Did you know that Indiana State Parks offers a variety of challenges? Now you do! In an effort to get Hoosiers moving at its state parks and reservoirs, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources has created seven, fun outdoor challenges. The newest of which is the Spring Mill 10-Mile Hiking Challenge. To complete the challenge, you hike every trail in the park amounting to over 10 miles of trails. These trails lead past caves, around a lake, through nature preserves, and by the Spring Mill Pioneer Village. You can complete the challenge over a year or in a single day, as we did. Here we detail our experience hiking the challenge, including the order in which we hiked the trails as well as other info you need to know before setting out to hike the Spring Mill 10-Mile Challenge!
Spring Mill 10-Mile Challenge
At Road Trip 7 we love a good challenge. From the 52 Hike Challenge to Indiana State Parks hiking challenges, we will try just about anything. We recently completed the Spring Mill 10-Mile Hiking Challenge this past November on a beautiful, sunny day. This challenge tasks you with hiking every trail within Spring Mill State Park. The trails wind past a number of unique features from caves to a historical pioneer village for a total distance over 10 miles and a climb of nearly 1200 ft. If you love to hike and love beautiful scenery, this challenge is for you!
A Description of the 10-Mile Challenge
Before hiking any trail, it’s a good idea to know what to expect. From the length of the trail to its difficulty. Here is the basic trail information for hiking the Spring Mill 10-Mile Challenge. Additionally, we provide a description for each of the various trails, so that you know what to expect before you begin.
Distance: ~10 miles
Difficulty: Varies by trail, but includes easy, moderate & rugged trails
Elevation Gain: ~1200 ft
Time: 3-5 hours. We completed the challenge in 3 hr 30 minutes, with a short lunch break.
Starting Point: Any trailhead
Trail Map: https://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/files/spring_mill_trail.pdf
Trail 3, Long Loop Trail
We chose to start the challenge on the Long Loop Trail, a rugged 2.5-mile trail otherwise known as Trail 3. We began by parking at the Twin Caves lot. From here we hiked down to Twin Caves, past Bronson Cave, through Donaldson’s Woods Nature Preserve, and back to Twin Caves.
From the Twin Caves lot, we drove to the Donaldson Cave parking lot to begin hiking Trail 4. Theoretically, it is probably possible to hike all of Spring Mill’s trails without driving from trailhead to trailhead. However, in the interest of saving time and not retracing our steps, we chose to drive. Trail 4 is a rugged, 2.0-mile loop that leads through the heart of Spring Mill State Park. We hiked the trail counter-clockwise, first stopping at Donaldson Cave, named for George Donaldson, a former owner of the property
From Donaldson Cave, we headed north to Wilson Monument. Mr Donaldson created the monument in honor of Alexander Wilson, a naturalist recognized as the “Father of American Ornithology”.
Following Mill Creek, we headed toward the Pioneer Village and the park’s famous grist mill. In the early 1800s pioneers utilized the flowing spring water from caves to power the grist mill as well as a number of other mills. A village formed around the mills. Twenty structures from the village remain, many of which were restored by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1920s and 1930s. During warmer months, many of the buildings are open daily, some of which are staffed by historic interpreters demonstrating period handicrafts.
After passing by the Pioneer Village, we detoured from Trail 4 following an old stagecoach roadbed, known as the Stagecoach Trail. The 0.5-mile, rugged trail leads uphill until it meets with Trail 7.
We joined this trail, an easy, 1.75 miles, at the Oak Ridge picnic area. From here the trail loops through the Mitchell Karst Plains Nature Preserve.
Upon completing Trail 7, we once again joined Trail 4 heading east past Hamer Cemetery and back to the Donaldson Cave Parking Lot.
After a brief lunch break, we drove to Spring Mill Lake, parking at the bridge. From here we began hiking Trail 5, a 1.0-mile, moderate trail, counterclockwise around the lake. At the Lakeview Activity Center Parking lot, we joined Trail 2.
We hiked west on this relatively easy 0.5-mile trail until we reached the Pioneer Village Parking Lot. Here we crossed Mill Creek, rejoining Trail 4 heading east.
Hiking on the same trail we covered earlier, we hiked Trail 4 until it reached Trail 1.
This short 0.375-mile trail loops around the Spring Mill Inn, leading back down to the bridge parking lot where we had parked earlier.
Trail 6, Grissom Memorial Trail
For our final trail of the challenge, we hiked the Grissom Memorial Trail, an easy, 0.25-mile trail that loops around the Grissom Memorial. The memorial honors Virgil “Gus” Grissom, the second American in space, who hails from nearby Mitchell, Indiana. The memorial is open daily with free admission and includes a number of exhibits on the remarkable life of astronaut Gus Grissom. We highly recommend taking the time to walk through.
We completed the Spring Mill 10-Mile Challenge in 3 hours and 30 minutes by hiking at a rather fast pace. If you are planning for a more relaxed hike, it will likely take 4-5 hours. Upon completing the challenge, you can purchase a Trail Challenge T-shirt in support of Friends of Spring Mill State Park. Whether you complete this challenge in a day, or over the course of a season, it is one you are sure to enjoy!
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