Birding · Fall Colors · Historical Significance · Waterfall · Wildflowers · Wildlife
The trail surface varies significantly, portions are sprinkled with gravel, some areas (especially the hills to/from the campground) are rutted, and there are few soft spots that can be chewed up by horses, but they can usually be bypassed on foot. In general though, the trail is in decent shape. Some of the creek crossings can be challenging to find dry footing, but if major rains haven't occurred within a few days, its possible to stay dry. There are some very challenging hills, just look at the trail profile, but luckily they are spaced out well to give your legs a break between climbs. Most of the big hills have some switchbacks to ease the gradient, but you'll occasionally wish there were more.
Need to Know
Wear blaze orange during deer and turkey hunting seasons.
The trail starts by the informational kiosk at the day-use parking area just west of the German Ridge campground. A short section of trail heads south and quickly crosses the gravel road before wrapping westward and down into a valley. The trail system is nicely laid out in a ladder system, so users can make shorter or longer loops through the recreation area. The outer loop is marked with blue diamond blazes, and connector trails are marked in orange diamonds. The campground and trails cater to horses, but it is also great for hiking, and open to mountain biking as well.
This trail may be better to hike in the late fall to early spring to get better views of the large valleys, avoid ticks, and have less vegetation crowding the trail. You're also not likely to encounter many other trail users in the late winter.
Things you'll see along the trail are large rock outcroppings, wildlife ponds, small waterfalls in the streams, mature hardwood stands, dense pine groves, areas more recently cleared/timbered, areas that have been scorched by prescribed burns, tall prairie grasses, remnants of old homesteads, and more.
On this mapped 13 mile loop, you'll have an option at about 4.5 miles to shorten the hike if needed. The shortcut will split to the right/east. To follow this 13 mile route, continue straight/hold-left. At about 6 miles the trail meets up with an access road or fire lane, be sure to turn right (following the blue diamonds). At about 6.5 miles, you'll take the right fork in the trail (following orange diamonds) on a short 0.3 mile connector trail. You'll soon meet the main outer loop trail (marked in blue diamonds), and turn right heading southwest. There is a nice little waterfall maybe six feet tall into a large pool near a parking area/roadway about 8.4 miles into the hike. As you return up the final big climb toward the campground, the trail crosses a wide and flat service lane. Here you have options to head left/east to the lake, right/south toward the entrance to the campground, or jogging right then turning left to take the trail up to the campground. The blue blazes will lead you to the campground, where you can follow the roadway back to the day-use parking.
Shared By: Chris W