Fortune Woods is a first-rate destination that features a long-stemmed lollipop trail of nearly two miles that allows access to Big Walnut Creek, passes very large trees, and affords views of scenic ravines.
A late 1960s Army Corps of Engineers proposal to build a reservoir in the area came to naught; about the same time, the area received a National Natural Landmark designation.
Between them, the Nature Conservancy and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources have since acquired thousands of acres and planted tens of thousands of trees in the vicinity.
A mowed path leads south from the parking lot; a line of trees screens the road to the left, while a field lies to the right. The trail gradually moves further into the woods, at one point looking out over the creek far below.
Eventually the trail forks, and the woods take on an older aspect – beech, maple and oak tower overhead – and the understory, though still well-stocked with Virginia creeper and stinging nettle, is more open.
Continue straight at the fork, following the ridge line down. Expect abundant wildflowers in spring; in summer, listen for the chick-burr of scarlet tanagers overhead.
The trail continues descending, now along the flank of the ridge through a rich understory of ferns and wildflowers. At the bottom, a short spur leads to the creek bank; riffles and overhanging trees contribute to a peaceful and scenic setting.
Big Walnut Creek
After retracing your steps to rejoin the main loop, three crossings of smaller streams follow in quick succession – wet feet are a distinct possibility – before a pair of staircases rise part way out of the valley.
On your way back to the entrance, you will pass tall straight trunks that rise from the ground and disappear through intervening layers of vegetation, the crowns of the giants often invisible to earthbound observers.
Putnam County. From the (one and only) stoplight in Bainbridge, go north 1.0 miles on Washington/200E, then right 0.5 miles to 250E, then left 1.5 miles to 950N, then right 1.4 miles on a gravel road to a parking area on the right.
North 39 47.803 West 86 46.634
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Nearby Natural Areas
Habeck: Wild Indiana; Page 77
Nature Conservancy: Guide to Indiana Preserves; Page 18