There’s a reason why Indiana’s Brown County State Park is so popular. Well, actually, there are 16,000 reasons. That’s how many acres are in the state park, which is Indiana’s largest.
Brown County -- near Nashville, Indiana -- has been called the “Little Smokies” because its hills with steep slopes, narrow ridges, and sometimes-foggy ravines remind people of the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s also now known as a historic district -- having recently been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
The park, which is a little over an hour south of Indianapolis and just under 90 minutes from Louisville, Kentucky, is famous for magnificent views in the fall as tree leaves change color. Then again, Brown County is also well-known for the 70 miles of horse trails, 18 miles of hiking trails, and 30 miles of trail for mountain biking that make their way through the heavily wooded landscape.
Here’s a rundown on the eight best experiences at Indiana’s Brown County State Park.
1. Brown County State Park Inn (Abe Martin Lodge)
Brown County State Park opened in 1929. Abe Martin Lodge -- and the nearby cabins -- were built in 1932 using stone and oak timbers that were cut inside the park. The lodge has two large lobbies with fireplaces, a dining room, and 36 rooms. Another 54 rooms are in the new addition.
The lodge also features an indoor aquatic center, complete with a swimming pool, waterslide, fountains, and a whirlpool with a waterfall.
2. Brown County State Park Cabins
There are two types of cabins at Brown County State Park. The first type is what’s called “Family Housekeeping Cabins.” The park has 20 of these two-story cabins, which can each accommodate eight people. Two of these cabins are wheelchair accessible.
The other type of cabin is rustic. Built in 1932, these 24 cabins are motel-style rooms. Each cabin has either two or four units, and some of the units have connecting doors that can be unlocked to create a suite of two rooms.
Pro Tip: These rustic cabins are “sleeping cabins” and do not have kitchen facilities.
3. Brown County State Park Camping
Brown County State Park offers a number of camping options in different campgrounds. For instance, there are 401 electric (Class A) campsites across three different campgrounds. Of those, 17 are wheelchair accessible.
For those interested in tent camping, the park also has 28 non-electric (Class B) campsites.
Finally, Brown County State Park has a separate campground for people who bring horses. The Horsemen’s Campground has 118 electric (Class A) campsites -- and each has a tie-up for six horses. The Horsemen's Campground also has 91 primitive (Class C) campsites with tie-ups for six horses.
Pro Tip: An annual horse tag is required for each horse.
Brown County State Park has 18 miles of hiking trails, with trails ranging from “Easy” to “Rugged.” For instance, Trail 1, which begins at the Abe Martin Lodge, is a “Moderate” 0.9-mile hike through the woods.
On the other hand, the 3-mile Trail 9 is “Rugged.” It begins at the Taylor Ridge campground, follows the top of the ridge, descends into a valley, follows a stream, and then loops back.
5. Horseback Riding
There are two ways to ride horses at Brown County State Park. The first is to visit the park’s Saddle Barn, which offers guided trail rides, pony rides, and hayrides.
Visitors can also explore the park’s 70 miles of bridle trails -- through steep, forested hills -- riding their own horses. While the park has campgrounds for visitors with horses, it also has day-use parking spots.
Pro Tip: A horse tag is required to access Indiana DNR property.
6. Mountain Biking
Bikers will be happy to learn Brown County State Park has nearly 30 miles of trail with 400 feet of elevation-change for mountain biking. The trails, ranging from “Beginner” to “Expert,” traverse hills and ravines -- and even cross streams.
Note: Following trail courtesy, mountain bikers yield to runners, hikers, and equestrians.
7. Fishing And Boating
Brown County State Park has two lakes, so it’s no surprise the park is known for boating and fishing. Ogle Lake is 17 acres in size, while Strahl Lake covers 7 acres. Fishing and ice fishing are allowed at both lakes.
Pro Tip: An Indiana state license is required for fishing.
Boats are not allowed on Strahl Lake. However, non-motorized boats such as canoes, and boats with electric trolling motors, are allowed on Ogle Lake.
Pro Tip: Ogle Lake does not have a boat ramp. Also, a DNR lake permit is required.
8. Other Activities
Brown County State Park also has tennis courts, playgrounds, and a nature center -- as well as an outdoor Olympic-size swimming pool, plus a wading pool. You can check here for information about pool use fees.
The park is also home to the 75-foot Lilly Lookout tower donated by the Lilly Family (Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals) in 1942.
Know Before You Go
More information about entrance and activity fees, as well as hours of operation for various activities, may be found here.
Brown County State Park is currently open. However, to comply with Indiana’s COVID-19 restrictions, visitors must wear a face covering over their mouth and nose when inside public buildings. They also must wear a face covering at outdoor public areas when a social distance of 6 feet cannot be maintained between people. Check here for more public safety information.