Benches on a beach

Summer is here, and there’s no better place to socialize while maintaining physical distance than in the great outdoors.

Fortunately, Muncie has some great places to hang out outside.

Here are five can’t-miss local destinations. Each is accessible by bicycle (at least for those who are able and adventurous), along with three additional spots that are a half-hour drive away.

The Cardinal and White River greenways

Muncie has a trail system for cyclists and pedestrians that makes other communities jealous.

Along the scenic White River is the fittingly named White River Greenway, a more than 3-mile long ribbon of pavement that runs from the west side of town to the east side of town.

The longer Cardinal Greenway, a former railroad track, runs 62 miles from Marion in the northwest to Richmond in the southeast and cuts through the heart of Muncie, intersecting the White River Greenway.

Each is managed by Cardinal Greenways, and using them is free. These trails connect so many valuable outdoor destinations in and around Muncie, which you’ll see as you continue to read.

Prairie Creek Reservoir

Prairie Creek Reservoir

Prairie Creek Reservoir is that rare lake that doesn’t require a boat to enjoy.

The lake itself is about 1,300 acres, and it’s surrounded by 750 acres of natural areas and parkland managed by the City of Muncie. You can swim at the beach and fish from the shore. You can also hike, mountain bike, picnic, camp and more. And, on a clear evening, the reservoir, with its undeveloped western shoreline, is the perfect place to watch the sun set.

Certain user fees apply.

The Cardinal Greenway runs just south of Prairie Creek Reservoir. Getting there and back is about a 20-mile round trip by bike and a short drive by car.

Minnetrista Cultural Center

Minnetrista

Minnetrista is more than just a museum celebrating the history of Muncie and the legacy of the Ball Family.

Its 40-acre campus is loaded with scenic spots, including beautiful gardens, natural areas, walking paths, towering hardwood trees, ephemeral wildflowers and more. Like so many great things in Muncie, it connects to the White River Greenway.

Roaming the grounds is free, though there is a fee for museum admission.

Red Tail Nature Preserve

Red Tail Nature Preserve

Red-tail Nature Preserve southeast of Muncie is a feast for the eyes. The restored, 105-acre prairie is full of wildflowers that hit peak bloom around mid-to-late summer and form an oasis for butterflies and other wildlife.

Managed by Red-tail Land Conservancy, the property features a 0.5-mile walking path.

The preserve is located right off the Cardinal Greenway, 8 miles south of downtown Muncie near Prairie Creek Reservoir. If you’re a confident cyclist, just head there on your bike.

Visiting the preserve is free.

John M. Craddock Wetland Nature Preserve

John Craddock Wetlands

This 27-acre natural area honors renowned environmentalist and Ball State alumnus John Craddock. In 1972, Craddock founded the Muncie Bureau of Water Quality, eventually restoring the White River from a mostly lifeless open sewer into the thriving natural stream that it is today.

Perfect for urban birdwatching, the property on Muncie’s east side features a trail and boardwalks and a neat pavilion.

Visiting John M. Craddock Wetland Nature Preserve is free, and the preserve is easy to access from the White River Greenway.

Runners up

The rest of these are located outside Muncie and require a car. But they’re definitely worth the trip if you have a set of wheels or if you know someone who does.

Mounds State Park

Mounds State Park

By state park standards, Mounds State Park in Anderson is diminutive at just 290 acres. But it packs a lot of punch for a property its size.

Choose from more than 6 miles of fantastic hiking trails that explore steep, wooded bluffs along the White River. The park is also home to several prehistoric mounds built 2,000 years ago by the Adena and Hopewell culture.

Activities include hiking, swimming, camping and more. Admission costs $7 per in-state vehicle.

Summit Lake State Park

Summit Lake State Park

Sure, all lakes are pretty. But there’s something special about Summit Lake, known for its clean, clear water.

As spring rains give way to dry weather, the lake, located between Muncie and New Castle, turns an almost aquamarine color. The fishing and wildlife watching is great, too. The lake is home to both a nesting pair of ospreys and a nesting pair of bald eagles. Fish, swim, hike, camp and more.

Admission costs $7 per in-state vehicle.