Park at the Runnels Shelter parking lot. The trailhead is easy to find behind the shelter. The trail surface is packed dirt with leaf litter. The trail will split almost immediately into several trails. Take the right onto the Big Tree Trail. There is a sign post. The trail will wind through a climax beech / maple forest with interspersed tulip poplars. The trees are very large with a nice open understory. The trail will pass the junctions for the Lower Big Tree Trail
as it turns to the north. The trail ends at the junction with the Raccoon Run Trail
. It is recommended when taking this trail to add Lower Big Tree Trail
to the outing.
Bendix Woods County Park was once owned by the famed Studebaker Automobile Corporation. 840 acres were purchased in 1926 and became the first automobile proving grounds in America. Various road conditions were simulated to test their cars. Although it was a testing facility, Studebaker maintained the grounds as a natural area. In 1938, they planted 8,000 pine trees that spell the their name "STUDEBAKER" when viewed from the air. You can still see it today on the map above running north-south. The trees were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.
The proving grounds were sold to the Bendix corporation in 1963, which in turn donated 195 acres to St. Joseph County to establish the county park. The rest of the acreage is still being used as automotive proving grounds today. Bendix used the grounds until 1996, selling it to Bosch who then sold the land to Navistar in 2015.
For more information about Bendix Woods, visit the park's website