals or flip-flops.)

We're not just satisfied with the status quo here at Hendricks County Parks & Recreation. No, no. We're bringing some new stuff in this year, too!

Our friends from Brownsburg Parks & Recreation will join us at McCloud Nature Park for the Fall Colors Festival with fun, free yard games for the whole family to enjoy. This activity showcases a new partnership we have with our Brownsburg friends (another example, our Winter Animal Hike program on Nov. 11 will be held at Brownsburg's Williams Park).

Also new this year, Serendipity Mobile Catering will bring a food truck to the festival with a variety of food items available for purchase. After all, walking the prairie maze, shooting bows and arrows, climbing trees, making apple cider, playing yard games and decorating pumpkins works up an appetite!

OMasana Yoga Studio also will join the Fall Colors Festival offering free yoga classes. They will host one-hour yoga sessions at 11 a.m. and again at 2:30 p.m. and a Wellness Hike at 12:30 p.m.

Archery is a very popular activity at the Fall Colors FestivalRachel Davis, a local artist with The Purple Palette, will provide face painting throughout the festival. If you attended the McCloud Honeybee Fest in August, you know the quality that Rachel brings even though it is free.

Finally, we thought it would be a great idea to arm a bunch of kids with ancient hunting weapons during this year's Fall Colors Festival. What could possibly go wrong?

Don't worry, we're not setting up the most demented game of Dodgeball in the history of time. One of our Park Naturalists will guide visitors on how to hold and throw an atlatl at a target, as well as how the weapons were used by Native Americans to bring down game. Try your hand at throwing an atlatl free of charge.

(Insider tip: This activity is the first of some new atlatl programs that we'll be offering in the coming months.)

Make plans to bring the entire family out to the Fall Colors Festival at McCloud Nature Park and celebrate fall foliage with us!

Fall Colors Festival

  • Saturday, Oct. 21, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Fall Colors Run to be held at 9 a.m.; runners and walkers click here for more info
  • McCloud Nature Park
  • 8518 N. Hughes Road, North Salem, Ind.
  • Free to attend
  • Hayrides and food available for purchase (bring cash; cell service is too spotty at McCloud for credit cards)
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