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The Indiana Department of Natural Resources manages the Knobstone Trail (KT) in Clark, Scott, and Washington counties in southern Indiana. It is Indiana's longest footpath-a 58-mile backcountry hiking trail passing through Clark State Forest, Elk Creek Public Fishing Area, and Jackson-Washington State Forest. These state resource properties contain nearly 40,000 acres of rugged, forested land. The trail presently extends from near Deam Lake, just north of S.R. 60 in Clark County, to Delaney Park, just east of S.R. 135 in Washington County. The Knobstone Trail may eventually be developed northward to connect with the Hoosier National Forest, Yellowwood State Forest, and Morgan-Monroe State Forest. The USDA Forest Service currently manages a section of the Knobstone Trail, the Nebo Ridge Section in Brown County, which could be part of this expansion. The information contained in this document is written for the Knobstone Trail sections managed by the Department of Natural Resources only. For more information on the Nebo Ridge Section, contact the Hoosier National Forest (812-275-5987).
The trail traverses land with extreme relief distinguished by narrow, relatively flat-topped ridges typical of the Knobstone Escarpment-a knobby slope between the Norman Upland and Scottsburg Lowland, two of southern Indiana's natural land regions. The Knobstone Escarpment is one of Indiana's most scenic areas, rising more than 300 feet above low-lying farmland in some areas as it snakes northward from near the Ohio River to just south of Martinsville. A central upland, mixed hardwood forest (oak-hickory and beech-maple associations) dominates much of the escarpment. "Knobstone" shale, which is actually a combination of weathered brown shale, sandstone, and siltstone, is common in the area and gives the escarpment its name.
Because the trail follows the Knobstone Escarpment, there are many steep climbs and descents. It can be regarded as a rugged, difficult trail to hike. It is managed and maintained at backcountry standards, and structures are limited to primitive steps and waterbars. Maintenance responsibilities fall to a two-person field crew, occasionally assisted by volunteers.
The trail crosses several roads, varying from state highways to gravel country lanes. Use caution when crossing these roads.
Seven trailheads have been developed along the trail, providing parking areas and direct access to the Knobstone Trail. The Delaney Park Trailhead is located within Delaney Park, a Washington County Park that includes facilities for camping, cabins, showers, and a gated entrance. The Elk Creek Trailhead is located at a public access site on Elk Creek Lake. The parking area for the lake and trail is paved. All of the other trailheads include a small gravel parking area.
The Knobstone Trail map shows the general route of the trail and the topography of the area. Minor reroutes have been constructed over the past few years to avoid some problem areas, and they are not indicated on the map. On the ground, the trail is marked by 2-inch by 6-inch white blazes painted near eye level on trees. Two blazes on a tree indicate the trail changes direction at an intersection with another trail or forest road. Attempts are made to mark the trail so that it is easy to follow. Trees which fall on the trail because of natural events can make it more challenging. Therefore, it is important to utilize both the map and the blazes while hiking the trail.
While using the trail, please be sure to stay on public property. In some areas, the trail follows a very narrow corridor of public property. The KT map shows the public property boundaries. Hikers are responsible for helping maintain good relations between hikers and private property owners.
The trail map is available from DNR Map Sales (317-232-4180). They are usually available at Clark State Forest's office (812-294-4306) in Henryville, Jackson-Washington State Forest's office (812-358-2160) near Brownstown, the Deam Lake State Recreation Area's (812-246-5421) office near Borden, and the Delaney Park gatehouse (812-883-5101). The maps are available from the properties only during office hours.
The Knobstone Trail is developed and managed for foot traffic only. Because of erosion, damage to structures, and the safety of hikers, horses, bicycles, and motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trail.
