Off the Beaten Path: 4 New Brown County Hikes

This article is part of the Rediscover Brown County package in the October 2016 Indianapolis Monthly issue. For more on our favorite fall destination, click here.

The Laura Hare Nature Preserve at Downey Hill

593 acres / 2.8-mile partially finished loop trail and old gravel service road (easy to rugged)
Opened  2016
Field notes  With deeply wooded ridges in a remote corner of Brown County, this nature preserve might be one of the area’s most primitive
public areas.
Look for  Woodland reptiles like painted box turtles; frog ponds; remnants of old homesteads.
Where  From Gnaw Bone, east on State Road 46, south on Valley Branch Road, 1.5 miles on the left. sycamorelandtrust.org/downey-hill

Stone Head Nature Preserve stone-head2

122 acres / 5.4 miles of crisscrossing trails (easy to moderate)
Opened  2015
Field notes  Private owner is donating old farm property adjacent to House at Stone Head vacation rental to a land trust for public use. Diverse topography includes ponds, forest, and pasture restored to wetlands and prairie (a butterfly and bird haven encircled by hills).
Look for  Songbirds, raptors, waterfowl; wildflowers; quirky artwork.
Where  4645 Bellsville Pike (intersection State Road 135 and Bellsville Pike, south of Gnaw Bone). facebook.com/stoneheadconservancy


Courtesy Sycamore Land Trust

Trevlac Bluffs Nature Preserve 

260 acres / 3.3 miles of trails (easy to moderate)
Opened  2015
Field notes  Named after the tiny nearby town of Trevlac and long a source of local wonderment, the Bluffs are 200-foot-high cliffs along Bean Blossom Creek. The property also includes wooded wetlands.
Look for  Hemlock trees, holdovers from Indiana’s cooler post-glacial climes; woodpeckers and yellow-billed cuckoos.
Where  Southwest from Trevlac on State Road 45, left on Old State Road 45, 0.2 miles on the left. sycamorelandtrust.org/trevlac-bluffs

Hitz-Rhodehamel Woods hitz-rhodehamel2

350 acres / 1-mile and 1.6-mile trails (moderate to rugged)
Opened  2012
Field notes  Trails skirt ridgelines, drop to creek bottoms, and climb high hills, traversing deep hardwood forest and a prescribed-fire area marked with an informative placard on forest ecology (one of several that dot the property).
Look for  Majestic oaks; rare native and migratory birds; colorful woodland fungi.
Where  Off State Road 135 north of Nashville, east on Greasy Creek Road, immediate left on Freeman Ridge Road, 1.4 miles on the left. nature.org


Photos by Evan West unless otherwise noted


Since first joining Indianapolis Monthly in 2000, West has written about a wide range of subjects including crime, history, arts and entertainment, pop culture, politics, and food. His feature stories have twice been noted in the Best American Sports Writing anthology and have received top honors from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “The Collapse,” West’s account of the 2011 Indiana State Fair tragedy, was a 2013 National City and Regional Magazine Awards finalist in the category of Best Reporting. He lives on the near-east side.