Here’s our suggestion for five great fall driving tours this weekend!
If you gave a trophy to the best season in Indiana, Fall would certainly be a strong contender. The ripened countryside is a riot of yellow, orange, red and purple as festivals and special events fill the calendar. The weather is gorgeous, the apples are ripe, pumpkins adorn roadside stands and many Hoosiers hit the road for sightseeing and outdoor activities.
Many folks from Central Indiana area head west to Parke County where the well-known Covered Bridge Festival brings hundreds of thousands of visitors to that beautiful area in mid-October. Even after the festival is over, the county’s parks, small towns and back roads stay packed with people and vehicles until cold weather and wind strip the last of the leaves from area forests. Another option is southern Indiana, Brown County usually, and that elevates things into a whole other realm of congestion.
If you like crowds, go west or south. But, if you want a nice, leisurely ramble through the Hoosier countryside without inflated prices, automobile exhaust fumes and long lines, we’ve got five tours around central Indiana that include plenty of scenery and recreational opportunities but the only bottlenecks are on jugs of fresh-squeezed cider.
1. Attica to Lafayette- Starting in downtown Attica, a great place to explore in its own right, head north on N. Perry Street along the Norfolk Southern rail line until it becomes county road 1400N. Follow this paved road to the small town of West Point where you pick up State Road 25 to Lafayette.
Aside from interesting Wabash valley scenery along the route, there are several spots of interest. Northwest of Attic is the rocky valley of Pine Creek where you’ll find Potholes Nature Preserve worth a visit. If you follow the south side of the river, look for remnants of the Wabash and Erie canal that are still visible in the landscape.
At the intersection of County Road 1400N and County 500 East, you can turn north to cross the Wabash river and visit Cicott Park in the hamlet of Independence when an early Indian trading post stood.
If you follow Independence Road east along the north bank of the Wabash, you will shortly run into Black Rock Nature Preserve. Black Rock is a landmark sandstone column standing over the Wabash where Native Americans watched General Harrison’s troops marching along the river before the region’s major skirmish at Battleground, Indiana.
Continuing east on winding roads, you will travel by Ross Park, a Tippecanoe county park with various recreational facilities and then by restored Fort Quiatenon, site of the Feast of the Hunter’s Moon. You will eventually end up in West Lafayette where food and restroom facilities can be found.
2. Adams Mill- A restored 1845 mill located on the north fork of the Wildcat creek, it is located approximate 12 miles due north of Frankfort just off State Road 75 near Cutler, Indiana. Aside from the mill grounds, dam and nature preserve along the creek, a drive west towards Lafayette along side roads is always interesting.
Aside from beautiful farms and riparian forest along the way, the terrain becomes progressively less flat as you get closer to the Wabash River at Lafayette. You’ll end up on the northeast side of Lafayette where you can visit Prophetstown State Park, Prophet’s Rock, Battleground Park or
Jerry Clegg Botanical Gardens on the banks of the Wildcat.
3. Western Putnam County- This area is similar to Parke County but much less visited during peak season. Starting in Greencastle, the area of western Putnam County is quite forested and offers many interesting byways. Fern Cliff Nature Preserve is a great hike if you can find it but most of the winding back roads in the Big Walnut Creek valley are quite beautiful. There are also a considerable number of covered bridges in the area.
While visiting, you are not too far from Cagles Mill Lake and Owen-Putnam State Forest to the south. We do recommend staying along U.S. 40 (itself an interesting drive) because areas west and north become increasingly crowded as you reach Parke County.
4. Noblesville to Anderson- The shortest route at approximately 20 miles in length and more rural than forested, this trip is beautiful nonetheless and one of our recently-discovered favorite drives. Starting at U.S 31, head east on 236th Street (former State Road 47) to the town of Cicero and continue east to Strawtown. At this point the road crosses State Road 37 and winds along the south bank of the White River into the east side of Anderson.
The road was originally a Native American path that later became a well-known thoroughfare for settlers moving into the New Purchase in the early 1800’s. Along the way are Hamilton County’s Koteewi Park, White River Campground, Lafayette Trace Park and many old cemeteries that make for an interesting stop.
Once you reach Anderson, we suggest a visit to Mounds State Park and touring the namesake earthworks to marvel at the ingenuity of ‘primitive’ man.
5. Danville-Gosport loop– On this circle route it is possible to never leave a well-paved state road. You will take State Road 39 south from Danville until you reach State Road 67 outside Martinsville, a winding and very scenic drive south of Monrovia. Once you reach SR 67, you can then west head to Gosport where SR 67 meets U.S. 231. A few miles south on 231/67 is Spencer and nearby McCormick’s Creek State Park.
There are a variety of stops along the way. You might find the poorly-marked Martinsville Public Fishing area along SR 67 at the White River and Ravinia Woods just north of Perkinsville. Ravinia Woods is 1500 acres of little-known state forest land acquired in 2004; Duckworth Road off of SR 67 traverses the area.
The return leg for this loop goes north on U.S. 231 from Gosport to Interstate 70. During that stretch you will pass near Cagles Mill Lake, Lieber Recreation Area and Cataract Falls.