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Hiking in the Hills: Off the Beaten Path Hikes

By now you’ve probably hit the trails in the Brown County State Park and Yellowwood State Forest, our two more popular hiking hotspots. That’s exactly why we’re challenging you to discover some of Brown County’s other gems that maybe you never knew about. Add these off the beaten path hikes to your must-do list the next time you’re in town!

Browning Mountain

One of Brown County’s best kept secrets, this trek is more than your average hike…it’s an adventure! The drive out to Browning Mountain is a journey in itself as you head on past the Story Inn. Short and sweet, the climb to the top of Browning Mountain is only 928 feet. The real fun begins once you reach the summit, where you’ll discover tons of land for exploring. See if you can spot the pond, an old well, and building foundation. That’s not all, Browning Mountain is often referred to as Indiana’s Stonehenge because of the large, strange, and non-native boulders scattered about. How did they get there? We still don’t know! Check it out and see if you can figure out the mystery.

Virtual Tour of Browning Mountain

Yellowwood Trail at Trevlac Bluffs Nature Preserve

Named for the towering 200-foot bluff you’ll find during your trek, Trevlac Bluffs is not only remote, but it’s also pretty darn scenic! Protecting over 100 acres of forested wetlands in the floodplain of Beanblossom Creek, this nature preserve is one of three forest blocks in the Midwest for breeding migratory songbirds. While there is a short Bottomland Trail near the creek, we recommend the Yellowwood Trail for a longer, more fun hike. The Yellowwood is about 2.5-miles round trip and will take you winding through the woods as you gradually climb to the top of the bluff. Once you get there, take a break on the bench and soak in the views. You’ll even see a rare stand of native eastern hemlock trees. A great hike for getting some alone time with Mother Nature, just look for markers on the trees to guide your way!

Virtual Tour of Trevlac Bluffs

Hitz-Rhodehamel Nature Preserve

Check out this three-mile trail that loops around the 484-acre Hitz-Rhodehamel Nature Preserve! While three miles may not seem like a lot, the trail can be challenging due to the steep terrain, high ridges, and deep ravines. On this hike you’ll take on two 200-foot hills. Each starting out high and taking you down into the valley below, before climbing back up to Freeman Ridge Road. This mature oak forest is home to many great wildlife species and beautiful wildflowers (every spring). Be sure to take a map and follow the tree markings…and don’t be surprised when you have to cross the road. That only means you’re halfway done!

Virtual Tour of Hitz-Rhodehamel

Laura Hare Nature Preserve at Downey Hill

A less well-known, less-trafficked hike, the Downey Hill trek is a good one for those looking to get lost in the woods for awhile. This loop tops out right around 6 miles and is more intermediate in nature. Get ready for many ups and downs as you hike up ridges and descend into several valleys. You’ll also come across a handful of creeks that you may have to tip toe through depending on the recent weather. What’s cool about this trail? The sights you may see…including a glacial erratic, an old well, and a building foundation. You definitely won’t mind spending a few quiet hours in the woods with this splendid scenery!

Virtual Tour of Laura Hare

T.C. Steele State Historic Site

Ever heard of T.C. Steele? He’s one of the founding fathers of the Brown County Art Colony way back in the early 1900s. It was Steele who pretty much put Brown County on the map! You can discover where he lived, as well as his art studio, at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site. You can also hike there! Home to five trails totaling slightly over three miles, you’ll be able to explore the grounds that inspired Steele’s art. None of the trails are over one mile in length individually and are generally easy to moderate. Getting to check out the beautiful gardens, Steele’s home and studio are just added bonuses!

Virtual Tour of T.C. Steele State Historic Site’s Trails

Stonehead Nature Preserve

Here’s another place with lots of hiking options! With four trails, totaling 5.4 miles altogether, these hikes will take you through wetlands, meadows, and forested ridges interspersed with deep ravines. From a 0.5-mile trail to a 1.7-mile trek, you can pick your poison…or just do them all! Soak in the nature that surrounds you, and be on the lookout for sculptures, wildlife, and benches for relaxing!

Virtual Tour of Stonehead Nature Preserve

Nebo Ridge

Pack your lunch and plenty of water for a long day on Nebo Ridge! This out and back trail is about 8 miles one way…taking its grand total up to 16! Yep, it’s a big one. A true backcountry trek, Nebo is a great trail for serious hikers. We recommend starting at the North end, which is located near the Story Inn. Not only is it easier to find the trail head, but you’ll have a tasty meal and ice-cold beverage waiting for you when you get back! Based on its name, you can only imagine that you’ll be tackling a major ridge during this hike. Gradually climbing over 600-feet, be prepared for a slow and steady ascent that’s killer on those legs. Give yourself a round of applause for reaching the peak, then get ready for some little ups and downs before reaching the South end of the trail. Take a break and re-charge before turning around and taking on Nebo from South to North. Be on the lookout for some rocky sections and even downed trees throughout this trail!  

Virtual Tour of Nebo Ridge

Time to get out of your comfort zone and take a walk on the wild side with these off the beaten path hikes!

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