Where is Brown County State Park
Located among the state’s southern hilltops, Brown County State Park resides entirely in the state of Indiana. The park is located only minutes away from the small town of Nashville (Indiana) and 20 miles away from Bloomington and the University of Indiana. Brown County US State Park is consistently referred to as the “Little Smokies” for the region’s resemblance to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina. Recreational activities in the park include hiking, fishing, biking, and camping. The park also contains a nature center and nature preserve. Most of Brown County State Park is blanketed with deciduous forest that puts on a show in the fall when leaves in the park begin to change color.
How Large is Brown County State Park
Brown County State Park covers over 15,750 acres and is one of the largest state parks in the United States. The park receives over 1.3 million visitors per year and is constantly the most visited state park in Indiana. Inside the park’s boundaries are two man-made lakes; Ogle Lake and Strahl Lake, a diverse trail system, and several historic structures. The park’s trail system includes over 35 miles of designated mountain biking trails that have been repeatedly endorsed by the International Mountain Biking Association, 20 horseback riding trails, and 12 trails designated for hiking. Brown County State Park also contains several structures dating back to the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s. These structures can be seen by visitors hiking on the CCC Trail.
Brown County State Park Weather
Brown County State Park receives consistent sunshine in the summer and consistent snowfall in the winter. Summer temperatures in the park average between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Winter temperatures in Brown County State Park average between 20 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The hottest days in the park normally occur in July and August and the coldest days appear in December and January. On average, Brown County State Park receives about 95 days of precipitation a year. Rainfall totals in the park average around 50 inches per year, and snowfall totals in the park average around 20 inches per year.
When did Brown County Become a State Park
Brown County State Park was first designated as a state park by the state of Indiana in 1929. The idea of creating Brown County State Park is mostly credited to Richard Lieber who first visited the area in 1910. Lieber was the first director of the Indiana Department of Conservation and became known as “the father of Indiana’s state parks”. During his time with the department, the state opened 10 state parks. Another man by the name of Lee Bright is also partly responsible for the park’s creation. In 1924, Bright along with the Indiana Department of Conservation established the Brown County Game Preserve on the land that now is occupied by Brown County State Park.
Things to do in Brown County State Park
Brown County State Park will provide visitors with a host of outdoor activities. List of Parks highlights the most popular and daring adventures below:
Maintaining several trails endorsed by the International Mountain Bicycling Association and Bike Magazine, Brown County State Park is one of the top mountain biking parks in the United States. The park features over 35 miles of trails designated for mountain biking including the newly completed Hobbs Hollow Trail. This trail was named a must ride by Bike Magazine in summer of 2018. The park has also received designations like “Top 6 Secret Mountain Bike Destinations in the US” from the magazine.
Hiking at Brown County State Park
The twelve trails that make up the Brown County State Park system total over 18 miles. These trails allow hikers in the park to access several notable destinations including the park’s two lakes, Hesitation Point, the park’s lookout towers, and the Ogle Hollow Nature Preserve. The CCC trail in the park also provides visitors the opportunity to learn about the CCC and its impact in Brown County State Park.
Fishing on Ogle or Strahl Lake
Anglers visiting Brown County State Park equipped with an Indiana state fishing license, may fish in either of the park’s two lakes. Anglers fishing on Ogle lake may utilize a trolling motor or rowboat. However, Strahl Lake is closed to all watercraft. Fish species present in the park’s two lakes include largemouth bass, blue catfish, bluegill and several other species. Visitors looking to purchase fishing bait or other supplies can visit the park’s country store.
Horseback riders visiting Brown County State Park will have access to 20 designated trails. Of these 20 trails, 11 are wide enough for two riders to ride side by side. The longest horseback riding trail in the park is 12 miles long.
Birdwatching & Wildlife Viewing
Brown County State Park contains an impressive area of fauna. The park’s most commonly spotted wildlife species include white-tailed deer, opossums, racoons, squirrels, American toads, and eastern box turtles. Common avian species in the park include hooded warblers, pileated woodpeckers, ruffed grouse, and a list of others.
Camping at Brown County State Park
Visitors looking to stay in Brown County State Park have three options to choose from. The Abe Martin Lodge located in the park contains 30 guest rooms and a full-service restaurant. Brown County State Park also has two campgrounds. The class A campground features sites with electric and water hookups, and the other campground features primitive sites better suited for tent campers.
Winter Sports in the Park
During winter snowfall, Brown County State Park allows visitors to enjoy winter sports such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. While no trails are designated as winter skiing trails, visitors are able to ski across the park’s hills and valleys. The park’s hiking trails are a great place to snowshoe in the winter months.
When to Visit Brown County State Park
A trip to Brown County State Park is a great option all year long. However, planning your visit during one season over another may allow you to enjoy more of your favorite outdoor activities. Avid hikers, anglers, and mountain bikers should look to visit Brown County State Park in the spring or summer. Visitors hoping to experience the park’s fall foliage should visit during late September or Early October. A winter visit to the park is a great way to beat the park’s summer crowds and to experience the park’s winter offerings.
Must Have Items to Bring to Brown County State Park
Every outdoor adventure calls for some packing and planning. A trip to Brown County State Park is best enjoyed with these items listed below:
Sturdy Hiking Boots
To be prepared for the variety of trails that await them at Brown County State Park, our National Park Visitors Guide advises all visitors should pack a sturdy pair of hiking boots.
Mountain Biking Equipment
Mountain bikers will want to remember to bring their bike and all necessary equipment with them to Brown County State Park so that they can properly enjoy the park’s renowned trails.
Fishing Rod, Reel & Tackle
Fishing in Brown County State Park can be quite an enjoyable activity. Make sure to bring your rod, reel, and freshwater tackle box along with you to the park. An Indiana fishing license is also required.
Binoculars & Wildlife Guides
A variety of wildlife resides inside of Brown County State Park. Visitors hoping to spot and identify a plethora of species will want to bring their binoculars and wildlife field guides along with them to the park. Additional guides can be purchased in the park store.
Creating a camping gear checklist is a great way to ensure you have all of the necessary equipment packed with you when you leave for the park.
Winter Sports Gear
Visiting Brown County State Park in the Winter? Make sure to bring your winter clothes, skis, and snowshoes.
Water & Snacks
Water and snacks are always essential for any outdoor getaway. Hikers should bring extra water and high energy snacks like trail mix and beef jerky along with them.
Where to Stay in Brown County State Park
Visitors looking to stay in Brown County State Park should research the Abe Martin Lodge and the park's two campgrounds and decide which site fits their needs. Reservations for the lodge or parks campgrounds can be made online through the park’s website. Visitors looking to stay in a hotel near the area should check out options in Bloomington. The city is a 20 miles drive away but will offer visitors more options than any of the smaller surrounding cities.
Food Near Brown County State Park
The closest food to Brown County State Park can be found within the park at the Abe Martin Lodge. The lodge contains its own full-service restaurants. Visitors seeking other options, or a more diverse menu should search for establishments in Bloomington. The city has a larger culinary scene than any of the smaller towns surrounding the state park. Visitors making the drive to Bloomington will find various restaurants and bars that offer a variety of different culinary styles.
Airports Near Brown County State Park
The closest airport to Brown County State Park is located in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis International Airport is located 50 miles and an hour and fifteen minute drive away from the state park. The next closest international airport resides in Cincinnati, Ohio and is a two hour car ride away from Brown County State Park.