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
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 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
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.
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
23 N Jefferson St.
Nashville, IN 47448
2.5 Miles from the Trailhead (5 minute drive)
Rental Bikes Available
1201 Washington St.
Columbus, IN 47201
17 Miles from the Trailhead (30 minute drive)
Rental Bikes Available
401 E. 10th St.
Bloomington, IN 47408
20 Miles from the Trailhead (35 minute drive)
Rental Bikes Available
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.