A relaxing time can certainly be had at Clifty Falls State Park in southeast Indiana.
Like to camp out? There’re ample campsites. Like to lounge pool-side? There’s a pool and a pool slide. Like to think deep thoughts on patio terraces with expansive river views? You can do that here, with a sweet tea, a good book, and even a spot of lunch, if you should so desire.
But (cue that Hans Zimmer music) adventure awaits out on the hiking trails. We’re talking miles of rugged uphill terrain strewn with boulders, gnarled by tree roots, and besieged by the inexorable advance of Mother Nature. Your lungs will huff, your calves will burn, your fitness will be tested to the limit! … As will the structural support of your hiking boots.
Stepping back a bit (you can cut the music now), Clifty Falls features easy, moderate, rugged, and very rugged trails. The easy trails will have you trekking through glades and on broad paths cleared of all impediments. Still, if you’re after the most picturesque views the park has to offer, including those of its waterfalls, the more difficult trails are how you’ll find them, with trail #2 being your best bet. Supposedly it's one of the hardest hikes Indiana has to offer.
Speaking of those waterfalls, they result from Indiana’s geological shelf being around 300 feet higher than the alluvial plane of the Ohio River. Clifty Creek, forming a sort of backbone for the park’s geographic footprint, descends half those 300 feet by itself. The rest is the work of Big Clifty Falls and Little Clifty Falls, so named not due to their drops, which are both 60 feet, but due to the varying breadth of each water flow.
That flow is where you’ll run into trouble. Many a hiker has braved trail #2 only to find the falls not raging with ferocity but trickling like a stream of, well, bubbler water. Alas, though they braved the uphill climb and brought their best camera, it was all for naught. For in summer, the mighty Clifty Creek slows to a wee little drip.
And that is why you should visit in the spring.
Here’s a little more about what Clifty Falls has to offer, in case you don’t feel like waiting for in.gov’s website to load:
- The Clifty Inn: The niftily named Clifty Inn offers 63 rooms, all of which have a balcony, 36 of which feature river views. The Falls Restaurant is open to the public and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Pool: The outdoor pool features a water slide, while an indoor pool and a hot tub are ideal for the cooler months. Sadly, they’re only available to hotel guests.
- Camping: Clifty Falls has 106 electric and 63 non-electric camping sites, complete with modern restroom and shower facilities. Many sites accommodate trailers. A nearby picnic area offers tables, grills, and restrooms.
- Madison, IN: Clifty Falls State Park is located next to Madison, IN, a historic and charming town that offers dining, arts, and boutique shopping.
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For more information about Clifty Falls State Park, visit the website.