This easygoing 12.4-mile loop through southern Indiana’s hill country is like three trips in one. The scenery morphs from dense deciduous forest to Midwest prairie to alpine-like lakes nestled in the hills. Begin at the Two Lakes Loop trailhead (1) off CR 501. Hike 2.4 miles to a stand of red pines towering 50 to 70 feet overhead, where the scent of their needles permeates the forest air. Another .1 mile brings you to Tige Creek (2) and the first of two crossings. Plan to wade across the 20-foot-wide stream, which can swell to knee-deep in late winter and spring with snowmelt and heavy rain (generally, it’s ankle deep in November).
Reach the Anderson River (3) in .3 mile, and another ford much like the Tige. Cruise 1.5 miles to reach the American Discovery Trail (4), a 6,800-mile cross-country route you’ll track along for three miles. Tank up in the small stream below a footbridge. There’s also water at camp (5) .8 mile ahead, but it’s in a low-lying forested area next to 152-acre Indian Lake, whose banks are often murky. To filter from Indian, let the water settle in a container for 30 minutes before pumping. Either way, try your luck casting for largemouth bass, blue gill, or catfish.
Next morning, catch the sunrise coming straight across the lake and look for ducks and cranes skimming over the water. Feeling adventurous? Bushwhack one mile west of Indian Lake to a stream and recently discovered Jason Falls. Break camp and head .8 mile to an earthen dam (6) where the trail curves around the lake’s southern tip. Hike 2.4 miles to blue-hued Celina Lake (7) and the dam at its southern tip, which boasts a view of the entire lake and surrounding wooded hills.
In 1.1 miles, hop across a 10-foot-wide rocky tributary that flows into Celina Lake (8), and fill up for the next 2.1 miles to the Interpretive Trail (9). This optional one-mile loop meanders around 30-foot-tall limestone outcroppings which rise above the woods like castle walls. Pick up CR 502 .5 mile later and follow it northeast .4 mile to the Two Lakes Loop trailhead and your car (10).
Get there From Evansville, take I-164 13.4 miles to I-64. Turn east and drive 49 miles to IN 37. Turn south and go two miles to the Celina Lake Hoosier National Forest entrance.
Permit $5 per vehicle per day. Drop fee in box if entrance gate is unmanned.
Gear up Top Spot Outdoors, 11 South Green River Rd., Evansville, IN; (812) 476-8677; topspotoutdoors.com
Key Skill: Hike in hunting season
The Hoosier State goes orange in late fall—with changing leaves and hunters’ vests. In southern Indiana, the game-hunting season runs from the end of September through December. Here’s how to stay safe.
1. Know the schedule. Wild turkey: October 19–30. White-tailed deer: October through December. Hunting is prohibited in the areas of the forest designated for recreation (as this one is), but private land abuts the forest in many places. The longest stretch runs from Indian Lake’s south shore to Celina’s.
2. Dress right. Wear no white, lest you’re mistaken for the backside of a deer, and leave the camo and muted colors at home. Instead opt for bright colors or blaze orange. Best bet: Wear a cap and attach a vest or neon surveying tape to your backpack. Check cabelas.com.
3. Avoid dawn and dusk. Animals are most active early in the morning and as the sun is setting—hunters too.
4. Be safe, not stressed. Accidents are rare. Fewer hunting fatalities are recorded than from other sports such as boating.
See This: Box Turtle
This forest—especially around Celina and Indian Lakes—is crawling with them (our trail scout spotted seven turtles in four miles). Just larger than your fist, these reptiles are most active in the summer and early in fall as they look for noshable insects and earthworms. Be on the lookout where there is an abundance of marshy areas and undergrowth. As nighttime temps drop into the 40s and below, this dark-green and tan turtle will build a few-inch-deep burrow in the fallen leaves and sticks and hibernate until warmer weather arrives.
Indiana’s Native American population used what is now Hoosier National Forest as a hunting ground until Europeans settled the land in the 1700s. Despite the long history of human exploration, discoveries are still being made around the Two Lakes Loop—one as recently as this year. While out scouting a potential reroute of the trail, Forest Service engineers found Jason Falls, an undocumented 10-foot waterfall due west of Indian Lake. Bushwhack one mile from your camp to a stream where the falls drape over a rock shelf into a shallow pool just downstream. The feature was given its name in honor of the ranger who discovered it.
On The Menu
On the road
Lunches 1 & 2
Bagels with peanut butter
Two Lakes Tuna
Cheesy Eggs Burrito
Trail mix, nuts, jerky, energy bars
Two Lakes Tuna
Pasta, red sauce, fish
1 cup egg noodles
1 6-oz. tuna pouch
1 cup marinara sauce (pre-packed in a zip-top bag)
2 ounces Cheddar cheese
Bring a pot of water to boil and add noodles. Once the pasta is soft (approximately seven minutes), drain water and add the tuna and marinara sauce. Stir and add cheese. Serves two.
Cheesy Eggs Burrito
A an easy, filling breakfast
1/3 cup shredded Cheddar
1/4 cup milk from powder
Break and freeze your eggs in a zip-top bag before hitting the trail. Ready to cook? Thaw the eggs in your pot over low heat. Then add milk, stir to mix, and scramble. Sprinkle cheese. Salt and pepper to taste. Roll in tortilla. Serves one.
The Grocery List (Aisle # in Nearest Store Below)
[ ] peanut butter (1)
[ ] powdered milk (1)
[ ] egg noodles (2)
[ ] marinara sauce (2)
[ ] tuna pouch (2)
[ ] bagels (6)
[ ] energy bars (6)
[ ] flour tortillas (6)
[ ] jerky(6)
[ ] mixed nuts (6)
[ ] trail mix (6)
[ ] eggs (back of store)
[ ] Cheddar cheese (back of store)
Pack Salt, pepper
PIT STOP Fill up cafeteria style at Schwartz Family Restaurant. Whether you go for cheeseburgers, meatloaf, or pot pie, our scout says to top it off with a piece of homemade apple pie à la mode. 6738 West Governors Trace, Eckerty, IN; (812) 338-9000; schwartzrestaurant.com
NEAREST GROCERY STORE
Cash Saver Food
1416 20th St., Tell City, IN