They say good fences make good neighbors, but what makes an even better neighbor is a state park, especially when it’s Fort Harrison. If you haven’t been to our office yet—hopefully not because you’re waiting for that bunion to get better on its own (it won’t!)—you may not be aware our office is right next door to Fort Ben.
This local, 1,700-acre treasure hosts lots of events and has so many fantastic features, but let’s start by jumping right into a personal favorite – the mountain bike trails.
If you’re a mountain biker who has not taken to the trails at Fort Ben, you’ve been missing out! The trails in the park were designed by the guy who did some of the top mountain bike trails in the country and were hand-built by volunteers from the Hoosier Mountain Bike Association (HMBA). The association also takes responsibility for maintaining the trails and, even better, provides a report on their website to let you know about the current conditions (you can find current conditions on this page).
The HMBA site also gives an extensive description of the trails. It’s probably no coincidence, though, that the “Need To Know” section includes a note to stop by Triton Brewing after your ride. If you aren’t familiar with Triton, this local microbrewery has a stable of tasty house brews, and also an array of seasonal and limited-release beers. While quaffing some Triton beverages, you can enjoy delicious eats from the local food trucks that make regular stops at the brewery. The latest news is that they are putting in their own kitchen by mid summer.
In addition to the mountain bike trails, the state park has a variety of winter activities. (Sure, we’re heading into the summer season, but winter will roll around soon enough.) Cross-country skiing and ice fishing are both popular activities, but a really cool park feature is the sledding hill, which is one of the biggest in our region and was built with excess dirt from the construction of I-465.
During our warmer months—when sledding, ice fishing and cross-country skiing are rather difficult—there are so many outdoor activities to choose from. Obviously, mountain biking is a fantastic option, but Fort Ben is also a great place to picnic with your family, go for a run or walk if you’re having a stressful day, and check out any of the battle reenactments or the Museum of 20st Century Warfare onsite. (The park did serve as an actual military facility opened by President Theodore Roosevelt and named in honor of President Benjamin Harrison.)
Before the base was decommissioned back in 1991, there were several amenities for the officers, including officer lodging, an officers’ club, and an 18-hole, Scottish style golf course. The officer housing has been converted to an inn—The Fort Golf Course Resort—that makes this the only public golf course in Indianapolis to offer onsite lodging. The course itself was redesigned after the fort’s closure by noted golf course designer (and native Hoosier) Pete Dye.
Of course, golf isn’t for everyone, so you may be more interested in attending any of the numerous fun runs, concert series, and events hosted at the park. If you enjoy fishing, the park’s ponds are stocked. Horse riding enthusiasts can contact the park’s Saddle Barn for information on rentals, trail riding, and lessons.
There is an annual event—the Ford Hoosier Outdoor Experience—that is definitely worth checking out. This year’s event is On June 10th and 11th, between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm, Fort Ben is hosting Indiana’s “largest interactive outdoor recreation event.” Rain or shine, there will be over 50 different hands-on activities, exhibits, demonstrations, and classes. Here is a link to a list of the experiences and activities. Also worth noting is that admission is free (but you should register here to help for accuracy in planning). You are welcome to park at my office and wallk in – the park is closed to cars for this event.
There is certainly more that can be said about our favorite neighbor—we didn’t even touch on the abundance of natural beauty—but hopefully this helps give you a little insight into Indy’s best kept secret. You don’t have to take our word for it, though, plan your own visit to Fort Ben and see for yourself exactly what the park has to offer!