Winter Hike @Clifty Falls State Park

It’s not often you get spring-like weather on groundhog day (Feb 2) in Indiana. So when I saw the forecast, I thought how much I’d I love to get out to one of our incredible state parks and hike in the bare woods. Maybe I’d see a groundhog in person!!

It had been a few years since I’d visited Clifty Falls which is about a 2-hour drive from Indianapolis, but worth the trip even for a day. I packed a light lunch of fruit and nuts and a few bottles of water, then set off at 11 am expecting the temperature to be in the sixties by the time I reached the park at 1 pm.

During the winter months, the Indiana State parks are relatively empty. The trails aren’t crowded at all. I saw one other car in the lot when I pulled in. Luckily the public restrooms were unlocked because after driving two hours with coffee, I had to go something serious!! It was 64 degrees according to the weather app on my phone and the sun was drifting in and out of clouds the entire day. It was beautiful!


I entered onto Trail 3 to hike down into the basin to see Hoffman Falls. Right away, I ran into an older couple who were heading back to their car after hiking the trails. They offered me one of their paper maps and I was grateful because I had forgotten to pick one up when I first arrived.

Even though the scenery was still very grey and lifeless, the smells of moss and damp leaf mold promised the coming of new life soon. The hike down to the creek bed is relatively easy with stone steps along the way, curving right and left to soften the degree of slope.

Once you reach the bottom, you can hike along the rocky waterway right up to the base of the falls splashing into a shallow pool you could wade across. I didn’t go into the falls because I didn’t want to get chilled for the remainder of my hiking adventure. Maybe next time…


Hiking back up is a little harder and I had to stop a few times and rest. When I reached the top, I hiked Trail 4 to the top of the falls. Along the way, I saw two white-tailed deer pawing the leaves, looking for new green shoots to eat. When I got my camera out to photograph them, they bolted, the white undersides of their tails flashing in the sunlight across the ridge.


I’d hoped to hike from Hoffman up to Clifty Falls, but the day was dwindling quickly. I made the decision to drive my car to the trailhead for Clifty Falls. From there it is about a five-minute walk to the Falls. There are plenty of wooden rails and accessibility features to make it possible for nearly anyone to visit this cool phenomenon.


Stacked stone steps and retaining walls, along with buildings crafted of quarried limestone show the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a work relief effort that was part of FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s. It’s amazing to still see those buildings, bridges, and walls standing strong nearly 100 years later! The park doesn’t allow visitors to hike to the basin of Clifty Falls anymore, so this is as close as you can get.

Without seeing hide nor hair of any groundhog, I got back on the road around 4:40 pm and took a different route home along 421 which borders the Big Oak National Wildlife Refuge on the east. Along the drive, I had to stop at this field of winter wheat that must have sprouted during the week of 50/60-degree days we had at the tail end of January. Along with the blue sky overhead, I felt like I’d stepped into a magical zone of pure springtime!! I’m really hoping the groundhog didn’t see his shadow today!! I’m ready for warmer weather!


What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re feeling a little stir crazy from winter??

Til next time,


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