Indiana: Knobstone Trail- Elk Creek to Delaney

I will be updating live throughout the day as we hike a 15-mile section of the Knobstone Trail in southern Indiana.

The entire Knobstone Trail is about 40 miles. Two weekends ago, a couple of the guys went out to tackle the entire trail. It was an ambitious goal for a few reasons. Of course it was very cold and snowing, which made the conditions quite muddy, but there was an even greater obstacle: elevation.

I know that sounds crazy because Indiana is vertically challenged. But, I am dead serious. Over the 40 mile hike the total elevation gain is 10,500 feet. I know, I know that is insane! That is as much elevation gain as we did in July in the Rocky Mountains. But that just proves how hilly this portion of trail is in southern Indiana.

The guys covered approximately 25 miles before calling it quits because of the conditions. I am joining them today to finish the final 15 miles.

7:15 AM- leaving Columbus, Indiana

8:15 AM- From I-65 we dropped off one car at Delaney Park. It was about 10 miles off of I-65 and took about 30 minutes to get to the park.

What a beautiful drive. The sun was rising over the hills. We left Columbus with Thunderstorms and 41 degrees. Looking at clear skies now and already 56 degrees. Fantastic day for a hike!


9:00 AM- Starting at Elk Creek. Beautiful, beautiful morning.


First 15 minutes greeted us with a nice 200 ascent. Stopped to zip off the legs. Already 60 degrees.


9:40 AM- Nice breeze. Rewarding hike.


10:05 AM- This is NOT a trail for beginners or for families or anyone out of shape. The ascents and descents are rigorous. Definitely pushing me early.


11:40 PM- The reason the early ascents and descents were so rough was because there are no switchbacks anywhere. It is point A to point B. I am going to refer to this trail as The Good Ole Boy trail.

Pretty trail though. Not any green yet. Still too early. Looks like Fall. On a trail deviation right now due to the tornado last year. Probably at the six or seven mile mark.

Well the deviation only took us to mile 38 (which is only 5 miles). A lot of deviation walking with little return!

1:23 PM- Right before mile marker 40 Patrick said that other than the first three ascents.. this trail is pretty good. After marker 40… we hit the toughest ascent. Woof. We have about five miles remaining.


3:01 PM- Getting close to the end. I will write a summary when I get home. BUT just after mile marker 43 we hit the beast. It went STRAIGHT up and definitely was a hard way to end.



As you can see from the elevation chart above, the Knobstone Trail has many peaks and valleys, which make the overall elevation gain over 45 miles significant.  For this particular trip we started at the third red line around the 32 mile marker and finished at around the 46 mile marker.

We started around 9 AM with the temperature right at 60 degrees.  Quickly into the hike we each had to loose some clothing.  We had a constant 20 mph breeze that accompanied us over the 15 miles.

The greatest challenge was the lack of switchbacks and you should make a note of this.  Hiking a straight shot up a hill (and going down) at a 65 degree angle will test your stamina and your knees and ankles.

The greatest head-scratcher was around the 37/38 mile marker.  We descended over 150 feet straight down, turned to our left, and then the trail went back up to the ridge from which we had just descended.  As soon as we got back to the top, the trail went immediately back down.  It was incredibly frustrating and redundant.  We could not understand why they did that.  We thought we were on a hidden camera show.

Ultimately, this portion of the Knobstone Trail is quite enjoyable and worth the effort.  There were several areas where it leveled out and afforded some leisurely hiking.  I wish the area would have been greener but it was still early.  A few more views of the rolling hills would have been nice, but I really enjoyed my time there.  This is definitely a unique area in Southern Indiana to get opportunities for significant elevation.  I can see why so many use this as a training ground for the Appalachian Trail (AT).


One thought on “Indiana: Knobstone Trail- Elk Creek to Delaney

  1. We did the section from Oxley to Leota (mile ~37 to 25.5) on December 28, 2013. I am from southern Indiana and sort of knew what to expect…but it was still tough going. Many blow downs, inconsistent blazes and you are so right about the lack of switchbacks! Had a great time! Hope the KT attracts more volunteers to maintain trails. It would also be nice to have a good detailed map with trail elevation profiles like the ATC puts out for the Appalachian Trail!

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