Primitive, backpack camping is allowed along the trail only on public lands (marked on the map) at least one mile, by trail, away from all roads, recreation areas, and trailheads, and out of site from the trail and all lakes. There are no designated campsites. Although it is not required, overnight trail users should consider registering at one of the nearby property offices: Jackson-Washington State Forest (812-358-2160) office is located about 3 miles southeast of Brownstown, north of S.R. 250. Starve Hollow State Recreation Area (812-358-3464) office is located east of S.R. 135 approximately 6 miles south of Brownstown and 17 miles north of Salem. Clark State Forest (812-294-4306) office is located west of U.S. 31, 10 miles south of Scottsburg and 1 mile north of Henryville. Deam Lake State Recreation Area (812-246-5421) gatehouse is located north of S.R. 60, adjacent to Clark State Forest, 1 1/4 mile west of Deam Lake Trailhead. Delaney Park (812-883-5101) gatehouse is located 9 miles north of Salem and 2 miles east of S.R. 135.
Campgrounds are located at Delaney Park (812-883-5101), Clark State Forest (812-294-4306), and Deam Lake State Recreation Area (812-246-5421).
Everything carried in on the trail is to be carried out. Organic wastes are to be buried in a 4 to 8-inch hole, at least 200 feet from the trail, water, and dry gullies. Either carry out toilet paper in a plastic bag or bury it deeply so it is not dug up or left in the open. Please respect these regulations, or camping may be prohibited in many areas.
Always wash your dishes or yourself a few feet away from the edge of a lake or stream. This way the soil acts as a filter, preventing soap suds and scraps of food from polluting the water. After washing your dishes, rinse them a safe distance from the bank. A few feet can make a big difference. Sources of water in many areas are often limited and can fail during dry periods-plan ahead! Remember to treat your drinking and cooking water by boiling for several minutes or with a commercial water filter.
During much of the year, water is unavailable from most of the streams near the trail. Hikers need to provide their own water supply. To avoid carrying an entire trips' supply of water, water containers can be cached at trailheads or access roads. If water is used from streams, ponds, or lakes, be sure to treat it properly by filtering or boiling.
To reduce the possibility of a forest fire, use a portable backpack stove rather than a campfire for cooking. A portable stove cooks your meal long before a fire is ready. It also helps prevent fire-blackened rocks in areas where people camp.
Campfires are allowed except when forest fire conditions are high. Extreme caution should be taken at all times: scrape the area down to bare soil, keep the fire contained in the bare soil area; completely extinguish it; and return the site to its original condition. Use only dead and down wood, and do not stockpile wood. While this was once considered a friendly gesture in remote areas, today it is one more thing which reduces the spirit of solitude and independence which people seek.
Any campfire in a backcountry area should be in a pit 12 inches or less in diameter, and a three-foot diameter area should be cleared to mineral soil around the fire. Prior to leaving an area where a campfire was built, mix ashes with the soil, fill the pit, and cover the cleared area with the humus layer which was originally removed.
Wearing bright colors during hunting season, particularly deer season, is a good idea. In fact, it may prevent injury or death. However, during other times of the year, bright reds, oranges and yellows serve to actually "shrink" the outdoors by visually intruding into the wide spaces and solitude which are part of the outdoor experience. When drab colors (browns, blues, and greens) are used for clothing and tents, individuals are visible at less distance, and more people can use the same general area without knowing of each other's presence.
Most of us love "man's best friend," but even on a leash a pet's presence may disturb the outdoor experience. Native wildlife often shies away from areas which dogs use, thus preventing the close observation many hikers desire. Barking also often disturbs other hikers, and sanitation within camping zones can become a problem. Therefore, it is recommended that pets not accompany hikers on the Knobstone Trail.
Before starting out, study maps of the area and learn the terrain. Be sure you are familiar with all the options of time, alternate routes, and weather. Do not forget the shorter daylight hours during late fall and winter. Be sure to travel with a first aid kit, map and compass, and know how to use them.
The Knobstone Trail passes primarily through state forests, which are managed for "multiple use" to obtain maximum benefits from recreation, timber, and wildlife production and watershed protection. They are open to the public for hunting during season, and are actively managed to increase the fish and wildlife population. Trails are developed, along with other recreational projects, to be compatible with the growth and harvest of timber and to retain the watershed protection that forests naturally provide. The harvesting of timber provides valuable income for the state of Indiana. Timber management and harvesting also provide diverse cover and food necessary for the perpetuation of many game and non-game animal species and helps insure that our forest resources will be available for future generations.
The two trailheads are located east of S.R. 135 between Brownstown and Salem. To reach the trailheads from State Road 135, EITHER drive south from Brownstown (17.1 miles from the S.R. 50 intersection) OR north from Salem (3.8 miles form the S.R. 56 intersection) to Rooster Hill Road/Old S.R. 135. Turn east onto Rooster Hill Road/Old 135, veer right and follow the road 1.6 miles. Turn right onto Winslow Road, veer left. and follow the road 0.6 mile. EITHER turn left onto Delaney Park Road to reach the Delaney Park entrance (0.2 mile), OR turn right to reach the Spurgeon Hollow Trailhead (0.3 mile). Delaney Park, is operated by the Washington County Park Board and is connected to the Knobstone Trail. Delaney Park requires an admission fee for all park users and Knobstone Trail hikers. To proceed to the Spurgeon Hollow Trailhead, turn right (south) from the Winslow Road/Delaney Park Road intersection and continue for 1/2 mile to the trailhead entrance road (gravel) on the left (east)-watch for the "KT" post. Turn left (east) onto the entrance road to get to the trailhead.
Delaney Park Loop (approximately 6 miles; distance to Spurgeon Hollow Trailhead is approximately 2, 7, or 9 miles depending on the route chosen) The Delaney Park Trailhead is located inside Delaney Park, near the beachhouse. Delaney Park is located about 2 miles east of S.R. 135 and 9 miles northeast of Salem; by road it is about 1 mile north of the Spurgeon Hollow Trailhead. The trail heads east from the beachhouse 1/4 mile where another trail intersects. At this point, the hiker has a choice: the trail to the right (southeast) connects to the Spurgeon Hollow Loop (see description below); continuing straight is the Delaney Park Loop, a rugged 3 1/2-mile hike which connects to the Spurgeon Hollow Loop (following the Spurgeon Hollow Loop back to the Delaney Park Loop turn-off completes the Delaney Park Loop [approximately 6 miles]). Following the Delaney Park Loop around to where it meets the Spurgeon Hollow Loop, the hiker can turn right (west) and continue 2 miles to Delaney Park, or 3 miles to Spurgeon Hollow Trailhead. Turning left (east), the hiker can follow the south side of the loop around to the Spurgeon Hollow Trailhead (5 miles) or continue 2 1/2 miles to the turn-off to the Elk Creek Trailhead. It is approximately 9 miles to the Elk Creek Trailhead from the turn-off.
To drive from Delaney Park to the Spurgeon Hollow Trailhead, turn left (south) from the Delaney Park entrance road onto the road it intersects and follow for approximately 3/4 mile to the trailhead entrance road on the left (east)-watch for the "KT" post. Turn left (east) onto the entrance road (gravel) to get to the trailhead.
The Spurgeon Hollow Trailhead is located next to Spurgeon Hollow Lake, 2 miles east of S.R. 135, northeast of Salem. The trail leads southeast from the trailhead parking lot along the north shore of the lake, which is available for fishing. Within 1/2 mile, the hiker has a choice of two routes as the trail makes a loop of approximately 8 miles through the backcountry area. The northern leg of the loop takes the hiker on a moderately rugged, ridgetop hike of about 5 miles, adding more than 2 miles to the total length of this segment. The southern leg runs about 3 miles through a moist valley; this segment is easy walking. The trail continues to the south from the southeast corner of the backcountry loop.
After leaving the backcountry area, the trail heads south and crosses a gravel road turning left (east) 0.1 mile to a small wildlife pond. The trail winds around the pond and continues east, crossing a creek several times, until a logging road is reached. The trail follows the road 0.2 mile then passes through two pine stands and proceeds south up a hill to an unmarked dirt road. The trail crosses the road and continues south through the west edge of Herron Hollow. It turns left (east) and rises to a ridge top, crossing another gravel road. The trail crosses the road and proceeds south 2 1/2 miles to S.R. 56. The trail crosses several geode-laden streams and passes through a diversity of vegetation in this segment. Cross the highway with caution. After crossing S.R. 56, the trail turns to the east for 1 mile to Old S.R. 56. An abandoned highway rest stop on Old S.R. 56 is just east of the trail by vehicle. The trail enters Elk Creek Public Fishing Area as it continues for 2 1/2 miles to the Elk Creek Trailhead, which is located next to Elk Creek Lake. The total trail distance between Spurgeon Hollow and Elk Creek trailheads is approximately 18 miles, including the backcountry loop; it also includes several steep hills.
To drive from the Spurgeon Hollow Trailhead to Elk Creek Trailhead, turn left (south) from the entrance road (gravel) for the trailhead onto the paved road it intersects. Proceed for 1.3 miles to the first intersection. Turn right (west) onto this unmarked county road for 4.9 miles to S.R. 135. Turn left (south) on S.R. 135 and proceed 3.3 miles to the junction with S.R. 56 in Salem. Turn left (east) onto S.R. 56 and continue for 10.2 miles to the highway information sign for Elk Creek Public Fishing Area. Turn right (south) on the road indicated by the sign. After the turn, continue south across Old S.R. 56 for 1.8 miles to the Public Fishing Area entrance road. Turn left (south) and go 0.5 mile to the trailhead parking lot. The trailhead is at the south end of the parking lot.
The Elk Creek Trailhead is located at Elk Creek Public Fishing Area, 1.5 miles south of S.R. 56 and about 10 miles east of Salem. The trail leads from the southeast end of the parking lot and meanders around the south shore of the lake. It then rises about 170 feet to a ridge top, providing the hiker a view of the lake and surrounding valley. The trail then drops back to the lake level and continues eastward out of the state fish and wildlife area toward Clark State Forest. This section of the trail provides the hiker with a variety of ridgetops and bottomlands. The trail also passes through some large clearings created by logging operations. These clearings provide excellent wildlife habitat-deer, grouse and other species may be observed here. The trail rises to an elevation of 1,000 feet as it reaches the Leota Trailhead. The trail is approximately 7 miles in length between the Elk Creek and Leota Trailheads.
To drive from the Elk Creek Trailhead to the Leota Trailhead, turn right (east) from the Elk Creek entrance road onto the road it intersects. Continue for 1.8 miles to S.R., 56. Turn right (east) onto S.R. 56 and proceed for 3.9 miles to an unmarked county road-watch for the Stucker Fork Water Tower, northwest of the intersection. Turn right (south) on this road and continue 1.1 miles to an intersection. Turn right (west) staying on the road for 1.2 miles to a T-intersecdtion with Leota Road. Turn right (west) on Leota Road and proceed for 1.3 miles, then turn right (north) on the gravel road which curves off to the right at the top of the knob-watch for "KT" post.
The Leota Trailhead is located east of the county road which goes north from Leota Road, about 2 miles west of Leota. The trailhead is near a small power transmission line. The trail crosses several steep ridges as it heads south from the Leota Trailhead through the Clark State Forest backcountry area. I then drops into the lush North Branch Valley, one of the most scenic areas along the trail (abundant ferns, wildflowers and very large trees), before winding its way up a very steep, north-facing slope. The trail then traverses rolling to rugged terrain again, past a few wildlife ponds, to the New Chapel Trailhead. The total length of this segment is approximately 9 miles.
To drive from the Leota Trailhead to the New Chapel Trailhead, turn left (south) from the Leota Trailhead entrance road (gravel) onto a gravel county road and proceed 0.1 mile to Leota Road. Turn right (south) and continue for 1.7 miles to the first intersection . Turn left (south) onto New Salem Road and proceed for 3.4 miles to the intersection with S.R. 160. Turn left (east) onto S.R. 160 and continue for 1.8 miles to the unmarked county road to the left (north)-watch for "KT" post. Turn left (north) on this road and continue of 0.4 mile to the New Chapel Trailhead entrance road to the right (east).
