For a taste of the Smoky Mountains in America’s heartland, check out one of the largest state parks in the Indiana system. The rolling hills, lush foliage, and tranquil streams of Brown County State Park attract over 1.2 million visitors a year. Springtime and fall are especially good times to come to this park. The trees are in bloom and the colors are changing.
Two large lakes are great for fishing, and they also provide water for the Park’s wildlife. The large wildlife population led to the creation of a game preserve in 1924. Today, the preserve encompasses over 12,000 acres. Deer thrive in this area, as do many species native to Indiana forests, such as broad-wing hawks, timber rattlesnakes, and red bats.
Visitors enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities almost all year long.
RV Rentals in Brown County State Park
Transportation in Brown County State Park
RVs and other large vehicles must use the West Entrance. The North Entrance has a very picturesque covered bridge which has a nine-foot clearance and a three-ton weight limit. GPS coordinates for the West Entrance are 39.17648001,-86.2657938; the GPS address is 1405 S.R. 46 W., Nashville, IN 47448. From Bloomington, take the recently-upgraded but still windy State Road 46 to the aptly-named West Gate Entrance Road, which is not far east of Wise Hollow. From Indianapolis, take Interstate 65 south to Columbus, and then go west on State Road 46 past Stony Lonesome, Clarksdale, and Gnaw Bone. From Louisville, take Interstate 65 north to Columbus.
There are a number of large vehicle parking areas in the Park. The biggest ones are around the campgrounds, around Hesitation Point, and near the West Lookout Tower. Other parking areas are close to the Park office, adjacent to the lakes, and near most trailheads. Brown County State Park is also a cruising park. There are some twenty miles of paved, wide roads which are ideal for spring and autumn viewings.
Campgrounds and parking in Brown County State Park
Campsites in Brown County State Park
This campground has electric hook-up sites, a water fill station, and a heated bathhouse. It also has a camp store and a large activities lodge. The daily rate is lower in the winter, and the camp store is usually closed during the winter.
This nearby and slightly more rustic campground has a number of hookup and non-hookup RV sites. It’s also close to the Park nature center, amphitheater, and equestrian facilities. Some facilities are only open during the summer.
If you come to Brown County State Park for solitude and scenery, the most remote campground in the Park might be for you. If you’re interested in outdoor activities, maybe not.
This equestrian campground features both primitive and electric sites. Drinking water and pit toilets are available while the area is open, through November.
There are also a number of private RV parks nearby, mostly along State Road 46. Many of these campsites have amenities like full hookup sites, WiFi, showers, bathrooms, laundry facilities, and recreational opportunities.
Located just north of Buffalo Ridge, this group campground is a nice combination of a prepared campsite and backcountry camping. It’s road-accessible and perched on the edge of the Ogle Hollow Nature Preserve.
Abe Martin Lodge
Guests may choose cabin suites, lodge rooms, family cabins, patio rooms, or electrified rustic cabins. Abe Martin Lodge was originally built in 1932, when the Civilian Conservation Corps significantly expanded the Park facilities.
Seasonal activities in Brown County State Park
These fire watch towers are about nine stories high. The West Tower, which is near the West Entrance, offers great views of the lakes in the southern part of the Park, as well as the nature preserves. The North Tower, which is near the Abe Martin Lodge, overlooks the meandering Salt Creek as well as the rolling hills which dominate this part of the Park. There is lots of RV parking near the West Tower, and there is a large picnic area close to the North Tower.
Yellowwood Trees/Trail 5
This rugged .75-mile hiking trail cuts through the heart of the Ogle Hollow Nature Preserve. Yellowwood trees are among the prettiest ones in eastern North America, and also among the rarest ones. These trees flower in early June with large and fragrant white petals. The fruit is attractive as well, but basically inedible. Yellowwood trees also attract a wide variety of birds.
Vista Sunrise & Sunset
There are vistas near Hesitation Point, Hohen Point, and the Park Office. All three of them have ample parking, as well as picnic areas. Early mornings and late afternoons, the hills create a spectacular interplay of light and shadow. Also, the light catches the tree limbs in a way that’s hard to describe.
Reaching this excellent vantage point for scenic views can be quite challenging. The trail is rather steep. Only experienced hikers or bikers should attempt it. Or, you can just drive your RV to this scenic overlook. There is ample parking nearby. Other facilities include backcountry camping and a recreation building.
One of the most family-friendly trails in the Park is also one of the most scenic ones. It loops just north of the Park Office, so it’s quite accessible. The trail is also wide, well-marked, and relatively flat. It’s also in one of the highest areas of the Park, so there are lots of scenic views along the way. As in other parts of the Park, there is also wildlife viewing, especially wild turkeys.
Ramp Creek Covered Bridge
When snow is on the ground, this 1838 covered bridge is a great photo opportunity. It’s one of only four double tunnel covered bridges in the United States. Moreover, this bridge is the oldest covered bridge in Indiana. Originally built in Putnam County, preservationists moved it in 1932 when construction would have demolished the bridge.
Accessible by either RV or a 1.5-mile moderately-challenging hiking trail, this 12-acre lake is a great fall-winter destination. During the fall, kayaking and canoeing are quite popular, as the water is usually rather choppy this time of year. In winter, if the lake freezes over, there are ice fishing opportunities. Lots of people also snowshoe along the trail this time of year.
The hills near the park swimming pool are a lot steeper than your driveway at home. But they are not suicidal either. For some reason, this area is known as the Archery Target Range. Despite the ominous-sounding name, it’s really just a collection of gentle, rolling hills where families can have some fun together.
The Park does not rent ski equipment. But there are a number of open hills where cross-country skiing is lots of fun. The hills make these excursions challenging, but not terribly difficult. The eastern, southern, and western portions of the park are the best cross-country skiing areas. No skis are allowed on the hiking or biking trails.
Equestrian activities are the latest thing at Brown County State Park. Altogether, the Park has some two dozen trails that cover about seventy miles. Eleven of these trails are sufficiently wide to accommodate side-by-side riding. The longest trail is about twelve miles; the shortest one is about a half mile. Kids of all ages love the fall hayrides. There are also guided horseback tours and pony rides. The main equestrian center is in the south part of the Park, where horseback riders have their own park entrance. There’s also a saddle barn in the northern part of the Park that’s open most of the year.