Owned and managed by the Indiana Chapter of The Nature Conservancy. Big Walnut Natural Area is a scenic 2,600 acres among the rolling hills and steep ravines of Big Walnut Creek Valley. Within it is the Hall Woods Nature Preserve and four distinct trails.
Predominantly a mesic upland forest with lowland or floodplain forest occasionally interspersed along many ravines, the lowland species that thrive here include silver maple, sycamore, buckeye and tulip trees. In the more mesic upland areas sugar maple, white oak, hickory, white ash, and cherry trees are dominant. A noteworthy feature in the upland forest is the very high frequency of large white oak. There is also a thick understory where many specimens of sassafras, dogwood, beech, and spicebush can be found.
The Doyle Trail is a 1.3-mile loop trail through tree plantations that were planted in the early 2000s, many that are now over 10 feet tall. A variety of hardwood tree species were hand planted in what was once row crop fields, including black cherry, black walnut, red oak and white oak. There are two 0.1-mile paths that cut through the outer loop, allowing two options for visitors to shorten the route. The eastern portion of the loop is a moderate hike and offers glimpses of Big Walnut Creek through the trees, while the western portion of the loop stays in the uplands and is an easy hike. The trailhead has a large 12-car parking area almost directly across the road from the Tall Timbers Trail.
The Hemlock Ridge Trail contains high-quality examples of mesic floodplain, upland and ravine forest communities. It also contains a stand of eastern hemlock, a rare conifer more commonly found much farther north. Big Walnut Creek, one of Indiana’s most natural rivers, forms the northern boundary of the preserve.
The Rayfield Trail is an out-and-back 2-mile-total route (1 mile in, then 1 mile back). Like the Doyle Trail, it features a tree plantation from the early 2000s. This trail is an easy hike that ends with a great view of Big Walnut Creek. A shorter 0.6-mile alternate loop that meanders through the tree plantation is also an option. This loop branches off to the north of the main trail just before you enter the more mature woods.
Tall Timbers Trail is a 1.9-mile hike through some of the Big Walnut System’s most impressive woodlands. Dramatic ravines, several types of high-quality forests with towering hardwoods, and the potential for uncommon and beautiful wildflowers such as the Indian cucumber root, the guyandotte beauty, showy orchis, and blue cohosh. Prepare for small stream crossings (wet feet).
ADDRESS: 9498 NORTH COUNTY ROAD 425 EAST, BAINBRIDGE, IN, 46105
FREE PARKING – FREE ADMISSION