About a half-million people visit Indiana’s Clifty Falls State Park each year, and it’s easy to see why. This scenic park is situated on the northern bank of the Ohio River and 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. Several hiking trails crisscross Clifty Falls State Park. Some are rather easy, and some are more 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 challenging trails in the state. Finally, the RV campground is more than adequate. The sites can accommodate large vehicles up to 90 feet in length, so whether you're renting a campervan from nearby or hauling your own big rig, size restrains shouldn't be a problem. The campground is centrally located, so it’s close to all the park’s attractions, and at the same time, it’s somewhat secluded, so privacy is not a problem. There’s also a mixture of electrical hookup sites and roughing-it, primitive RV sites.
Clifty Falls State Park is located in southeastern Indiana and conveniently sits near the Ohio and Kentucky border. Both Louisville, Kentucky, and Cincinnati, Ohio, are around an hour's drive from the park off of I-71. Indianapolis is also nearby and can be reached in under two hours. Due to its proximity to highly frequented highways, the journey to the park should be easy, even in large vehicles. The roads within the park can be slightly curvacious, however, and visitors maneuvering large rigs or trailers should be extra vigilant. Winter weather may occasionally disrupt travel plans, so always check the local weather and road conditions before setting out.
A few state parks and national forests dot the area and can make for exciting day trips. Brown County State Park and Yellowwood State Forest are situated to the northwest, and Hoosier National Forest sits to the southwest.
One hundred electric hookup sites and sixty-two primitive RV sites are offered at Clifty Falls State Park's Campground. Amenities include a laundry room, several restroom and shower facilities, a children’s play area, a dump station, and an amphitheater. Firewood and ice are also available for sale onsite. Each site is equipped with a picnic table and a fire ring and can accommodate rigs up to 90 feet in length. The campground is close to hiking trailheads and a seasonal swimming pool. The campground is open year-round, and reservations can be made up to a year in advance.
Located inside of Clifty Falls State Park, Clifty Inn is a highly-rated two-star hotel offering a good breakfast buffet and excellent views of historic Madison and the Ohio River. Clifty Inn is a pet-friendly hotel. The hotel provides free parking for guests in its parking lot, making it easy to leave the RV unattended for days at a time if you need amenities that the campground doesn't offer.
Clifty Falls State Park's Youth Tent Area is large camping area that’s ideal for groups. Amenities include an amphitheater and laundromat.
The Nature Center is fully staffed and offers excellent information about the park’s ecology, maps, and advice on how to best enjoy the park. Clifty Falls feature several education programs, as well. Guided tunnel tours, Park-Inn movies, nature talks, and pool parties are just some of the events the park holds throughout the year. Stop by the Nature Center after you set up camp to learn about the programs that are happening during your RV trip.
Known as one of Indiana's best-kept secrets, the Clifty Inn is a hotel and restaurant located inside the park grounds. The inn is probably best known for its sweeping view of the Ohio River Valley and the panoramic views of Madison. There is also a large rolling meadow grassy area outside where guests can enjoy a nightly bonfire overlooking the Ohio River. Inside the inn, guests enjoy home-cooked meals at the restaurant and an indoor swimming pool. Free parking makes it easy to leave the motorhome behind for a night or two. Many people come for the special holiday packages on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years.
Tunnel Falls is the highest waterfall in the Park (83 feet tall) and is part of Brough’s Folly. Since the water goes through the incomplete tunnel, it shoots out water that falls into a 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. Hoffman Falls is 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. 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.
These landmarks are close to the park’s north entrance gate, with plenty of parking for RVs and trailers. 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 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.
Hiking is perhaps the best way to experience Clifty Falls State Park. The park boasts both the state's most challenging and its easiest trails. Trail Two is a 3.8-mile loop and is the most challenging one in the state. If you take on this intimidating trek, you will certainly earn a good night's sleep in the pop-up. Trail Two is almost completely a creek bed, as it passes along Clifty Creek several times along the route. 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. 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 is wheelchair and stroller-friendly and 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. Several more trails range in difficulty, so if you're looking for a more intermediate hike, you will not be disappointed.
With a name like this, the tunnel is undoubtedly worth a look. This 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 and 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 trail is extremely muddy and dangerous, and it’s also pitch black most of the way, so you won't want to forget the flashlight or headlamp in the camper. The trail is only recommended for experienced hikers, and those hardy enough to take it on. The tunnel is closed between November 1 and April 31 to prevent the spread of white-nose syndrome, a mysterious fungus that nearly wiped out the local bat population. Park officials closed the tunnel permanently in 2009 and only recently reopened it. Be sure you watch out for bats. Eeek!
If you've been sitting in the campervan for an extended period of time and you are in need of a serious leg stretch, consider taking on the Four Falls Challenge. Stop by the Nature Center or the front desk at Clifty Inn before you begin your trek and grab a map and learn about the seven viewpoints you'll need to photograph along the way. This four-mile trek will bring you past the park's four waterfalls with scenic views of cliffs and canyons along the way. You'll also pass through Brough's Folly and see stonework completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Once you complete this two to three-hour journey, return the Nature Center, show your pictures to the staff, and receive a sticker for completing the challenge.
Swimming in the waterfalls is prohibited, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't pack a bathing suit along with you in the Airstream. Swimming along the beaches at Clifty Falls State Park is a great way to cool off, and the park has an outdoor swimming pool and water slide that are open during the summer months. Hours vary depending on lifeguard availability, so the spring and late summer tend to have fewer opening hours. Guests can check at the office for open hours during their stay. Visitors should also note that there is a small fee for pool use.