An Indiana Autumn Invites You to Take a Hike

BY ANGELA K. ROBERTS

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY VISIT LAFAYETTE – WEST LAFAYETTE AND NICHES LAND TRUST

“Indiana … is a garden

Where the seeds of peace have grown,

Where each tree, and vine, and flower

Has a beauty … all its own.

Lovely are the fields and meadows,

That reach out to hills that rise

Where the dreamy Wabash River

Wanders on … through paradise.”

In his ode to Indiana, “Indiana,” that was adopted as the official state poem in 1963, Arthur Franklin Mapes (1913-1986) did not specify during which season he most enjoyed the fields, hills and the wandering Wabash River. Most of us today would agree, however, that when the greens of an Indiana summer transition to the golds, auburns and russets of fall, it’s a great time to get out into nature. 

In anticipation of this most colorful season, we laced up our athletic shoes and road-tested several trails in Greater Lafayette, including some far off the beaten path. Here are our recommendations.

Clegg Memorial Garden

Ninety years ago, Harold and Ruth Clegg purchased a plot of land overlooking Wildcat Creek as a country home. After the death of their only son, they turned their private garden into a public memorial and added trails for visitors to enjoy. Today, the botanical garden is owned by Niches Land Trust, a west central Indiana conservation group whose offices are located in the former Clegg cottage. Sloping 100 feet down into the valley, the well-maintained paths meander through a variety of ecosystems, including woodland, prairie and savanna. During fall’s peak, the canopied forest displays an array of vibrant colors. Bridges connect some parts of the trails, but be careful of some narrow slopes on the way downhill. 

• 1782 N. 400 East, Lafayette

• Parking: Gravel lot across the road from the property entrance

• 16.5 acres with 1.1 miles of trails

• nicheslandtrust.org

Granville Sand Barrens

Ten miles southwest of West Lafayette lies a rare Indiana example of a sand barren, a sandy-soiled area that appeared in the wake of glacial melts. The Granville Sand Barrens, adjacent to the Roy Whistler Wildlife Area, includes a restored prairie and savanna. Niches Land Trust has mowed a half-mile trail along which you can enjoy a dense group of golden aster — also a rarity in the state — and other wildflowers. The sandy soil is most visible just before the trail connects with a forested section that is part of the Roy 

Whistler Wildlife Area. 

• Southwest of Granville Bridge in western Tippecanoe County

Closed in November for deer-control hunting

• Parking: Gravel and grass lot at the trailhead

• Size: 80 acres with a .5 mile-trail connecting to the Roy Whistler Wildlife Area

• nicheslandtrust.org

Mulvey Pond

Considered one of the better places in the West Lafayette area to see waterfowl and shorebirds, Mulvey Pond is nestled among farmland, wetland and marshland just off US 231 near Montmorenci, an unincorporated town north of West Lafayette. Niches Land Trust operators have mowed a labyrinth of sorts into the tall prairie grasses around the pond, where birds and insects drown out the hum of nearby roads.

• Near Montmorenci off US 231 

Seasonal Features: Waterfowl migration

• Parking: Gravel lot at the trailhead

• Size: 52 acres with mowed trails through the prairie

• nicheslandtrust.org

Celery Bog Nature Area

Once a large vegetable farm operated by immigrants from Holland, the Celery Bog Nature Area now provides a suburban respite near several neighborhoods and apartment complexes. Operated by the West Lafayette Parks and Recreation Department, it contains both paved and unpaved trails rambling through prairie, savanna, woodlands and marshland. Cattail Trail, which runs through the Celery Bog and passes by Lilly Nature Center, is part of the city’s 27-mile paved trail system and is designated as a National Recreation Trail. Bicycling is allowed in paved areas.

• 1620 Lindberg Rd., West Lafayette

• Parking: Paved and gravel lots near trailheads and the Lilly Nature Center

• Restrooms: Lilly Nature Center 

• Size: 195 acres, with 4.3 miles of paved trails and several footpaths with interpretive signs and viewing decks

• westlafayette.in.gov

Trailhead Park

North of the Celery Bog, tucked away near Purdue Research Park, is the tiny Trailhead Park. The park links to a fairly wide, straight section of the National Recreational Trail-designated Northwest Greenway Trail. Walkers, runners, bicyclists and rollerbladers share this section of the paved path, which starts at the roadside park and connects to the Soleado Vista neighborhood up north. South of Kalberer Road, the trail continues, eventually joining up with Cattail Trail. If you travel east along Kalberer, the trail connects to Cumberland Park.

• Intersection of Kalberer Road and Kent Avenue, West Lafayette

• Parking: Just east of the trail, next to a shelter and picnic tables

• Size: 4 acres

• westlafayette.in.gov

Armstrong Park 

A beautifully landscaped greenspace with tennis courts, softball fields and the Castaway Bay swimming pool, Armstrong Park anchors the corner of South Ninth Street 

and Beck Lane on the south side of Lafayette. Named after Purdue alumnus and astronaut Neil Armstrong, the park features Armstrong Trail, a paved asphalt loop encircling the pond. Lafayette Parks & Recreation maintains the trail, part of 6 miles of paved trails in the city, along with many more unpaved. All Lafayette trails are available for walking, running, bicycling, rollerblading and cross-country skiing. Pets must be leashed. Because of its popularity as a dog-walking destination, Armstrong Trail may not be suitable for dogs that aren’t well-socialized. 

• 821 Beck Lane, Lafayette

• Parking: Several lots, including one near the tennis courts and north end 

• Size: 30 acres with a two-thirds mile trail

• lafayette.in.gov

Prophetstown State Park 

For thousands of years, Native Americans hunted and lived in the area near current-day Battle Ground where the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers meet. Today, Prophetstown State Park, named for an indigenous village established in 1808 by Tecumseh, who was Shawnee, and his brother Tenskwatawa, who was called the Prophet, features 2,000 acres where park officials are restoring native landscapes. Nine miles of trails ranging from easy to moderate snake their way through the park, which also includes picnic areas, a campground and seasonal aquatic center. Trail No. 1 takes you through a former Christmas tree plantation of Douglas fir before winding its way through tallgrass prairie, a marsh and a field of wild cherry and Osage orange (hedge apple) trees. 

• Mapping address is 5545 Swisher Road, West Lafayette

• Gate fee: Noncommercial vehicles with Indiana license plates are $8, and with out-of-state plates, $10. Fee includes admission to the Farm at Prophetstown next door. 

• Restrooms: Comfort stations and vault toilets in several locations

• Parking: Several parking lots are available, including some near trailheads

• Size: 30 acres with 9 miles of trails

• lafayette.in.gov

2021 indiana community of the year!

The Indiana Chamber of  Commerce selected Greater Lafayette as the winner of its 2021 Community of the Year Award