Guest Post: A Slice of Central Indiana at Elliot Woods State Nature Preserve

I’ll start by introducing myself here: I’m Logan, Girl Gone Hiking’s child. This past weekend offered a very much welcome respite from the cold, and the roommates and I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather. We couldn’t get going until almost 3:00p, so the destination would have to be close. From our home in (scenic) Terre Haute, IN, that doesn’t leave many choices. Even Turkey Run is an hour away, so the search was on to find some unexplored options. That’s when I stumbled upon the Elliot Woods Nature Preserve, less than 15 miles away from us. There was very little about the preserve online, but it seemed there was at least one loop trail, and I’ve had good luck with relatively unknown nature preserves before (check out Green’s Bluff near Spencer, IN for a short and very out of the way hike). If you’re slightly challenged on the geography on Indiana, I don’t blame you … in fact you’re probably better for it, so I’ve gotten you this handy map to help you get a hold of the park’s location.

Still lost?

Any how, after a lovely and brief drive through the Indiana countryside, and past everybody’s favorite federal penitentiary, USP Terre Haute, located conveniently along IN 63, we arrived at Prairie Creek Park. Prairie Creek Park is part of the Vigo County Parks Dept., and is located directly across a small road from the Nature Preserve. This is where we parked to access the preserve, and as it turned out there is also a short loop trail in this park as well, along with lots of maple trees and a large camping area. Prairie Creek Park , in addition to camping, features some quite nice pavilions and tables for gatherings, and picnics, as well as several playground areas and fairly new looking basketball courts.

From the parking lot, we headed to the trail.

But not before I made them pose for a group photo – Hey Luke, Hey Nick.

One of those rumored pavilions.  I don’t think Luke was ready. That’s okay.

Aforementioned small road, and I sign confirming all of my suspicions that I had in fact found the nature area.

The loop trail is just shy of two miles long, and is actually quite well maintained. It is wide and meandering. While it passes up and down several hills none of them are worth mentioning. I’m sure that this would a really gorgeous fall hike. And while I’m hoping I won’t still be here in the fall to find out, we shall see.

A brief background on the Elliot Woods property, it was only acquired by the county earlier this decade from the Elliot family, which had owned the property since the mid-1800’s. According to the Indiana DNR, the property “contains a high quality mesic and dry-mesic upland forest with at least 26 species of trees and a small prairie restoration.” The property also enjoys permanent protection from future development or logging thanks to a state conservancy easement.

We start in what presumably used to be a field before splitting in two directions for the loop.

There’s a ton of these bridges, which I found pretty surprising.

And everything is graveled!

THIS ONE EVEN HAS FREAKING GRIP STRIPS ARE YOU KIDDING ME. Plus if you want to you can even sit on them and look pensive for a while.

The consensus at this point was that this was really nice place to be able to just go out nearby and get outside when you don’t have all day to make an event out it.

They look so very engaged.

Eventually the trail comes out into another clearing, and there’s a signpost with two arrows, one pointing each direction. No words, no further guidance. To be clear this isn’t where the loop closes, so see a split in the path was really kind of unexpected. We took a guess and went left, and everything worked out. Going to the right might just join up with the trail again, but we didn’t try following it to find out.

Lest you thought you would get away from the crap rotting in random fields (a hallmark of Indiana), let go of that thought now. Also featured along the way was a long ago abandoned washing machine.

We may have ventured ever so slightly off the trail  to take this picture. Don’t worry about it. But it’s nice right?

Don’t worry, we safely returned to the trail. I could feel everybody’s anxiety levels rising, so I just wanted to address that concern real quick.

I made art!

Back in the field.

Having walked for nearly 45 minutes, we decided that somehow we could handle another short trail, so off to the little pond we went. Not quite as well maintained, but there were still lots of bridges for stream crossings and the likes. The pond itself was quite sad looking, but you can’t win ’em all I guess.

That isn’t Little Pond. Big Pond maybe?

Seriously, this park would be a really nice place to hang out on a summer day, even if you weren’t into walking.

There it is! Little Pond! The roommates aren’t so sure about it.

More little bridges, as promised.

Sorry ladies, he’s not single.

I told you that would be a short walk to Little Pond! Back already.

We really enjoyed getting out for a little bit, and Elliot Woods fit the bill. Close, not crowded at all, and generally very pleasant for a low-effort walk. We plan to come back. Maybe when there are leaves. That would really spice things up here in central Indiana.