140-Mile Visionary Trail

For most trail users who view a large map of publicly-managed land in southern Indiana, the idea of a long through-route connecting two large pubic forest areas immediately comes to mind.  The map depicted below is only a rough approximation of the current situation, because public forested areas are sometimes fragmented by smaller private parcels.

140 Mile Trail Vision Map

As an estimation, this figure shows how a person walking a theoretical path about 63 miles through Morgan-Monroe/Yellowwood State Forests and Hoosier National Forest only faces a “small gap” before reaching the remaining 45 miles through Jackson-Washington, and Clark State Forests, on the Knobstone Trail.

In 2009 several members of HHC backpacked 140 across southern Indiana

In 2009 several members of HHC backpacked 140 miles across southern Indiana

This realization has also been obvious to the HHC, and having the promotion of trails as part of our mission, we have supported this shared vision for years and will continue to do so.  However, while the private-land gap seems relatively minor on this larger map, it actually constitutes over 30 miles of that through-walker’s path.  Establishment of a public trail through over 30 miles of privately-held land is no small task!

Hiking or running southern Indiana's open roads can be scenic at times

Hiking or running southern Indiana’s open roads can be scenic at times, with a bit of creativity.  Covered hay rolls serve as an Indiana rendition of mega-art.

For the past 11 years, HHC has pursued a single strategy toward this goal, which was largely to request private land owners to donate easements on their land.  The donor still maintains full ownership of the easement parcel, which is generally a small strip of land along the border.  As you can imagine, this method is slow and precarious, as a single key private owner has the ability to land-lock and render useless a long string of hard-earned adjacent easements.  While this is a valid strategy, the HHC has learned from years of experience that it is a better fit to save as a last resort for areas where other options have not succeeded.

One of the many pretty streams to cross along the 140-mile route is Guthrie Creek

One of the many pretty streams to cross along the 140-mile route is Guthrie Creek

Due to the difficulty of fulfilling this vision, HHC realizes the importance of not being limited to the single strategy of an easement-only corridor.  The odds of success are higher if we remain open to a variety of strategies and maintain the flexibility to leverage all opportunities.  One example of this is to focus resources at the edges of public forests, where existing trails currently terminate.  This strategy of working outward from the boundaries of public lands is more effective, and provides more immediate use of the progress.  Also, the final trail route is more certain in these locations.  Since completion of a 140-mile route is many years in the future, there is no guarantee that an easement or parcel that is isolated in the middle of the 30-mile private land stretch will actually be near the final route.

Mike Mader donated a trail easement through his ATV park south of Kurtz.  Some of the steepest terrain of the entire route is in this area.

Mike Mader donated a trail easement through his ATV park south of Kurtz. Some of the steepest terrain of the entire route is in this area.

If you are open to a lot of road-walking or running, over 40 miles in fact, it is actually possible to hike a continuous route that is about 140 miles long.  Several members of the HHC did this and you can view photos from that trip:  140 Mile Backpack Photos

Here is a map of a route which connects the southern end of the Tecumseh Trail to the Knobstone Trail at Spurgeon Hollow:  140 Mile Trail Route Map.

See the HHC Store for a detailed Tecumseh Trail Map or Knobstone Trail Map.  These three maps constitute a 140-mile backpacking route, albeit with over 40 miles of road-walking or running!

Much of the land south of Muskatatuck River is low, flat, and agricultural.  The bottom sign was correct in more than one way!

Much of the road walk south of Muskatatuck River is low, flat, and agricultural. The bottom sign was correct in more than one way!

Here are the GPS track coordinates of a 140-mile route, in standard gpx form:    Right-click here and select “Save As”.  If your browser tries to save the file as xml, add “.gpx” to the end of the filename.

It's a great relief to reach the woods and respite of the Knobstone Trail just east of SR 135

It’s a great relief to reach the woods and respite of the Knobstone Trail just east of SR 135.

If you attempt this route, please be careful to remain only on established, signed trails as published by the State and National Forests which manage the public lands.  Understandably, it is against both DNR and HNF regulations to hike routes that are not published and supported by them.  For this reason, the route provided here only uses existing trails published by the DNR and HNF.  In public forest areas where no official, published route exists, the route follows roads to ensure compliance with these regulations.