Clifty Falls State Park – Indiana


My friend and I decided to take a long weekend and head to Indiana to do some hiking. Clifty Falls State Park is a rugged and beautiful park located in southern Indiana, about 30 minutes from Louisville, Kentucky and about 4.5 hours from St. Louis. The park gets it’s name from the tiered waterfall called Big Clifty Falls which is visible on Trail 7.

We started our first hike of the day by parking in the large parking lot just south of the North Gate entrance. The trail starts near the restrooms and after a short walk down a paved trail, you are at a viewing platform for Big Clifty Falls. Due to the size of the trees, just a glimpse of the falls is visible, but you can hear the rushing water falling over 60 feet to the canyon floor below.

Clifty Falls Trail 7 (2)

From here, the trail continues down a set of stairs to another viewing area for the falls. The rock walls are something to marvel at.

Clifty Falls Trail 7 (3)Clifty Falls Trail 7 (4)By hiking down a set of rock stairs to the right, there is a plank walkway tucked along the side of the cliff. I believe at one point, there was a staircase that connected Trail 7 from on top of the canyon to Trail 2 at the bottom of the canyon, but unsafe conditions required this part of the trail to be closed so there is no access to the bottom of the canyon from Trail 7.

Clifty Falls Trail 7 (6)Clifty Falls Trail 7 (5)As you continue along Trail 7, you pass by Cake Rock which looks like a large slice of cake =)

Clifty Falls Trail 7 (7)The trail offers views into the canyon and you will come to Little Clifty Falls.

Clifty Falls Trail 7 (8)

From here the trail goes to the left and the right. We took the trail to the right. We later found out that this part of the trail is a loop and there is a “moderate” or “rugged” path to take for Trail 7. The trail to the right is the “rugged” one which I highly recommend. After hiking down some rock stairs, the trail goes under a rock overhang and then climbs back out of the ravine. The two trails will meet up and there is a sign indicating the rating for each of the trails.

Clifty Falls Trail 7 (9)Clifty Falls Trail 7 (10)

We followed the trail around the ravine as it climbed up to the road and came to Lookout Point. The view from here is into Clifty Canyon, but the view is mainly just trees.

Clifty Falls Lookout

We turned around and hiked back the way we had come on Trail 7 and when the trail forked, we took the moderate trail back. The trail follows Little Clifty Creek Gorge and then returns to the parking lot.

Clifty Falls Trail 7 (1)

Trail 7 is rated as moderately rugged and is 1.25 miles long. This was my favorite trail in the park.

For our next hike, we parked in the Nature Center parking lot which is near the South Gate entrance. Trail 1 starts from this parking lot and a short hike leads to the Observation Tower. From the top, you can see the Ohio River.

Clifty Falls (2)

Trail 1 leads down a step incline to the intersection of several trails. We took the trail farthest to the left which is Trail 2. Trail 2 is a steep and rocky descent taking you all the way down to the bottom of Clifty Canyon.

Clifty Falls (3)Clifty Falls (4)

From here, Trail 2 is a hike up the creek bed of Clifty Creek.This trail is rated as very rugged since there is no defined trail. You work your way up the creek by rock hopping, crossing the creek, and making your own path. Be prepared to get your feet wet!

Clifty Falls (6) Clifty Falls (7) Clifty Falls (8) Clifty Falls (9) Clifty Falls (10)Clifty Falls (14)

There are a couple ways to exit the creek bed. The first option is via Trail 4, but we kept going and exited farther up on Trail 5. If you keep going, you can make your way near the base of the Big Clifty Falls, however, there is no exit, so you must back track and exit on another trail.

Trail 5 leads you up the the middle level of the canyon using multiple switchbacks. We turned right and saw Brough’s Tunnel. In 1852, an attempt was made to bring a rail line up Clifty Canyon by using tunnels and trestles to create an easier route between Madison and North Madison. The project ultimately failed when funding ran out.

Clifty Falls (15)Trail 5 is rated as rugged, but it is so beautiful. You are high above the creek, but below the rim of the canyon. There are bridges to cross ravines, rock stairs and unforgiving terrain.

Clifty Falls (16) Clifty Falls (17) Clifty Falls (18)My favorite feature of this trail was where the trail leads across a seasonal waterfall.

