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Brown County Mountain Bike Trails
Nashville, Indiana, USA

Insider's Ride Guide

Local riders stop for a rest at Hesitation Point.

As recently as 2004 there were absolutely no mountain bike trails in Brown County State
Park.  How does a place go from nothing to one of the premier trail systems in North America in such a short amount of time?  Volunteers get organized, they network, they find huge amounts of funding, and most importantly they get down and dirty with back-breaking trail work.  Since 2004 the leadership and members of the Hoosier Mountain Bike Association have been slaving away to create a very special place for mountain bikers to enjoy.
 
Jonathan Juillerat is just one of the many people that have been instrumental in making the Brown County State Park mountain bike trail system a reality.  Currently, he and his wife, Tania, are the marketing gurus for the trails, and they've given themselves the unofficial title of "Vibe Purveyors".  "It's really rare in mountain biking that you are handed a huge, amazing palette of land that is nearly untouched.  It is one of the most beautiful and stunning pieces of land not just in Indiana, but the entire Midwest." says Juillerat.  The area is often called the "Little Smokies" as the terrain in the area resembles a smaller version of the Smoky Mountains that lie a half-day drive to the east.
 
The area has long been a popular tourist destination for outdoor recreation, music and art.  The sleepy, historic tourist town of Nashville is less than two miles away from the trail head.  Since the early 1900's it has been home to a thriving artist colony.  The area also has a very rich bluegrass music tradition.  A few miles north of Nashville is tiny Bean Blossom where bluegrass legend Bill Monroe began his annual bluegrass festival in 1965.  Brown County State Park is one of the most well-known features of the county, and at over 16,000 acres it is the largest state park in Indiana.  The county is also home to a small part of the gigantic 200,000 acre Hoosier National Forest, one of the largest and best-preserved swaths of contiguous forest in the Midwest.
 
In just a few short years the area has also been recognized for its world-class mountain biking.  The trail system in Brown County State Park is the crown jewel of riding opportunities with over twenty-five miles of trails in the current system.  The HMBA envisions a completed system of at least 40-50 miles of trails, and they are constantly adding more.  The nearby national forest trails and two privately-owned trail systems add another 100 miles to the mix.  There are also many miles of dirt and gravel back-country roads that are easily explored by mountain bike.
 
Although there are lots of trails in the area, Juillerat says that it's the quality of the state park trail system that is the biggest draw.  "The quality of the trail construction is really stunning.  It's obvious after you ride here that the trails were very well designed and built.  Also, one of the best assets of the state park trails is that there is really something for every level of mountain biker.  Whether you're a first-timer or an experienced pro, you're in for a grin-fest."
 
The Trails
 
Juillerat rides the trails at Brown County on a frequent basis.  He and his wife also own Sub-9 Productions, a company that runs and promotes mountain biking events and produces the Brown County Mountain Biking Tourism and Trail Map
 
"The Hesitation Point Trail is probably the most popular trail in the park. The view at the top is gorgeous. It's ridden as an out-and-back or a connector, and it features a two-mile climb or descent depending on your direction of travel. It's labeled as an intermediate trail, but there is lots of elevation change and a few technical features. The downhill run takes around ten minutes for an experienced rider. Watch out for oncoming traffic."
 
"The Green Valley Trail is the newest and longest trail in the system, and it has quickly become one of the most popular due to its great "flow" characteristics that wind it through scenic, rolling, green hillsides. It was professionally built utilizing machine trail-building techniques. It is also one of the most remote trails, so be prepared to get just a little bit further away from civilization if you ride it."
 
"Schooner Trace is the crown jewel of statewide trailbuilding efforts so far," Juillerat says.  "It's a double-black diamond trail with some big penalties for failure.  It's really taking everyone's riding to the next level around here.  A visitor from Colorado remarked that it was 'unnecessarily difficult', which we all had a good laugh about."  Juillerat recommends that any advanced rider that visits the area should combine Schooner Trace with Walnut Trail (his favorite) as part of their ride.
 
"Limekiln Trail is often overlooked because it is the furthest trail away from the main parking lot, and it is rated as a beginner trail.  Local riders use descriptor terms like 'roller-coaster' and 'downhill both ways' for this trail.  If you're camping in the park, this will be the first trail you hit leaving the campground.  Get ready to scream with joy."
 
"Aynes Loop and North Tower Loop have always been the foundation for any good, long Brown County ride.  They were among the first trails built and their combination of fairly lengthy climbs and descents are in many ways the essence of the Brown County experience.  
 
