Trails in Indiana

Nothern Knobstone Trail

The Knobstone’s current northern-most segment strikes west from Elk Creek Lake for some one-and-one-half miles. Here, it drops down from ridgetops above the lake, staying low for a bit near the boat ramp, but then rises back up to the 7-900 foot elevations.

The trail turns abruptly north before mile 33 and reaches the Oxley Memorial Trailhead just past mile 37. Some hikers feel this a less enjoyable leg of the Knobstone, because the elevation change is shallower, a powerline easement crosses here, and on your way north you also meet State Road 56 between Scottsburg (east) and Salem (West). In any case, use care when crossing; although it’s not the Indy 500, it often looks that way!

The Oxley Trailhead is some six miles from Elk Creek Lake and has only been installed since 1999. Prior to that, the next trailhead was twice as far. The trailhead is named for John Stewart Oxley, who was a frequent hiker and advocate for the Knobstone.

A short way past Elk Creek Lake , as you hike north, the trail crosses from the Clark State Forest into Jackson-Washington State Forest . It includes almost 18,000 acres along with five lakes open to fishing, some near the Knobstone and some not. Lakes range in size from a one-acre pond to the 12-acre Spurgeon Hollow Lake . At the current north terminus of the Knobstone is Delaney Creek Park —a 300-acre Washington County facility which also has a large lake that is close to one-third of the park’s area.

Jackson-Washington State Forest itself straddles those two counties. For forest information, the office is located 2 ½ miles southeast of Brownstown , Indiana on State Road 250. Much of this state forest is a result of land purchases in the 1930s and the 1950s.

Be sure you have a map when you hike the north Knobstone segment, as there are two loop trails available. The Spurgeon Hollow Loop, coming to it from the south and Oxley Trailhead, starts between mile 40 and 41. The southern leg heads over to Spurgeon Hollow Lake via an easy walk through a valley, while the north loop section heads to the ridgetops for a moderately-rugged, 5-mile trek. Keep your blazes straight here: the Knobstone blazes are white, while the Forestry loop trails use blue.

Not far north of Spurgeon Hollow Lake and Trailhead is the Delaney Park Loop and Trailhead, which is the current north terminus of the trail.

The Delaney Park loop is about six miles long by itself and also serves as a backcountry day hike for park users.. If you drive to Delaney Park just for a day hike, the trailhead is a quarter-mile past the beach house and down a short slope on the gravel road. When weather is wet and the ground soggy, parking back from the top of the slope in one of the paved lots is recommended, as the creek sometimes gets over the road, and the ground can be treacherous for cars.

Delaney Park, as mentioned, is a sizable recreation spot, with camper spaces by the lake, the seasonal Boat Loft Restaurant, cabins, ball courts, swimming, boat rentals, snack bar, and camp store. In addition, for the younger folks, there is the Paddle Club day camp program.

Hikers on the Knobstone should be aware that hunting is allowed in season, and during those times trail users are advised to wear hunter-orange. In addition, timber harvesting may occasionally force closure or rerouting of parts of the trail. Check beforehand with the DNR or state forest office where you will be hiking.

 

KNOBSTONE EXTENSION

Since its inception, trail enthusiasts were hopeful that the Knobstone would eventually run from just north of Louisville , Kentucky at Deam Lake to near Martinsville , Indiana (30 miles south of Indianapolis ) where the Knobstone Escarpment in Indiana ends. If completed as such, this would greatly increase length, from the current 58-mile trek to some 140 miles of hiking experience.

The lengthening process has in some areas gone beyond the planning stage, and is actually in a “boots-on-the-ground” construction or clearing phase. At this time, the northern-most extension is currently called the Tecumseh Trail. Its route starts south of Martinsville in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest , travels through the Yellowwood State Forest , thence to the T. C. Steele Historic Site area, and on through the Hoosier National Forest to the town of Kurtz.

Where desired trail property does not lie on public lands, purchases and easements have served well so far. The Hoosier Hikers Council (HHC) and its members have undertaken much planning and labor to develop and finish the trail. They have done so in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources and Indiana ’s Heritage Trust Program which acquires properties or agreements without the use of eminent domain. However, HHC admits that south of the National Forest, 30 miles of trail-building challenges await, since this area is mostly privately owned. The HHC hopes more easements and willing sellers will materialize so that the trail may be completed as initially conceived, and work has begun to accomplish these goals. The proposed name of the Kurtz-to-Spurgeon Hollow extension is the Pioneer Trail, in honor of Indiana ’s past.

To help raise funds for trail extension, there is a John Stewart Oxley Memorial Fund, as well as several events held annually on the trail and hosted by the Hoosier Hikers Council. Spring has the “Run with the Foxes” race, while fall sees the Knobstone mini-marathon and shorter races. The Tecumseh Marathon occurs in December.