Expedition Team: Nick Kelly, Jacque Kelly, Holly Eller, Dave Miller, Rosie Miller
Date: April 9, 2021
With a narrow valley, sheer cliffs and plunging waterfalls this park, located in southeast Indiana, was quite the challenge. This four hour, seven mile hike really wore me out. We packed a lunch and picnicked at the north gate area where we viewed beautiful Big Clifty Falls (Photo#2) with its majestic 60 foot drop. Nearby on the west ridge, Trail #8 took us south along this moderate trail parallel to Clifty Creek some 100+ feet below. A little over two miles later we hiked switchbacks down to the creek where we encountered Trail #2. Trail #2 (Photo#3) is a very rugged two mile trail north which is impassable during high water as you actually walk in the creek or on the rocks beside the creek. It is slow going, tough but fun. We hiked a half mile then turned east on Trail #4 hiking up to Hoffman Falls. This was challenging as we climbed over small and large boulders (Photo#4) to pick out way up Hoffman Branch Creek to the falls. Nick showed his parkour balance (Photo#5) by walking across a fallen tree in front of the falls which had a 78 foot drop.
We hiked north on Trail #5, an energy draining climb for me, until the trail leveled off along the east ridge. We came to a former 1850’s Madison and Indianapolis Railroad tunnel sadly closest until May 1st to protect hibernating bats. Trail #5 led up to Tunnel Falls (Photo#6), a long 83 foot drop fed by Dean’s Branch. Photo#7 show remnants of the support structures for a former railroad bridge that spanned the valley.
Using the park road to circumvent the falls, we hopped back on moderately rugged Trail#6 & #7 to descend back down the ridge past Lookout Point toward our fourth and final waterfall, Little Clifty Falls (photo#8), viewing it’s 60 foot plunge. If you like trail diversity (ridges & valleys), a challenging workout but beautiful views, meandering stream with rock fossils and many waterfalls then this is the park for you.
I look forward to return with flashlights and hike through the dark railroad tunnel trail. A mile from the south park entrance is the quaint, picturesque river town of Madison on the banks of the Ohio River. Founded in 1809, Madison was an active steamboat port and was home to Indiana’s first railroad. We relaxed and enjoyed supper outside at The Downtowner Restaurant where I enjoyed a reuben sandwich and hot chicken, rice & veggies soup at very reasonable prices. After grabbing ice cream at a nearby shop we walked down to the riverbank (Photo#9) enjoying the historic atmosphere of the river town.