Clifty Falls (19)The trail will intersect with Trail 4 and you can exit to the canyon rim here via the ginormous staircase to the Lily Memorial. We opted to continue on Trail 4 to Hoffman Falls.

Clifty Falls (20)We did not get a good glimpse of Hoffman Falls, but the creek that creates the falls was nice. Just before the exit for the Trail 3 Parking, is a cute A-Frame bridge and another stone bridge.

Clifty Falls (23) Clifty Falls (24) Clifty Falls (1)We climbed the short trail to the parking lot and walked the road back to the parking lot at the Nature Center. All in all, I was worn out after hiking here. Clifty Falls State Park is by far the most rugged overall park that I have ever hiked. The canyon is 400 feet tall and the climb back up will definitely wear you out, but it is so worth it. It feels like on every trail, around every turn, there is something spectacular to see.

For more information on Clifty Falls, you can visit the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to obtain a trail map. You can see the trails we hiked below.

Clifty Falls Trail Map

A couple other things to mention:

For all Indiana State Parks, a per car fee is required to enter the park. It is a little bit more for out of state residents.

This is a dog friendly park, but they must be kept on a leash.

I have to give a shout out to the Holiday Inn Express in Scottsburg, Indiana. We stayed here while we visited Clifty Falls, Charlestown State Park and also the Falls of the Ohio State Park. This was a great central location for visiting all of these parks. I usually take my dog hiking as long as she is allowed at the parks we are going to and it is often difficult to find lodging that is dog friendly. The Holiday Inn Express is a dog friendly hotel and was very clean and accommodating. The people behind the front desk were friendly and even had treats behind the desk. I would highly recommend this hotel if you are traveling with a dog and are looking for a place to stay.

Photo May 08, 1 40 43 PMHave an questions or comments? Please leave me a message below!

Categories: Clifty Falls State ParkTags: , , , , , , , ,

12 comments

  1. Looks like a beautiful place!

  2. Lots of interesting man made walkways and bridges! I especially like the covered bridge..

  3. Beautiful pictures! Loved the slice of cake rock as well as all the ups & downs on the rugged trail!

  4. No winners today 😦 haha… kidding (kind of)… 16 was nice as an honorable mention.

    Oh, actually… 5 wins, on the second run through πŸ™‚

  5. Well done great tour of my hometown park !!

  6. How dog friendly would you say the trails at Clifty Falls are? We have a pretty energetic 30 pound pointer who LOVES to hike, but I don’t want to crawl over rocks with her. (I want us both to be safe while we’re out!) Clifty Falls is about 45 mins from home for us, so we were looking at making it our next adventure, and just wanted to know if we should bring her along.

    • Hi! What a great question! My hiking buddy is an energetic rat terrier and while she is a bit smaller I do understand. I would say the most unfriendly dog trail at the park is trail 2 through the creek bed because the whole trail is just rocks and can be unsteady footing and slick. Other than that I would say that most of the trails are a good width and while in places are rocky, it’s not like you are climbing over boulders πŸ™‚ you just have to watch your footing. there are some portions where you can be close to a drop off but I just kept her on a tight leash. Any of the little it more difficult sections I would just recommend taking it slower but Clifty Falls is a beautiful place. At no point did I ever feel unsafe by also having a dog (I also was using hiking pole and carrying a backpack). I am sure your dog would be grateful if you did take them
      πŸ™‚ if you do go, let me know how your pup does!! I hope this helps! We also hiked at Charlestown state park and it was a great hike as well. I will be posting about that hike soon!

  7. It looks like a great place! Thanks for the review. I’ve added it to my Google Maps for a trip in the future.

  8. HI! We took Daisy out to Clifty Falls this weekend and had a blast. We even took her through the creek bed. The water was high because of all the rain, but for the most part, she did GREAT! Honestly, Trail 7 was the most dangerous for us just because of all the mud. (Those rock steps were SLICK!) Thanks for the recommendation and the encouragement. It was an excellent Fourth of July, and finally got the bf excited about hiking. He’s already talking about our next one!

    • Thanks so much for checking back in!! So glad Daisy did a great job!! I was hoping she would enjoy it!! Glad you had a great holiday weekend in a beautiful park. If you are ready for more hiking, be sure to check out Turkey Run State Park and Shades State Park in Indiana. Another to great parks!! Happy hiking!!

  9. Still 5 all the way! πŸ™‚

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