State Parks and More in South- Central Indiana
South-Central Indiana Itinerary
State Parks and More in South-Central Indiana
This itinerary for Indiana’s South-Central region is applicable for any time of year—whether you want to admire Brown County’s fall foliage or hike Clifty Falls State Park on a glorious spring day. Other stops will include waterfront activities on Monroe Lake, historic reenactments at Spring Mill State Park’s pioneer village and home-style dinner at the Little Gem Restaurant.
Duration: 4 Days
Available: Year round
This Itinerary is Ideal For: All
Start your explorations of the region’s rolling hills at Brown County State Park, Indiana’s largest state park. The tree-covered landscapes are magnificent, especially during fall foliage season. Some 20 miles of scenic roads afford stunning vistas any time of the year.
Your group can spend the morning hiking or mountain biking on trails that wind through rugged ravines and across streams. One rugged foot trail leads to a historic fire tower that is open for those wishing to climb up for breathtaking views. After lunch, your entourage might head to the saddle barn for a guided horseback ride or to one of two lakes for fishing or boating. The swimming pool is another option, and Abe Martin Lodge has an indoor water park. The less active may prefer to check out the Nature Center and learn about the park’s flora and fauna.
Enjoy a home-style dinner amid rustic log decor at The Little Gem Restaurant in the lodge, whose original section was built in 1932 from hand-hewn native stone and oak timber cut in the park.
Overnight accommodation choices include hotel-style lodge rooms and furnished cabins (some with full kitchens) that sleep as many as eight. Camping is available as well.
Don’t leave Brown County without visiting Nashville, the county seat. Calling itself the “Art Colony of the Midwest,” the quaint town, just north of the state park, abounds with galleries and studios, plus antique, craft and gift shops.
The rest of Day Two is all about fun on the water. Destination: Monroe Lake. A sprawling manmade lake just south of Brown County State Park, it is the largest body of water in Indiana (not counting Lake Michigan) and part of the state parks system. Monroe Lake has three public swimming beaches and many boat rental locations. Base your group at one of the lakeside lodges, cabin communities or campgrounds.
This afternoon your travelers may want to rent kayaks and look for bald eagles on Monroe Lake’s wooded shores. Or they might opt to take out a speedboat or pontoon for tubing or waterskiing. Fishing yields catches of bluegill, crappie, bass and catfish. Landlubbers may prefer hitting the hiking and biking trails—those in Hardin Ridge Recreation Area thread a section of Hoosier National Forest.
Head an hour south to Spring Mill State Park, set in an area of bluffs and caves known as Limestone Country. Your group can tackle one of the hiking trails, go boating on Spring Mill Lake or arrange a naturalist-led cave tour. The 20-minute Twin Caves boat tour travels 500 feet into a cave where the endangered blind cavefish is a common sighting.
In the afternoon, you’ll have time to explore the park’s Pioneer Village, a collection of restored log buildings centered on an 1817 limestone gristmill that still grinds corn. Tours of the mill are given, and interpreters staff some of the cabins, which include a blacksmith shop, woodworking shop and weaving house with loom demonstrations.
For more recent history, park visitors can check out the memorial and museum dedicated to the late astronaut Virgil I. “Gus” Grissom; America’s second man in space, who hailed from nearby Mitchell, died in a 1967 launch pad fire.
A two-hour drive southeast brings your group to Clifty Falls State Park, a pocket of scenic splendor just outside the historic Ohio River city of Madison. Deeply cut gorges and sheet rock walls, along with four major waterfalls and numerous minor ones, create a wonderland for serious hikers. The trail system is one of Indiana’s most rugged. On your group’s morning hike, nature enthusiasts may spot marine fossils in the 425-million-year-old shale and limestone rocks, and take notice of songbirds, hawks and vultures. Deer and wild turkey inhabit the uplands.
After a vigorous workout, group members may choose to refresh at the Olympic-size swimming pool or relax on the sun porch of Clifty Falls Inn and take in views of the Ohio River Valley. The inn offers overnight accommodations and a restaurant known for its country cooking.
In addition, the hostelry features an indoor pool, game arcade and lounging areas ideal for playing board games and cards or reading a book. The park has a campground as well.