A spring break visit to Clifty Falls State Park was a fun day of discovery for our first grade and second grade grandchildren from Fishers, Indiana. The park is just two miles from our house in Madison, so it was a perfect activity choice during their three day mini-break with us.

We entered the park at the North Gate so we could spend a little time at the playground area before our first hike. Trail 7 begins just a few yards away, is 1.25 miles long and classified as “moderately rugged” in difficulty. It’s also the trail that leads to two of the park’s four waterfalls – Clifty Falls and Little Clifty Falls.

Starting out on the accessible portion of Trail 7

The kids were amazed how far it was from the top of Clifty Falls to Clifty Creek below – 60 feet! They loved walking down the stone staircase to get a closer look at the falls and a good view of a portion of Clifty Canyon Nature Preserve.

Continuing on Trail 7, they were able to get a look at Little Clifty Falls and pose for a photo in front of Cake Rock. They were surprised to find spring plants growing out of the large rocks along the trail.

Little Clifty Falls
Cake Rock

We drove a little further into the park and selected Hickory Grove as a picnic spot. We fired up our campfire-in-a-can for a quick hotdog roast before we moved on for another short hike.

After lunch we drove the length of Canyon Road to south end of the park. Sadly, the Nature Center was closed, but we decided to take the first leg of Trail 1 to the Observation Tower. The entire trail is 0.75 miles and classified as “rugged.” The approach to the tower, however, is short and gently sloped, with lots of spring wildflowers in bloom on both sides of the path.

BTW, if you’re interested in a beautifully illustrated book about spring wildflowers and forest awakening to share with your “young naturalists,” get a copy of Wake Up, Woods. I bought my copy at the Clifty Inn giftshop.

For us, the rugged part was the climb up the tower steps! LOL. But the view from the top was great! Looking east over Clifty Creek Power Plant and the Ohio River, the kids enjoyed using their binoculars to find the Milton-Madison Bridge in the distance, and a hawk circling overhead. Clifty Falls State Park is part of The Indiana Birding Trail, and you’ll find birding at the park described in their brochure on page 12.

Ohio River, looking east

Since our visit to the park occurred in early April and the trees were not yet leafed out, it was easy to see the Ohio River between the bare tree branches. In a couple more weeks, this view to the west will be a sea of green!

Ohio River, looking west

Armed with the Indiana State Nature Passport and the Annual State Park Entrance Permit ($25 Golden Hoosier Pass for 65 and older), there will be lots of Indiana adventures ahead for us – and visiting grandchildren. In fact, I’m headed back to Clifty Falls State Park this Saturday for the Waterfall Hike from 2-3pm!

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One thing that makes my journey unique is that all of my interests are driven by a joyful and genuine curiosity. I delight in finding less expensive ways to make something or creative ways to enjoy something longer. Finding and creating joy - and sharing it - is core to who I am.