The New Chapel Trailhead is located about 0.5 mile north of S.R. 160 and is just east of the county road which goes north from S.R. 160 about 0.3 mile west of New Liberty. From the New Chapel Trailhead the trail proceeds in an easterly direction over rolling terrain until it turns south and drops about 350 feet to S.R. 160. Just south of S.R. 160 the trail climbs a very steep slope to an overlook. The trail then gradually drops to lower elevations and crosses Pixley Knob Road. Several small intermittent streams are then crossed and the trail turns to the west and rises to another overlook. Looking south from the overlook, Louisville can be seen on a clear day. The trail then turns back to the south and winds up to the top of Round Knob, providing another view of the surrounding area. Within the mile between Round Knob and the Jackson Road Trailhead, the trail drops about 300 feet and rises back to the ridgetops. To get to the Jackson Road Trailhead from the trail, go right (west) along the paved county road for about 0.1 mile to the gravel county road to the right (north). Follow this road (Jackson Road) for 0-.3 mile to the trailhead parking lot to the left (west). This segment of trail is approximately 12 miles in length.
To drive from the New Chapel Trailhead to the Jackson Road Trailhead, turn left (south) from the trailhead entrance road onto the paved county road for 0.4 mile to S.R. 160. Turn left (east) on S.R. 160 for 0.5 mile to the first road to the right. Turn right (south) on Pixley Knob Road and continue for 5.6 miles to the small town of Blue Lick. Turn right (southeast) on the county road just past the old Blue Lick General Store (closed). Continue for 4.2 miles (keep to the right at the intersection of the county road being followed and Reed Road) to Jackson Road (gravel road which forms a T-intersection from the right. Turn right (north) on Jackson Road-watch for the "KT" post. Continue for 0.3 mile to the trailhead parking lot, just west of Jackson Road.
The Jackson Road Trailhead is located west of Jackson Road about 5 miles west of Blue Lick; the trailhead is about 0.5 mile from the trail. To get to the trail from this trailhead, walk south on Jackson Road for 0.3 mile to the county road, turn left and continue out 0.1 mile to the trail crossing-watch for the "KT" post. The trail traverses two very steep slopes before gradually dropping to moderately rolling terrain. The trail then parallels the east shore of Deam Lake, stopping at the Deam Lake Trailhead, the southern end of the trail. The Jackson Road to Deam Lake Trailhead segment is approximately 5 miles in length.
To drive from the Jackson Road Trailhead to the Deam Lake Trailhead, turn right (south) from the parking lot onto Jackson Road for 0.3 mile to the county road. Turn left (east) and continue 4.2 miles to the small town of Blue Lick. At the T-intersection turn right (east) on Blue Lick/Memphis Road and continue for 1.4 miles to the McClelland Road. Turn right (south) on McClelland Road and proceed 1.2 miles to Crone Road. Turn right (west) on Crone Road and continue for 1.7 miles to Cummins Road. Turn right (northwest) on Cummins Road and continue for 1.4 miles to a T-intersection. At the intersection, turn right (northwest) and then left (west) on Wilson Switch Road.
Volunteers play an important role in public land management. Every year, the DNR Streams and Trails South Field Crew spends several months working on maintaining and improving the KT. Knobstone Trailblazers are individuals at least 18 years of age who work at least eight hours (in one or more days) as part of a group on the KT. Knobstone Trailblazers provide invaluable volunteer assistance to the crew - building new trail segments; installing steps and waterbars; and clearing existing trail. The crew works side by side with the Knobstone Trailblazers, providing training in the use of trail tools and teaching the techniques of trail construction and maintenance. After working at least eight hours (in one or more days) on the KT, each member of your group will receive a well-deserved, high quality Knobstone Trail poster suitable for framing as part of DNR's "thank you."
Here's How to Schedule Your Group For a Knobstone Trailblazer Experience:
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