Trails of SoIN: Four Local Favorites

A turtle enjoys the water flowing at Mount Saint Francis within a creek.

Cityscapes, wilderness adventures and some history lessons make up the beauty of Southern Indiana’s options for trails — paved and wooded.

Lace up the running, trail or cycling shoes. Everyday sneakers will work magic for the soul as well.

Getting outside for fresh air and freeing the spirit and mind is becoming more commonplace. Explorers and curious souls will embrace the ambiance of the Mount Saint Francis Loop Trail. A “Center for Spirituality,” the public is welcome to the nearly 400 acres of woods, whimsical grasses and a sparkling lake at the park located a few miles off the I-64 exit along Highway 150. Those looking for peace, reflection and prayer will find plenty of opportunities. Whether your trail selection is the rolling grassy areas near the property’s lake or into the woods, there are plenty of places to stop for a seat. Benches, located at differing elevations along the trails, provide the opportunity for your calling, be it prayer, rest or a snack.

The public is welcome to the nearly 400 acres of woods, whimsical grasses and a sparkling lake at the park located a few miles off the I-64 exit along Highway 150.

The main loop takes feet across bridges and along creeks. There are many options to take, provided a map is stuffed in your pocket. You won’t drift too far off from the center of the property, so explore away. Take in the songbird sounds as well and keep your eye out for many native birds to the area.

Along the Ohio River is Charlestown State Park, which combines history and some of the more intriguing rock formations.

Amusement parks today bring people to places like Holiday World in Santa Claus to ride hair-raising thrill coasters. Imagine, before the invention of the television or suntan lotion, there was a lively amusement park in the 1920s within what is now part of Charlestown State Park.

Rose Island is a popular spot for visitors to explore, learn and think of the past. The island (technically, it’s a peninsula), is accessible via the Portersville Bridge. It welcomes foot traffic from the very steep paved trail (or via a longer moderate hiking trail) to cross to Rose Island. Originally built in 1912, the bridge was once a connector over White River between Dubois and Daviess Counties. The camel-back-style bridge hovers over Fourteenmile Creek, which ends at the vast opening to the Ohio River.

Rose Island offers a lot of history from what offerings the former amusement park had — a dance hall, hotel, pool and more — to the realities of what brought the attraction down: the Ohio River flood of 1937.

If your legs aren’t Jell-O by the time you return to the parking lot of the trailhead, trail one on the opposite side of the property offers an adventure with various tree species reaching toward the skies, along with many karst sinkhole formations worth stopping to admire. Many trails offer opportunities to view the 70-plus varieties of birds within the property.

“On your left” is often heard as traffic picks up within the paved path connecting Jeffersonville, Clarksville and New Albany as part of the Ohio River Greenway. The phrase is a courtesy from cyclists as they approach walkers, runners or the more casual peddlers.

One would figure the three cities across from Louisville would create a “buzz” with a trail along the Ohio River, but nothing could be further from the truth. The path is rather tranquil for a majority of your travels, be them by foot, bicycle, scooter or skateboard. Open grasslands while atop the flood wall reach trees lining the river during some portions. Tree-covered areas near the Loop Island Wetlands offer a canopy from the sun on a summer day. More birdsong can be heard than humming car motors.

Access points are plenty on the Ohio River Greenway. Jeffersonville hot spots include the area near the Big Four Bridge (which connects to Louisville for non-motorized traffic) and the RiverStage. Ashland Park and the Falls of the Ohio State Park offer options to stop and graze before, during or after hopping on the Greenway. Newer parking areas are at the George Rogers Clark Homesite in Clarksville and the Loop Island Wetlands in New Albany.

The well-marked trail, with distances given every quarter mile, stretches just over 7 miles from Jeffersonville to New Albany.

Just outside of Corydon, O’Bannon Woods State Park offers the Adventure Hiking Trail for a more rugged backpacking experience. Thrills and rocky challenges are offered to the mountain biking community as riders churn through the tree-lined forest at O’Bannon Woods. Trails like the Rock Ridge offer places to stop for ravine views while refueling with water.

Many other spots offer trails — rugged, moderate or paved — throughout Southern Indiana. Nature’s landscapes help make the region one of the most picturesque. •


Story and Photos by Brian Smith

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