"Most people park near the North Gate entrance.  One of my favorite downhill runs is the last one of the day down to the car.  As you head back on the North Gate Trail the last mile is a smokin' fast downhill run with a few jumps, some berms and a section of whoop-de-doos that will put an exclamation point on your day of riding."
 
"Outside of the state park trails the best alternative ride is the Nebo Ridge Trail in the Hoosier National Forest.  The trails in the HNF definitely have a more back-country feel.  They're way more remote, rougher, and much less polished.  Connect the sixteen mile out-and-back of Nebo Ridge with trails 18, 19 and 20 of the Hickory Ridge Trail System and you're in for a huge, southern Indiana classic back-country ride.  There are also two nice, private trail systems nearby at eXplore Brown County and Gnaw Bone Camp."
 
What Bike to Ride
 
Locals use everything from rigid single-speeds to 6-inch travel free-ride bikes.  Pick your own weapon.  Juillerat prefers gears and lots of suspension.  "It's really easy to put together a 4-6 hour ride around here, so I like to have some cushion underneath to keep me fresh.  I also like lots of gears, especially for the more steep and rough terrain in the Hoosier National Forest."
 
When to Go
 
"Mid-April through Mid-November is the sweet spot.  Winter riding is hard to do with the vicious freeze/thaw cycles that keep the trail messy and fragile.  The trails in the state park drain rainfall very quickly, especially in the drier months of late summer and early fall.  The trails in the Hoosier National Forest don't handle rain nearly as well so avoid them unless it has been dry for a while.  It can get hot and humid in the summer so carry plenty of water with you.  The leaves and the tourists peak simultaneously in October."
 
Where to Eat
 
Nashville and the surrounding cities of Columbus and especially Bloomington have tons of dining choices.  There's a bit of something for everyone.  Here are some of Juillerat's favorites that are close to the trails.
 
Breakfast
 
The Little Gem Restaurant in the Abe Martin Lodge in Brown County State Park is very convenient and close to the trails.  They have a breakfast buffet every morning from 7-10 a.m.  It's not gourmet, but it's a lot of down-home style food for a reasonable price. (812) 988-4418
 
In Nashville proper, I like the hip scene at Muddy Boots Cafe.  They have locally roasted premium coffee from Brown County Coffee and interesting, delicious breakfast fare. (812) 988-6911
 
Lunch and Dinner
 
Big Woods Brewing Company and Big Woods Pizza are both in downtown Nashville and are located within a few feet of one another.  The Brewing Company is age 21 and over, and Big Woods Pizza is great for families.   Both establishments are very mountain biker-friendly, have a cozy environment and they have locally brewed beer on tap.  Both restaurants are somewhat small, and they fill up quick during the busy season.  (812) 988-6000

The Pine Room Tavern is another good mountain biker-friendly choice with a nice beer and wine selection and some locally sourced and creative dining options that are reasonably priced.  It's a mellow, hip spot to grab a meal.  They often have local and regional acts play live music during dining hours on the weekends.  It's the closest restaurant to the North Gate Entrance and trail head.  (812) 988-0236
 
Casa del Sol Mexican restaurant is located near the center of downtown just on the south side of town.  They have good, traditional Mexican fare and they also serve beer and wine.  (812) 988-4535
 
For a more comprehensive list of local dining options check out browncounty.com's Places to Eat.
 
Bike Shops

812-988-4566
23 N Jefferson St.
Nashville, IN 47448
2.5 Miles from the Trailhead (5 minute drive)
Rental Bikes Available

(812) 379-9005
1201 Washington St.
Columbus, IN 47201
17 Miles from the Trailhead (30 minute drive)
Rental Bikes Available
 
(812) 336-0241
401 E. 10th St.
Bloomington, IN 47408 
20 Miles from the Trailhead (35 minute drive)
Rental Bikes Available
 
Off-The-Bike Entertainment
 
Catch some local, regional or national bluegrass musicians at Bill Monroe's Bean Blossom just north of Nashville.  If rock-and-roll is more your style catch up-and-coming and national acts at The Bluebird Nightclub in nearby hip, young and vibrant Bloomington.  If you like art or architecture, Brown County is home to over 250 artists and several art galleries and nearby Columbus has been called "a veritable museum of modern architecture" by Smithsonian Magazine.  Other outdoor pursuits like hiking, road biking, bird watching, canoeing, kayaking, zip-lining, boating, fishing, horseback riding and paintball are plentiful with over 175,000 acres of forested land in the county and plenty of lakes and streams.
 

Preparing for another day riding in Brown County.