I’m convinced that you can hike anywhere, even in the cities. The Irish call it “walking” and some walks are more like hikes and hikes more like walks. Confusing? Just put on your pack and get out there! Ever walked in San Francisco? It’s harder than most hikes you can find in almost any National Park. Whenever I travel to a new place, I usually get out a map and start looking for blank spaces or green spots near to where I’m traveling to. On a recent trip to Indianapolis, I spent some time looking at a map and found some empty spaces and greenery south of the city in Brown County, near the small town of Nashville, Indiana that is. Brown County State Park (Indiana’s largest), Hoosier National Forest, and Yellowwood State Forest all show up well on the map and roughly just and hour or so from Indy.
So let’s just start where I did, in Brown County State Park. The park has about 20 miles of hiking trails and another 27 that are multi-use, which compared to some other places is not much. But I didn’t come to Indiana to hike, it was on the back-end of a business trip that I extended a couple of days to see family in the area (Bloomington) and I managed a little exploring on the side as well. My hotel was in the quaint town of Nashville about a mile from the north entrance of the park and it turned out to be the perfect place to stretch my legs and get some fresh air. My first hike was on the 2.2 mile Fire Tower Trail (aka Trail 10) which follows ridges and ravines as a loop. The loop begins and ends at a 90’ converted fire lookout tower that now serves as an antenna tower open to visitors to climb. Admittedly, I have a healthy fear of heights and my first climb at the beginning of the hike ended in me seizing up about halfway to the top and turning around. After hiking the loop, I decided to try again and this time made it up to the top. I am actually a bit surprised that you are legally allowed to climb this tower but I’m grateful that it was. Nearby is a small nature center that I enjoyed so much that I realized that I’m getting old. Inside, there are living and non-living (taxidermy) fauna to view. Live animals included snakes like the Timber Rattlesnake, Copperhead, Black Rat, and Milk (red on black, friend of Jack). There is also a two-way mirror looking out into a bird feeder and this was clearly (intended pun) were all of the action was. Very fat squirrels battled it out for the primo spots and birds (including my favorite, the cardinal) tried to stay a safe distance away from them, while still managing a free meal.
Another nice trail in Brown County State Park was the short but scenic Ogle Lake Trail. At only 1.5 miles, the trail is really just a warmup to some of the other connected trails you can hike from this area. I connected to the Taylor Ridge Trail, which can add another 5.5 miles onto your hike (I didn’t make it that far).
All in all, there are plenty of shorter hiking options in southern Indiana that you might enjoy the next time you’re passing through. If you’re looking for some decent comfort food, try the Nashville General Store and Bakery in Nashville. For really good apres randonnee beers, try Upland Brewing Company in Columbus (I had more than one Modern Tart Kettle Sour Ale). So if you happen to be in Central Indiana and you need a nature fix for a day or two, Brown County is a good place to be.