Indiana Trails: More Ramble, Less Gamble in French Lick
This peaceful route up Mt. Airie feels a world away from the nearby slots.
After signing in at the Valley Links golf course’s pro shop—a courtesy for using the free trails—I followed the signs to Buffalo Trace, a loop so named for the eponymous path that once graced the land nearby. The loop ascends into the hills from the French Lick Resort complex, but traversing the trail clockwise provides a slightly more gradual uphill climb than tackling it from the steeper opposite direction.
A glutton for punishment, I took the harder route. As my legs churned and my lungs screamed for more oxygen, I quickly realized this stretch has significantly more elevation gain than most Hoosier trails—including Brown County’s Hesitation Point. Designed by Alex Stewart, the architect of much of Brown County State Park’s acclaimed singletrack, Buffalo Trace contours to the area’s numerous slopes as it rises toward Mt. Airie.
My nostrils detected the scent of fresh pine long before I noticed the fallen needles on the ground; the temperature seemed to drop 10 degrees as I rolled through a grove. About halfway up, the more difficult four-mile Waterfall Loop connects to Buffalo Trace, and it proved a worthwhile detour—a small waterfall lies 1.5 miles in.
Many of French Lick’s visitors rarely find themselves outside the luxe onsite casino, so traffic on Buffalo Trace can be sparse. During my visit, the only other riders I came across were a young couple exiting the woods as I approached the trail. (Next time, wear helmets, guys.)
» Good to Know: The pro shop offers bike rentals costing $25 for four hours—and a shower if you bring your own towel, gratis.
» Getting There S.R. 37 S to S.R. 60 W, left on Fleenor Rd., right on W. County Rd. 700 N, left on N. County Rd. 500 W, right on S.R. 56, and right into French Lick Springs Hotel, where the trail begins. frenchlick.com