Key At-A-Glance Information
Length: 3.7 miles
Configuration: Two loops and an out-and-back
Scenery: Forest, river corridor, and ponds
Exposure: Mostly shaded
Trail Surface: Gravel roads, access lanes, and mowed paths
Hiking Time: 3 hours
Driving Distance: 1.5 hours east of Cincinnati
Maps: USGS Butlerville; Selmier State Forest map
Wheelchair Accessible: No
For More Information: Selmier State Forest, (812) 346-2286
Special Comments: Selmier State Forest received a significant amount of storm damage from Hurricane Ike and was in the process of removing fallen trees in 2008. As a result, the habitat is undergoing significant change.
Selmier State Forest is Indiana’s smallest state forest. Mrs. Frank Selmier donated 355 acres on behalf of her husband. From 1921 to 1934, Mr. Selmier planted pine, black locust, black walnut, sycamore, and tulip trees throughout the property. In fact, most of this property is in Indiana’s Classified Forest program.
Nestled near the West Vernon Fork of the Muscatatuck River, Selmier State Forest has several incredible river overlooks. In 2008, a shearing windstorm significantly damaged the forest, requiring an emergency timber harvest to salvage what was left. In several areas, large white pines in particular were snapped in half like toothpicks. Over the next few years, much of this area will change due to the emergency timber harvest.
Once you enter the state forest, continue on the road to the first turnoff to the right. Park and begin the hike on the trail heading west, away from the road you came
Immediately upon entering this trail you’ll come to a bench and several numbered markers for the self-guided tour. Pass by the green gates. Follow the gravel lane back under the canopies of tulip, American beech, and sugar maple trees. At number 13 is a white oak tree and at number 12 is a tulip and some beech trees.
Continue on the gravel lane. White pines, dogwoods, and spicebush line the trail’s edges. Pass by the small white pines and pawpaw trees at 0.17 miles. Soon tulip trees begin to dominate the forest. At the trail junction at 0.25 miles, follow the trail north. The White Pine Trail is marked with a trail signpost amid the beech trees.
Pass through the white pines, being careful to avoid the poison ivy along the edges of the trail. The orange blossoms of jewelweed also border the trail. The jewelweed seedpods are hydrostatically charged, so when pressure is applied to the seedpod it explodes. Kids love these bursting seedpods, which feel like wriggling worms in your hand.
A bench is adjacent to a large tulip tree and several small pawpaw trees. The trail passes downhill over several railroad-tie steps. An old dam area at 0.35 miles still contains water, and it’s easy to see fish swimming in the clear water below.
The trail continues uphill. Turn right at the trail junction near the benches. The forest includes a variety of hickories, tulip and black cherry trees, and red and white oaks.
Pass the pond to the left of the trail at 0.52 miles. Several wood duck nesting boxes are placed around the pond. Wood ducks typically nest above water. After the ducklings hatch, the female calls to them and they jump from the nest box to the water. Amazingly, the ducklings can fall close to 300 feet without getting injured.
The bench before the trail reaches the main gravel road is a nice place to take a break. Follow the trail onto the gravel road and hike down to the road lined with tall sycamores, redbuds, and hornbeam. The only sounds are the birds and the rustling of leaves in the forest.
At 0.75 miles, the lane passes over a small creek. Look for animal tracks in the sandbars. Along the road’s edges are plenty of ferns and wild ginger. Pass your vehicle at 0.85 miles and continue following the main gravel road with the West Vernon Fork of the Muscatatuck River to the left.
At near 1 mile the trail (gravel road) curves and begins to lead downhill through an area of shagbark hickory trees. Pass by the stand of large American hemlocks.
The views of the river corridor are incredible. Some portions of the river bottom appear very flat and easy to wade during the dry season. The river flows over a large, flat dolomite area. Across the Muscatatuck River is an enormous collection of sycamore trees.
Look along the edges of the river for several piles of stacked stones. These are remnants of Mr. Selmier’s work, as he had multiple buildings and ponds throughout the area.
Pass the cliff outcroppings along the river corridor where large stones have tumbled into the waterway. Theses enormous square-edged boulders are scattered throughout the riverbed.
At 1.4 miles turn right and walk into the Summerfield Cemetery. The 11-acre pine stand in this area had significant damage from the windstorm. After the emergency timber harvest in 2008, a surge of new growth might entice ruffed grouse to the area. Wild turkeys and white-tailed deer are also seen throughout the area.
Return to the main gravel road and turn right. Nearby is a large, cavelike rock with American hemlocks growing on top of it. Pawpaw, sugar maple, sycamore, and boxelder trees border the road. Do not go farther down the lane past the private-property boundary markers.
At the end of the gravel road and slightly to the right is a parking area at 1.7 miles. The trailhead is behind the cable rope that blocks vehicle access. Walk around the rope and between the sugar maple trees. The Cabin Trail winds uphill, away from the river.
The trail passes through an open wooded area. The forest includes sugar maple, tulip, and pine trees with plenty of understory ferns. Continue on the trail through the white pine stand, which is part of the emergency harvest area. Land managers expect the forest to be primarily hardwoods as this area recovers from the storm damage.
At the T intersection with Big Woods Trail at 2.1 miles, turn left onto Big Woods Trail. The trail leads through white pine, American beech, tulip, and red oak trees. At the end of the trail at 2.6 miles, near the farm field, turn around and retrace your steps.
Pass Cabin Trail to the right at 3.2 miles. Immediately after this is a small pond where you may spot skinks and box turtles sunning in the open area. White pines and sassafras dominate this portion of the trail.
Pass several more trails to the right and left of the main trail before reaching the intersection with the Nature Trail and the gravel road at 3.5 miles. Just before the intersection is another large area of jewelweed.
Turn right on the gravel lane and retrace your steps to your vehicle.
GPS Trailhead Coordinates
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UTM Zone (WGS84) 16S
Latitude: N 39 degrees 01' 59.66"
Longitude: W 85 degrees 35' 52.93"
Muscatatuck Park, Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge, Hardy Lake State Recreation Area, Versailles State Park, and Clifty Falls State Park and Clifty Canyon Nature Preserve offer multiple hiking opportunities.