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.
Last year, cycling website Singletracks named Brown County the top U.S. destination for a weekend getaway. The region’s rep for first-rate mountain biking is particularly impressive when you consider that its highest elevation barely scrapes 1,000 feet. What the terrain lacks in contour, it makes up for with 82 miles of scenic, rolling trails, and a passionate Hoosier Mountain Bike Association whose members pedal hard to keep their neck of the woods at the front of the pack.
For the uninitiated, though, even Southern Indiana’s mildly rugged topography—tearing through rocky gorges and maneuvering narrow ledges—can seem daunting. Throw in the cost of a bike and gear, and keeping feet on the ground might sound more your speed. Fortunately, the Brown County Epic Mountain Bike Festival (October 7–9), held at the state park, is a great way for newbies to see what all the fuss is about without breaking the piggy bank (or something even more difficult to mend). The HMBA started the fundraiser more than a decade ago as the “Brown County Breakdown” music fest, but in 2014 the group changed the name and shifted the focus to bikes instead of bluegrass. As an amateur, you’re surrounded by people who know what they’re doing, and most of them seem happy to help you have a good experience. At a Bicycle Demo and Product Expo, you can try out some of the best bikes and latest tech on an easy mile-long trail. Group rides run up to 25 miles, and a fun bash awaits afterward, with live bands and barbecue and craft beer from Big Woods restaurant and Quaff On! Brewing. Onsite camping keeps the party going into the evening.
In other words, reasons aplenty to get pumped up.