Five-Star Trails Louisville and Southern Indiana  by  Valerie Askren

Five-Star Trails: Louisville and Southern Indiana Guide Book

by Valerie Askren (Menasha Ridge Press)
Five-Star Trails Louisville and Southern Indiana  by  Valerie Askren
Known as the City of Parks, Louisville has long valued the natural landscape and the provisioning of outdoor recreation. In 1891 Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of American landscape architecture, was commissioned to develop an extensive park system for Louisville that eventually included 18 parks and 6 interconnecting parkways. Since that time, Louisville has continued to invest resources to build a first-class park system. Nestled within the Ohio Valley, and bordered by the knobs region to the south and the heavily forested areas of Indiana to the north, Louisville lies at the heart of an endless array of hiking opportunities.

© 2013 Valerie Askren/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.

Trails from the "Five-Star Trails: Louisville and Southern Indiana" Guide Book
Displaying trails 20 of 37.

Displaying trails 1 to 20 of 37.

The White Oak Nature Trail at Beargrass Creek State Nature Preserve lies near the heart of Louisville and within easy reach of every child in Jefferson County. Take your kids (or someone else’s) to explore every nook and cranny of this 41-acre woodland wonder. Beargrass Creek is the only urban forest owned by the Kentucky State Nature Preserve Commission. Comanaged with the Louisville Nature Center, the preserve provides four seasons of opportunity to tire those little rascals out and get them to bed early.
Buechel, KY - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
Pack the kids in the backseat, tuck Grandma in the front, and head out for a fabulous day of family fun—the 14,000-acre Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest has something for everyone. The following sampler weaves together five different trails that provide an overview of what the park has to offer. The preserve was originally developed by distilling magnate Isaac Wolfe Bernheim and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. With a strong focus on education, Bernheim offers plein-air-painting workshops, photography classes, Eco Kids Discovery Days, stargazing, full-moon hikes, O.W.L.S. (Older Wiser Livelier Seniors) outdoor experiences, and lots more.
Belmont, KY - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
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The Millennium Trail is the Big Kahuna of all hiking trails at Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. Only fit, experienced hikers should attempt this trail—if you’re looking for an excellent workout, this one will make you sweat. Use the Millennium to train for a multiday backpacking trip or simply to keep in shape. The best time to hike is in the fall, when colors are at their peak and temps are cooler, or in the spring, when the wildflowers are out. While no single stretch of the Millennium is exceptionally difficult, the sheer length of the trail and the constant ups and downs make for a long, strenuous day.
Belmont, KY - Hiking - Trail Length: 12.5
Are your little natives restless? Or perhaps the grandparents are in town and you’re looking for a way to entertain them for a few hours? Then consider Blackacre State Nature Preserve and Historic Homestead. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Blackacre offers a fine example of farm life in the 1800s among the landed gentry. Docent tours and several miles of trails provide an interesting and relaxing visit for all. The loop trail described here is an easy walk along the Waterfall Trail, past Jackson’s Pond, then back to the springhouse and double-crib barn. No dogs or smoking are allowed.
Jeffersontown, KY - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.1 miles
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This wooded trail crosses 14 footbridges to traverse 5 miles of creekside and ridgetop trail in Indiana’s second-oldest state park, which covers nearly 6,000 acres, including a 230-acre lake. In addition to hiking trails, Versailles State Park has almost 17 miles of mountainbiking trails and 25 miles of horseback-riding trails. The park can be quite busy during the summer, but the hiking trails are fairly deserted during the shoulder seasons. Just remember to pronounce it “Versayles,” or you’ll end up 12 miles southwest of Paris.
Versailles, IN - Hiking - Trail Length: 5
Cherokee Park—part of one of only four city-park systems in the United States created by Frederick Law Olmsted—is a jewel in the rough. Designed by Olmsted and his firm in 1891, it’s among Louisville’s 18 parks and 6 interconnecting parkways attributed to the father of American landscape architecture. Cherokee Park is undergoing a lengthy revitalization process to reclaim its former glory as a sanctuary for outdoor recreation. The Cherokee Park Loop takes hikers along Beargrass Creek and through much of the heart of this 409-acre park.
Saint Matthews, KY - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.2
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Within Clifty Falls State Park, the 178-acre Clifty Canyon Nature Preserve presents southern Indiana at its finest. This loop trail, which takes in views of all three of the preserve’s waterfalls, follows the western edge of a small, intimate canyon formed by Little Clifty Creek before crossing the stream and climbing to the eastern rim. Autumn hikers are rewarded with the gorgeous colors of mature hardwoods, while spring hikers are treated to a profusion of wildflowers such as hepatica, blue-eyed Mary, Dutchman’s britches, and trillium (including the large, showy white variety). Multiple options exist for those wanting either shorter or longer hikes.
Madison, IN - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.8
While Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve may be quiet during the week, most weekends are filled with activity, laughter, and fun. The staff provides a welcome that’s warm enough to melt the fleece on your back and put a smile on your face. Under their energetic leadership, the trail system has been enlarged and a new woodland garden has been developed. Dedicated to recreation, education, conservation, and preservation, Creasey Mahan appeals to everyone from trail runners to curtain crawlers.
Goshen, KY - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
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This park hits on all cylinders. Hiking without getting your boots muddy. Creeks disappearing underground and popping out of caves. Wildflowers. Hot showers. Kids having a blast. With the possible exception of gastronomic delights, if Spring Mill State Park doesn’t have it, you may not need it.
