Hiking The Knobstone Trail - Oxley To Elk Creek
The 13th most popular hiking trail in Indiana.
Thursday 30 June 2016 03:05 GMT
In southern Indiana, the 58 mile Knobstone Trail winds through thick woodlands and up steep ridgelines while traversing the rocky, forested Knobstone Escarpment. The Knobstone Escarpment has layers of weathered brown shale and sandstone have been heaved up to 300 feet above low-lying farmland and hollows.
The main route passes through Clark State Forest, Elk Creek Public Fishing Area, and Jackson-Washington State Forest in Clark, Scott, and Washington counties and is managed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. The white-blazed 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. Make sure to bring water since it can be very dry at times.
The Knobstone Trail may eventually be developed northward to connect with the Hoosier National Forest, Yellowwood State Forest, and Morgan-Monroe State Forest. The Hoosier National Forest currently manages an informal stretch of the Knobstone Trail in Brown County known as the Nebo Ridge Section.
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 Oxley Memorial to Elk Creek section is between a 12 to 15 mile hike, depending on the route, from the Spurgeon Hollow 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.
Overall, Knobstone Trail - Oxley To Elk Creek is the 13th most popular hiking trail of all 21 hikes in Indiana.