The weather was sunny and beautiful, I had a rare day off work with nothing on my calendar, and I needed to do a long training run, so I got the kids off to school and headed out bright and early to spend a lovely early fall day exploring the trails of Clifty Falls State Park in Indiana. Just 75 miles southwest of Cincinnati, Clifty Falls State Park is located near the picturesque small town of Madison, Indiana. I would have loved to stop in downtown Madison to explore the shops and cafes, but I had our pup Luna in tow, so I reluctantly kept driving and headed straight to the park. Since it was a weekday, there was no entrance fee to enter the park, so I picked up a trail map and parked near the Nature Center which didn’t open until later in the morning.
Driving in, it’s impossible to miss the giant smokestacks of the Clifty Creek Power Plant which tower over the park. There is even a lookout that basically overlooks the smokestacks. But once on the trails, the surrounding trees thankfully blocked this view. The trails are well marked, and conveniently numbered from 1 to 10. Using the trail map available in the park brochure, I pieced together a 14 mile loop which covered varying terrain. Since it was late summer, the waterfalls were pretty much water trickles, but I still really enjoyed the scenery.
One of the coolest attractions in the park is the “cave” located on trail 5. Actually an abandoned railway tunnel, you can walk through the pitch black cavern to the other side. I wish I could say I was brave enough to walk all the way through, but I wasn’t. I went far enough in to get my heart racing and came running back out. I’ve clearly been watching too much Walking Dead! A video posted on YouTube shows what the tunnel is like. If you are planning to hike through the tunnel, take a flashlight. The flashlight on my phone was no match for this darkness! Also, the floor of the tunnel was muddy, so be prepared for wet boots.
I also really enjoyed hiking on Trail 2 which is basically the creek bed of Clifty Creek. I visited during a dry time, and walking over the exposed rocks usually covered by water was fun. You could see fossils in the large rocks underfoot which was especially awesome. However, after a couple of miles, my ankles were tired from walking on the uneven rocks so I headed back up the ridgeline on Trail 3 when it crossed the creek.
Clifty Falls State Park is a lovely place to spend the day hiking. The 14 miles I ran and hiked passed quickly since it was so pretty and scenic. Heavily wooded, Clifty Falls will be gorgeous when the leaves change. Visiting during the middle of the week, I pretty much had the trails to myself and only came upon a few people throughout the day. In fact, I saw more deer than people while out on the trails! I look forward to another visit.
If you go-
While I was only there for the day, Clifty Falls State Park has a nice campground for an extended stay. Reservations can be made here.
If you’re looking for a cushier stay in the park, check out the Clifty Inn. With beautiful river views and easy access to hiking and biking trails, this would be a lovely place to stay. You can also stop in to eat at the Inn’s restaurant, where breakfast, lunch and dinner is served.
While hiking, I used the trail map available at the park entrance which was perfectly adequate for the well marked trails within the park. For reference to locate area hikes, I use both Hiking Indiana: A Guide To The State’s Greatest Hiking Adventures and 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati: Including Clifton Gorge, Southeast Indiana, and Northern Kentucky which are both excellent resources.