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)
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
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
122 acres / 5.4 miles of crisscrossing trails (easy to moderate)
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
Trevlac Bluffs Nature Preserve
260 acres / 3.3 miles of trails (easy to moderate)
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
350 acres / 1-mile and 1.6-mile trails (moderate to rugged)
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