Indiana Trails: To Hesitate Is Divine
A gorgeous Brown County overlook draws both hikers and bikers.
Seeking fall foliage lures many to Brown County State Park’s trails, but to get the best of both worlds—splendid views and an enjoyable workout—the Hoosier Hikers Council Trail, located on the west side of the park, wins. The longest of the available 12 hikes, the HHC Trail begins and finishes by lovely Ogle Lake. Granted, that means you’ll share your hike with dozens of friends in waiting; my partner and I came across about 40 people before I stopped counting.
We began our trek from the left trailhead so as to travel clockwise around the loop—otherwise, you’ll start with a climb up steep steps that instead make for a relaxing denouement if you take this route. After a decently rigorous half-mile ascent, we steered left at a fork to continue toward Hesitation Point; veering right takes you to the Tulip Tree Shelter connector, slicing off about a mile of the excursion. The trail then leveled for a bit before we came upon a clearing that spilled down into a breathtaking valley. Just one man and his best friend, a boxer, were on hand, making for—finally—a serene scene replete with a view known for its verdant, yellow, and ruddy hues come autumn.
Another half-mile uphill led us to the apex of a ridge. For a moment, we thought we’d fallen off the path somehow, as we climbed for more than a mile near the road that originally took us in from the park’s west gatehouse. Though the traffic was light, that stretch almost killed our rustic buzz. The payoff, however, more than made up for it: Hesitation Point, one of Brown County’s most beloved vistas. From there, we could spy the Aynes Loop and Hesitation Point mountain-bike trails, and nothing but forestland for miles in the direction of bustling tourist haven Nashville. Picnic tables and park displays about wildlife, history, and more populate this highly trafficked spot. It’s a busy intersection for parkgoers, but the view is pure.
From here, the hike finished up straightforward and pleasing—down a notably tighter path thankfully clear of foliage, and that series of wooden walkways reminiscent of the Swiss Family Robinson’s pad. The trip was so pleasant, when I found myself back at the lake post-hike, I wanted to turn around and do it again—relentless crowds and all.
Brown County State Park cycling trails are well-lauded, even earning the coveted “Epic” status from the International Mountain Bicycling Association. And while options such as Limekiln or Green Valley make me feel as if I’m riding a two-wheeled roller coaster, Hesitation Point has been at times more of a dirt-and-rock house of horrors—one well worth the challenging slog.
Most riders start at the first trailhead at the parking lot near the entrance, where I wound my way up a few beginner and intermediate trails to reach Hesitation Point. There, the narrow singletrack trail is thankfully wide-open, but a few tight spots and switchbacks kept me on the edge of my clipless pedals. My Giant Anthem’s front suspension absorbed the impact of the few small log crossings, allowing me to sail over them with relative ease.
The trail rose higher and steepened slightly when I reached the first of several rock gardens to cross. I’ve ridden my bike all over the Midwest for the last decade, but for some reason, rocks—be it weathered sandstone, slick limestone, or any other mineral—remain my Kryptonite. Keeping your momentum going fast enough to roll over the rocky switchbacks unscathed while pedaling upward can be difficult. This is definitely a trail that rewards multiple visits, searching for the perfect line. My limbs are dotted with the scars of my failure over the years to do just that.
So why return to the site of so many scrapes and gashes? The view at the top—Hesitation Point—is absolutely spectacular, especially during autumn. Layered by the park’s rolling hills, the canopy of trees explodes in color, nature’s most perfect fireworks. Add in a fiery sunrise or sunset, and even T.C. Steele couldn’t paint a prettier Indiana picture.
On the descent, I kept my pedals level and arms bent, letting gravity do the hard work. Soon I glimpsed the stone remnants of a Depression-era cabin that burned down to its foundation years ago, a popular meeting place for riders. As I rolled up, a few friends were there taking a breather, and we headed toward the next section of trail together.
» Getting There Take I-65 to Columbus, right on S.R. 46 W/Jonathan Moore Pike (turns into Old S.R. 46), left at the stoplight in Nashville onto S.R. 46 W toward Bloomington, and left into Brown County State Park’s west entrance. in.gov/dnr/parklake/2988.htm (hiking); browncountymountainbiking.com (biking)