Spring is here, and it's time to get outside with your family. Taking a hike can be a great outdoor activity to enjoy together. Local hikes require only a little preparation, while all-day ventures to other regions of the state take more planning.

If you’re wanting to enjoy a family hike in the great outdoors, take a few minutes to prepare. At least one member of your group will need a bag or backpack with snacks and water bottles. Everyone should have sturdy shoes and weather-appropriate clothing. Since spring weather in Indiana can change quickly, dress in layers.

Our family loves to take hikes in our state parks. One of our favorites is Mounds State Park.

It has trails with a variety of topography, plus several earthen mounds built by the Adena-Hopewell people about 2,000 years ago. Mounds State Park also has an excellent Nature Center, with displays explaining the placement of the mounds and highlighting local wildlife.

There is a comfortable bird-watching room and clean bathrooms. The multi-purpose room at the Nature Center hosts frequent special events, including activities geared for different age groups and fun, nature-inspired craft sessions. The nature center is a great place to go on windy or cold days to warm up between hikes.

In the fall, when it was still fairly warm, we took a late afternoon hike through the park, away from the Mounds. It was especially quiet on this afternoon, and we passed only a few other hikers.

We watched birds and squirrels and talked about the trees we passed. We heard, and then saw, a woodpecker at work. We stopped to enjoy one of the many brooks that feed downhill into the White River.

It was tranquil and refreshing for the adults, and yet it was still the outdoor adventure our older children craved. As the sun began to set, we had the opportunity to watch four deer feeding down in one of the many ravines.

To mark this centennial year of Indiana’s state parks, the DNR and the Indiana State Library have joined to place 240 state park entrance passes at the public libraries across the state. Call yours for details.

These passes may be checked out, and they will give you an opportunity to visit a state park for free. If you enjoy your trip, you can purchase your own park pass for return visits. Each public library in the state was granted one state park pass, so you might have to wait your turn!

If you have a fourth-grader this 2015-2016 school year, Indiana’s state parks are accepting the passes from the “Every Kid in a Park” program, as well.

Whether you choose to visit a city or state park, take the opportunity to get outside, get some exercise and explore nature as a family.

Carol Emmert is a nature lover who lives in Madison County. She is a founding director of Heart of the River Coalition. “On Nature” is published Mondays.