"The Knobstone Trail (KT) 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."
The Knobstone Trail traverses the Norman Upland, a high area eroded into sandstones, siltstones, and shales. The western edge slopes gently, but the eastern side is defined by a steep edge known as the Knobstone escarpment, which separates the upland from the Scottsburg Lowland. Much of the Norman Upland was never glaciated, leaving a rugged series of ridges for the Knobstone Trail to cross.
"The trail is composed of high and narrow ridges or knobs, deep ravines,
and steep narrow valleys. The knobs are nearly 400 feet above the surrounding
farmlands. The southern flavor of flora, fauna, the summer haze, and far-reaching
vistas give rise to the local name of the 'Little Appalachian Trail'."
The initial 32 miles of the KT where opened in 1980. Diverse groups
such as the Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, and
many volunteers have aided the growth northward. Currently, the Hoosier
Hikers Council, a trail maintenance organization, is working to acquire
land and easements to extend the KT to encompass the full length of the
Norman Upland, 140 miles long.
Note: This hike starts in a county that obeys daylight savings. However, most of the hike, and most of Indiana, do not follow day light savings. The 8 am start time will be 8 am Indianapolis time (EST) or 9 am Louisville, KY time (EDT).
Starting at Deam Lake Trailhead at the mile "0" post, head north on the Knobstone Trail. Watch for Appalachian Trail style blazes and carbonite posts every mile marking the distance from Deam Lake. The trail stays on the ridge top, with only gentle elevation changes for the first 2 miles. After 2 miles, the route drops into a pine forested valley, but does not linger. Instead, the KT slowly climbs for 2 miles up Bartle Knob ridge, climbing up and over the knobs toward the end of the climb. A sharp right turn takes the trail back down, only to climb right back out of the valley and cross Jackson Creek Road.
Mile 5 comes as the trail works down a gentler slope. Looking ahead you should spot Round Knob, a prominent cone shaped hill. At the bottom of the hill you reach a small valley and cross a horse trail. The junction with the side trail to Jackson Creek Trailhead is also in this valley. To reach mile 6, the trail begins to climb up toward Round Knob. A series of switchbacks here are a new edition thanks to the Hoosier Hikers Council. The trail actually skirts around the top of Round Knob, but I recommend heading up for the views. On a clear day, Louisville and the Ohio River can be seen to the south.
The next mile traverses below the top of a ridge on your left, while views of the lowland farms dominate to the right. Descending from the ridge, the trail will pass through a few small valleys and over ridges before another road crossing. The mile 9 marker is reached while climbing the ridge above the road. Nearly 2 miles of rolling ridge top lead you onward, until the trail takes another steep descent to State Road 160. Reaching the road, turn left and walk over a bridge before heading back into the woods and up the switchbacks on the other side.
Another 2 miles of a gentle but narrow ridge top follows the "State Road 160 Canyon". Watch for outcroppings of "Knobstone shale" through this section. Mile 13 brings another descent and subsequent climb, followed once again by nearly 2 miles of ridge top. A long pleasant valley walk follows the mile 15 post. After one final climb and descent, the New Chapel Trailhead is reached.
Heading north from New Chapel, the trail follows a sunken old road, which may be wet and muddy. Between mile posts 19 and 20, the trail crosses one valley and ridge, before beginning a long valley walk. A steep climb to the Leota Trailhead culminates 3 miles of varied ridges and valley crossings.
Leaving the Leota Trailhead you will pass a wildlife pond, created by the DNR to provide more water sources for forest animals. A series of switchbacks lowers the trail to a small creek then slowly climbs to a hilltop with an excellent view. The trail then swings away from the steepest slopes of the Knobstone escarpment, but still manages to find a few hills. However, after mile marker 27, the trail works against the grain of numerous finger ridges, with one or two climbs every mile.
A 50k hike ends at Elk Creek Lake, unfortunately for weary hikers, the lake is spotted with a mile of steep climbs and descents still to come. At least there are great views from the high hills before reaching the trailhead.
Note: Times are in EST (aka Indianapolis time). Add one hour to the times below for Louisville, KY (EDT) time. Pace assumes 2.5 mph overall moving average. Walking speed will be close to 3 mph. Times are approximate.
Deam Lake Trailhead (Start): 8 am
From Indianapolis to Deam Lake Trailhead: Exit I-465 on Indianapolis's
southeast side onto I-65 south. After 90 miles, take exit 16 (Memphis).
Turn right (west) onto Blue Lick Road, however, watch for a road to the
south immediately after the I-65 ramps. Turn left and follow this road
south and onto Crone Road. Crone Road will "T" into Cummings Road. Turn
right on Cummings. Cummings will then "T" into Wilson Smith Road. Turn
right again, then follow Wilson Smith as it separates left from Flower
Sap Road. Roughly a 1/2 mile from this point you will find the Deam Lake
Trailhead on the north side of the road.
The DNR gives this set of instructions for finding Deam Lake Trailhead. It takes a more roundabout way to reach Crone road, but if you miss Crone Road immediately after turning onto Blue Lick Road, you can follow these directions:
From Interstate I-65 take exit no.16 – Memphis. Go west on Memphis Blue
Lick road for 2.2 miles and turn left on Bartle Knob road. Go 2.8 miles
to intersection of Beyl and Mountain Grove road. Go left on Beyl road.
Follow Beyl road 2.7 miles to Crone road. Go right on Crone for 1 mile.
Go right on Cummins road for 1.3 miles. Go right on Wilson Switch road
and follow it to Deam Lake Trailhead on the right.
From Deam Lake Trailhead to Elk Creek Trailhead: Return to I-65, then head north. Take exit 29 (Salem). Go west on Highway 56 for 7.8 miles and turn left on Elk Creek road. Follow this road across old Hwy 56 and continue on until the road turns to gravel. At this point turn left and follow blacktop to Elk Creek Trailhead.
Directions to intermediate trailheads (Jackson Creek, New Chapel, Leota)
are available at:
Please note that this site is a work in progress ©