Mitchell, IN - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.5
Just outside Louisville, this hidden gem provides a quick respite from the city. Dropping from a height of 40 feet, Fairmount Falls is frequently touted as “Louisville’s tallest natural waterfall” (though it should also be noted that the competition is pretty slim). The falls are easy to reach from the trailhead—just 10 minutes away. The short trail is perfect for teaching young children the joy of hiking and providing instant gratification for those with short attention spans. Multiple creek drainages provide an ideal ecosystem for abundant spring-wildflower displays.
Mount Washington, KY - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.1 miles
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The paved Levee Trail is perfect for an after-work power walk, a sprint with the jogging stroller, or a leisurely saunter on a Sunday afternoon. The 2-mile (one-way) trail connects East Riverside Drive with Falls of the Ohio State Park and Lewis and Clark Park. Just across the river from downtown Louisville, in southern Indiana, most of the trail runs atop the earthen-berm floodwall that protects the city of Clarksville from the mighty Ohio River.
Clarksville, IN - Hiking - Trail Length: 4
Fort Duffield offers panoramic views of the Ohio River Valley, the best-preserved earthen fortification in Kentucky, and 10 miles of nationally renowned mountain-biking trails. On reenactment weekends, the noise of cannon fire and musket balls can be heard over the sounds of derailleurs shifting and chain rings spinning. Consequently, the park attracts one of the more interesting combinations of outdoor aficionados. But on most days, hikers are left with tumbling creeks and quiet woods to roam and explore.
West Point, KY - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.4
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The Goose Creek Loop lies within the well-loved E. P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park, in northeastern Jefferson County. The trail winds around much of the 550-acre park, across open fields, and through lightly wooded areas along Goose Creek. Other trails traverse the park and are frequently utilized for cross-country practice and meets. The suburban park is extremely popular after work and on weekends, and offers an excellent array of educational programs focusing on the great outdoors.
Middletown, KY - Hiking - Trail Length: 2.2
Hemlock Cliffs is one of the most spectacular natural areas in southern Indiana. The trail quickly takes you into a magical world of rock houses (natural rock shelters), filtered sunlight, verdant ferns, and running water. The most popular time to visit is springtime, when the wildflowers generously litter the trail and cling to the cliffs. Tread lightly—the ecosystem is as fragile as it is beautiful.
English, IN - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.5
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The Indian Creek Overlook Trail is a section of the 24-mile Adventure Hiking Trail (AHT), which traverses the far southeastern portion of Harrison-Crawford State Forest. The trail passes through scenic hardwood forest, crosses several creek drainages, and climbs to a rocky bluff overlooking Indian Creek and the surrounding valley. This moderate hike leads to a small log trail shelter used by day hikers and backpackers. The old picnic table and stone grill are just begging for a hot fire on a cold winter afternoon; they’re also a place to rest your boots and replenish those fluids during the dog days of summer.
Blue River, IN - Hiking - Trail Length: 5.8
Iroquois Park is truly urban, completely surrounded by residential and commercial districts in southwest Louisville. Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, it’s among the 18 parks and 6 interconnecting parkways in Louisville attributed to him and his firm. Perched atop a heavily forested knob, the park offers commanding views of downtown Louisville and much of the surrounding countryside. The trail reaches the park summit by way of a paved road that is open to vehicular traffic only on certain days and during certain times of year.
Shively, KY - Hiking - Trail Length: 4.4
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In less time than it takes to drive the Henry Watterson Expressway, you could be hiking a beautiful trail in southern Jeff erson County, complete with scenic overlooks, native hardwoods, and meandering creeks. And best of all, there’s a good chance you won’t have any company. Th is trail is rated as strenuous by the staff of Jeff erson Memorial Forest, but many hikers (including myself) fi nd it a bit easier.
Valley Station, KY - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.3
Yost Ridge and Mitchell Hill Lake lie within the Paul Yost Recreation Area and the adjacent Horine Reservation, both part of the Jeff erson Memorial Forest, just southwest of Louisville. Th e trail leaves from the Welcome Center, climbs Yost Ridge, and then descends to Mitchell Hill Lake. Th is hike is popular on weekends during late spring and early fall, and after work when the days get long. Otherwise, you may fi nd you have the trail to yourself for relaxing and enjoying the beauty of a hardwood forest.
Fairdale, KY - Hiking - Trail Length: 3.3
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The Mogan Ridge East Trail lies at the southern end of Hoosier National Forest, just north of the Ohio River and west of Louisville. The hike can easily be shortened if you want a little less mileage. While most trails in Hoosier are open to equestrian riders and mountain bikers, Mogan Ridge East is for hikers only. The combined wooded and open meadow trail is excellent for year-round hiking, and the wide path easily accommodates large groups or twosomes who wish to walk side-by-side.
Derby, IN - Hiking - Trail Length: 7.2
Mount St. Francis Sanctuary, just 20 minutes northwest of downtown Louisville, is the perfect place for an after-work stroll or a weekend hike with the family. Next to the Mount St. Francis Retreat Center, the sanctuary and its several miles of wooded paths are open to the public. Teeming with wildflowers in spring and rich with fall colors in autumn, the lake trail is an easy 1.8 miles. Longer trails are available for those wanting a deeper spiritual experience and a more rigorous retreat from the trials and tribulations of everyday life.
Mount Saint Francis, IN - Hiking - Trail Length: 1.8
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