I have to admit that I’m not the most enthusiastic outdoor person, and for a long time that attitude kept me from experiencing some beautiful outdoor spots in the Midwest. It’s also kept me indoors way too often in the winter months.
However, when I learned that Indiana had a refrigerated toboggan run — one of a small amount of them still around — I decided it was good reason to get myself outside, and I made plans to visit with my kids.
I have fond memories of visiting the Swallow Cliff Toboggan Slides in Palos Park, part of the Cook County Forest Preserves, as a teenager and when my kids were pretty small. Before and after we had kids, I took nieces and nephews along to experience the thrill of zooming down the slides, and the agonizing chore of lugging the large rental toboggans up the 125 stairs to realize that thrill.
The slides sadly closed in 2004, the forest preserve district unable to justify the growing costs of maintaining and operating the attraction that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1930.
So, when a post showed up in my feed about the Toboggan Run at Pokagon State Park near Angola, Indiana, I was anxious to make a trip to check it out. The refrigerated run allows for use even when the weather isn’t cooperating and providing wintery conditions.
When you rent a toboggan, you head up the 30-foot tower and then go down a 90-foot vertical drop. It takes about 20 to 30 exhilarating seconds to make it down the quarter-mile track, and the top speed to make that descent has been recorded at 42 miles per hour.
About 90,000 visitors make their way down the run each season. It was built in 1935, also a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps, just like the Swallow Cliff Toboggan Slides I loved so much.
In planning a trip, be aware that there is a park entrance fee ($7 for Indiana residents and $9 for out-of-state vehicles) in addition to the sled rental of $13 per hour. There’s a Friday special where you if you rent three toboggans in the same hour, the third is free. You cannot bring your own sled and must rent a sled to use the toboggan run.
Hours are 5:30-9 p.m. on Fridays, 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. When we were there, they had fires going to help keep you warm between runs.
I’d also suggest making your visit an overnighter and staying at the park’s Potawatomi Inn Resort and Conference Center. We didn’t stay there on our visit, but went in to check out the inn and see if there was a restaurant.
I loved the cozy feel of the lodge, which had a roaring fire going in the big fireplace as families sat at nearby tables playing board games, or individuals sat tucked into big comfy corner chairs reading. It also overlooks Lake James, and you get a great vantage point for a lovely landscape from the inn.
Cross country ski rental is also available in the state park. Skis, boots and poles can be rented by the hour.