About a half million people a year visit Indiana’s Clifty Falls State Park, and it’s easy to see why. The scenic Park is situated on the northern bank of the Ohio River. Furthermore, it offers a wide range of outdoor activities along with excellent RV camping facilities.
As the name implies, Clifty Falls State Park has several tumbling waterfalls. Yet these are not the roaring, earplug-variety falls. Instead, they invite visitors to get a little closer. Nevertheless, they are still quite impressive. So, we definitely do not recommend going over them in a barrel or a kayak.
Moreover, a number of hiking trails crisscross Clifty Falls State Park. Some are rather easy and some are rather difficult, so there’s something for all skill levels. In fact, this Park has one of the easiest trails in Indiana as well as one of the most difficult ones.
Finally, the RV campground is quite nice. It’s centrally located, so it’s close to all the Park’s attractions. At the same time, it’s rather secluded, so privacy is not a problem. There’s also a nice mixture of electrical hookup sites and roughing-it primitive RV sites.
RV Rentals in Clifty Falls State Park
Transportation in Clifty Falls State Park
From Cincinnati, take Highway 50 west to Dillsboro. Then, take Highway 262 south to North Street (Highway 62). Dillsboro isn’t much of a town, but it does have a good comfort food place and an IGA. Highway 62 winds through Farmers Retreat, Friendship, and Cross Plains. It also briefly changes names around Canaan, but just keep going until you pass the Lanier Drive (Highway 7) intersection. Once you get into Madison, there’s a Walmart and a Kroger near the intersection of Clifty Drive (Highway 62) and Ivy Tech. Then, it’s just a bit further to the Park entrance.
From Louisville, paddle your canoe up the Ohio River. Or, you can take Interstate 71 east to Campbellsburg Road (Highway 421). Go north on 421 through Bedford until you reach the Indiana border. 421 becomes Harrison Street when you reach Madison. Go right on Second, right on Baltimore, and left on the Ohio Scenic River Byway (Highway 56). Then, turn into the Park.
From Indianapolis, take Interstate 65 south to Scottsburg. There’s a nice Walmart just off the freeway. Then, turn east onto McClain Avenue (Highway 56). Stay on 56 until you reach the Park.
There is lots of parking near Clifty Falls and Little Clifty Falls. Additional parking is available near Lookout Point, Hickory Grove, Clifty Inn, and at various other points.
Campgrounds and parking in Clifty Falls State Park
Campsites in Clifty Falls State Park
Clifty Falls State Park RV Campground
One hundred electric hookup sites and sixty-two primitive RV sites are offered at the park's campground. Amenities include a laundry room, several restroom/shower facilities, a children’s play area, dump station, and amphitheater. The campground is close to hiking trailheads and a seasonal swimming pool.
Youth Tent Area
Clifty Falls State Park's Youth Tent Area is large camping area that’s ideal for groups. Amenities include an amphitheater and laundromat.
A highly-rated two-star hotel, the Clify Inn offers a very good breakfast buffet and xcellent views of historic Madison and the Ohio River. Clifty Inn is a pet-friendly hotel.
Seasonal activities in Clifty Falls State Park
With a name like this, the tunnel has to be worth a look. The 1852 tunnel was supposed to be the beginning of an alternative rail route between Madison and North Madison. Cost overruns finally killed the project, but not before Madison & Indianapolis Railroad President John Brough had spent about $300,000 (roughly $9 million today) constructing the tunnel. Today, the tunnel is known for its bats and its challenging hike. The tunnel is closed between November 1 and April 31 to prevent the spread of white nose syndrome, a mysterious fungus which nearly wiped out the local bat population. Park officials closed the Tunnel permanently in 2009 and only recently reopened it.
And now, for the hiking portion of Brough’s Folly. Trails One, Three, Four, and Five wind through this old tunnel. They are all quite rugged. Wear good shoes and bring lots of hiking equipment, because the trail is extremely muddy and dangerous. It’s also pitch black most of the way, so bring a flashlight. The 0.75-mile Trail One starts at the Nature Center, winds to the Observation Tower, and ends at the park road. Trails Three, Four, and Five (about three miles total) run through the Tunnel itself. Once again, the path is slippery and the grade is steep. Be sure you watch out for bats. Eeek.
Trails Two and Eight
Most people agree that this 3.8-mile loop trail is the most challenging one in the state. The trails cross the creek several times. In fact, Trail Two is almost completely a creek bed. Furthermore, many of the inclines are more like rock-climbing. When you reach the falls, you can push the envelope and go down to the water or ascend to the Observation Tower. Either option is a winner.
The highest waterfall in the Park (eighty-three feet) is part of the aforementioned Brough’s Folly. Since the water goes through the incomplete tunnel, it shoots out water that falls into a very deep natural canyon. This waterfall is quite a sight. To reach it, use Trail Five or Trail Six. Or, just park your RV at one of the two adjacent parking areas.
Clifty Falls State Park also has one of the easiest trails in the state. The .75-mile Trail Ten is basically an unpaved sidewalk. It’s wheelchair and stroller-friendly. It begins near the swimming area and winds through some ecologically significant territory. Way, way back in the day, this entire area was at the bottom of the ocean. Over the years, archaeologists have found many aquatic fossils around Trail Ten.
Clifty Falls/Little Clifty Falls
These landmarks are close to the Park’s north entrance gate. Clifty Falls is a six-story-high rock formation that resembles a recklessly-piled stack of books. During dry parts of the year, water trickles down into a very serene collection pool. During wet parts of the year, the water pours down the rocks in sheets. Despite the name, Little Clifty Falls is just as big as Clifty Falls. Visitors may take a staircase down to the bottom, where the water tumbles down in something of a spout as opposed to the sheets at Clifty Falls. A paved walkway is available for alternative waterfall viewing, and the view from here is almost as nice.
They should probably call this trail “rock trail” because it runs just below the rim of a canyon. If you haven’t figured it out by now, a rather deep canyon starts around Clifty Falls/Little Clifty Falls and runs north-south along almost the entire length of the Park. Trail Six starts at Tunnell Falls and runs to Lookout Point.
It’s not the largest waterfall in the Park, but it may be the most accessible as well as the most scenic. Much like Clifty Falls, the water cascades down Hoffman Falls in a sheet. Furthermore, Trails Three and Four go almost directly underneath the Falls. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but they do pass close enough to feel the spray.
This hotel is probably best known for its sweeping view of the Ohio River. But, there’s more. There is a very large rolling meadow grassy area outside. Inside the Inn, the dining is quite nice. Many people come for the special holiday packages on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.
The New Deal-era building was once known as the Saddle Barn. We aren’t sure why. Today, the Nature Center is fully staffed and offers excellent information about the Park’s ecology.
For many people, Trail Nine is the epitome of a hiking trail. It’s more challenging than an unpaved sidewalk but not nearly as difficult as the aforementioned Two/Eight juggernaut. The one-mile trail is also very convenient to the campground. It basically runs from the swimming pool, across Hoffman Branch Creek, and to the Youth Tent Area.