Downey Hill Trail

If you are looking for a secluded, peaceful hike deep in the Brown County woodlands, the trail at the Laura Hare Nature Preserve at Downey Hill is a great option. In autumn, this preserve offers the striking colors of mature hardwoods typical of this area, and, in winter, sweeping views of rugged, steep ravines separated by small, clear streams.

But a closer look reveals even more that this preserve has to offer. The beauty of the area was not lost on the early homesteaders, as evidence of their settlements is scattered all along the hike. Look for remnants of wells, artifacts, yucca, and, in early spring, entire hillsides blanketed in yellow blooms of their daffodils that still remain to this day.

Downey Hill Erratic 01

The large boulder in the foreground is a glacial erratic.

Also along the hike, be sure to keep an eye out for glacial erratics. While these at first glance might appear to be just another rock, they are actually unique in that they really don’t belong here! Thousands of years ago glaciers moved across this land, carrying boulders long distances, eventually dropping them to the ground as the ice melted. Keep an eye out for any rocks bigger than your head, with rough edges rounded out, and an overall different appearance from all the rocks around it (see photo at right).

Spotted Wintergreen

Spotted wintergreen

As if all of this were not enough, the Laura Hare Nature Preserve at Downey Hill has a lot of interesting flora and fauna. It is home to the spotted wintergreen plant, an uncommon one that is considered threatened in Indiana. Also found here is painted sedge, another plant uncommon in the state but thrives in the unique acidic soils of these Brown County hills. In spring, the forest floor comes alive with wildflowers, and especially thick blankets of them can be found along the small streams of the deepest ravines.

The preserve is also an important stopover for migrating birds heading north, looking for a place to rest and refuel.  Each year Blackburnian, Blackpoll, Nashville, Bay-breasted, Black-throated Green, and Tennessee Warbler migrants stop here throughout late April and early May.  Others like the Hooded, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Worm-eating Warblers nest here each summer.

Bay-breasted Warbler at Downey Hill.

Bay-breasted Warbler at Downey Hill.

Click here for a printable topographic map of the trail.

Here is the GPS track of the complete Downey Hill Trail, in standard gpx format: 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.

You can read more about this preserve on the website of Sycamore Land Trust:

There is a small parking area, which is located at the pin on this map: