Jackson-Washington State Forest encompasses nearly 18,000 acres in Jackson and Washington counties in the heart of southern Indiana. The main forest and office area are located 2.5 southeast of Brownstown on State Road 250. This part of the state contains unique topography known as the “knobs”. This region provides scenic views second to none and offers some breathtaking hiking opportunities.
The majority of the land that now makes up Jackson-Washington was purchased by the state of Indiana in the 1930’s and 1950’s. The Heritage Trust program, which uses funds from the sale of environmental license, Division of Forestry funds generated from portions of timber sales, and assistance from other conservation partners has made possible the acquisition of additional state forest lands.
There are a variety of trails to choose from, ranging from easy to rugged. Hikers should wear hunter orange or other bright clothing, especially during hunting season. Check with forest office for status of trails before hiking. Map.
Approximately 13.9 total miles of marked trails are available in two separate areas. Horseback riding is permitted only on designated bridle trails. Map.
Primitive (class C) camping is available for a $10 a night plus tax. Campers can choose from any of the sites (sites 1 and 48 are wheelchair accessible) available sprawling across the landscape surrounded by hills and “knobs”. Some are water front sites on Knob Lake while others provide camping among hardwoods or towering eastern white pines. Firewood is located at the forest office for campers at Jackson-Washington for a small fee during business hours only. Firewood is available from Memorial Day weekend through Fort Vallonia Day weekend in late October.
A Youth Tent Campground is available for scouts and other groups. The Youth Camping area is located near the forest office in Jackson County at the trailhead for Trail 3. Backcountry camping is available along the backcountry hiking trail in Washington County, including along the Knobstone Trail also located in Washington County.
Five forest lakes are open to fishing; a valid Indiana fishing license is required.
- Washington County Lakes
Spurgeon Hollow Lake (12 acres)
Potter Lake (10 acres)
Plattsburg Pond (8 acres)
- Jackson County Lakes
Knob Lake (7 acres)
Cypress Pond (1 acres)
Boat ramps are located on Knob Lake and Spurgeon Hollow Lake; boat motors are limited to electric trolling motors only. Plattsburg Pond and Potter Lake are walk-in lakes. Knob Lake has wheelchair accessible docks. Swimming is not permitted in any of the lakes. All lakes have been stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, and channel catfish. All boats require annual lake use permits.
Jackson-Washington provides hunting for white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, eastern wild turkey, rabbit, quail, dove, squirrel, fox, coyote, and raccoon. A valid hunting license is required. Trapping is allowed only by written permit by the property manager.
The archery range provides four targets for shooters to practice from known distances of 15, 20, 30, and 40 yards and seven different target stations of unknown distance to the shooter. The entire range is wooded with each of the seven stations providing a different shooting opportunity, including one (target #7) with an elevated platform to simulate a tree stand shot.
Jackson-Washington offers 3 shelters that can be reserved through the office for a small fee (Skyline Drive, White Oak, and Pinnacle), 2 oven shelters (Skyline and CCC playground). Also, 9 picnic areas available for day use on a first come-first served basis. All are located near the main forest area in Jackson County. Some picnic areas are designated for individual families, while others will accommodate large groups. Playgrounds are located adjacent to all picnic shelters except the Pinnacle Shelter.
There are a variety of trails to choose from ranging from easy to rugged. Hikers are advised to wear hunter orange or other bright clothing while utilizing the trails especially during hunting season. Check with forest office for status of trails. Map.
- Trail 1 - Rugged 1.0 mile
Starts at the CCC picnic/playground area and runs northeast to the old observation tower. From there, it turns north, and joins Trail 10 for a short distance, then angles off again. The last 1/4 mile traverses a steep slope to a scenic vista. Hiking legs and water are recommended. Take your time and enjoy the view! Allow 1 hour hiking time
- Trail 2 - Moderately Rugged 1.75 miles
Leaves from the southeast corner of the CCC picnic/playground area. The first climb of the trail rises 360 feet to the top of the highest point in the area: 985 feet above sea level. The trail then heads southeast, and winds up and down the ridge. There are some very scenic views of the valley from this trail. Stop at the overlook for a view of the valley east of the state forest. The remainder of the hike runs through some stands of white oak in the valley bottom and ends at the CCC barn. Sturdy hiking boots and water are recommended for this hike; during certain times of year, wet creek crossings are possible. Allow 2+ hours hiking time.
- Trail 3 - Moderate 1.0 mile
Begins behind the CCC barn next to the youth camp. The trail runs along a ridge overlooking the campground, and has a beautiful view of the lake, especially during the fall. The trail ends at the same place as Trail 2 starts. Tennis shoes are adequate for this trail. Allow 1 hour hiking time.
- Trail 4 - Easy 3/4 mile
It begins next to the gatehouse at the forest office, and contains a wheelchair accessible loop that begins and ends at the gatehouse. Follow the signs and look for the posts with the black tops and yellow numbers. Brochures are available at the gatehouse and the information board by Knob Lake dam. Tennis shoes are adequate for this trail. Allow 1/2 hour hiking time.
- Trail 5 - Easy .25 mile
Lake access fishing trail which runs along the east side of the lake. Access is from the dam on the east side, or the northeast corner of the lake. Look for a footbridge as the access point. Numerous fishing places are located along the trail. Bait and fishing tackle are recommended!
- Trail 6 - Moderate 1.75 miles
Hiking boots are recommended, as some of the creeks may be wet during parts of the year.
- Trail 7 - Rugged 1.7 miles
Located between the shelterhouse and the fire tower on Skyline Drive. The trail winds up and down through dry sites and wet sites, from flat bottom soils and steep hillsides. Notice the different types of trees that grow in these wide varieties of soils. Sturdy hiking boots and water are recommended; allow 2 hours to make a round trip on this trail. Hikers may also walk along the paved road of Skyline Drive.
- Trail 8 - Moderately Rugged 5.6 miles
Trail 8, Turkey Roost Trail, starts across from Vallonia State Tree Nursery next to the green storage building. It is a long trail that will take hikers up and down the knobs and through the valley bottoms. Wildlife habitats have been added along this trail; do not be surprised to see a wild turkey hen or grouse and their chicks, or a deer in a forest opening. Because this trail crosses several creeks, sturdy hiking boots are recommended. Allow 4 or more hours to hike Trail 8. Orange decals are also used to identify the trail
- Trail 10 - Moderate 3.0 miles
Trail begins at Knob Lake dam, traverses the ridgeline west of the campground, and includes a few steep hills. The trail turns west into the valley bottom where large trees may be found growing in the fertile soil. Wildlife habitat areas have been added along this trail as well. Hikers are encouraged to take some drinking water on this hike; allow 3 hours to hike this trail.
- Backcountry Trail - Rugged 8 miles
Located in Washington County. Runs a loop starting at Spurgeon Hollow Lake. The trail is marked with blue blazes on the trees, and passes vistas, valleys and ridgetops. Sturdy hiking boots and drinking water are recommended. Creeks are usually high in the spring. This trail requires about 5+ hours to hike. For a complete topographic map of the Backcountry Trail and backcountry area, purchase the Little York and Kossuth quads from the DNR's publication sales .
Mountain Bike Trails
Jackson-Washington S.F./Starve Hollow S.R.A. offers 12.2 miles of mountain bike trails in two different locations. Mountain bikes are only permitted on those designated trails. For further details and a trail map click here.
Approximately 13.9 total miles of marked trails in two separate areas. Horseback riding is permitted only on designated bridle trails. All horses brought or ridden to Jackson-Washington State Forest must have a valid annual horse tag which can be purchased at the forest office or at Starve Hollow SRA. Horseback riders are advised to wear hunter orange or other bright clothing while on trails during hunting season. Map.
- Boot Loop (yellow trail marker) 1.8 miles
Easy. Area has wide trails that run through old field sites, pine plantations, and wildlife ponds. Most of this area of the forest has been harvested to improve the health of the forest.
- Gobblers Loop (red trail marker) 1.9 miles
Moderate. Trail winds through old field areas, semi-permanent wildlife openings, and bottom land areas that were planted with red oak and sweet gum. Many wild turkey can be heard or seen during different parts of the day. Most of the trail is wide but does narrow on the northern part of the loop. There are also some short slopes and stream crossings to negotiate.
- White Pine Loop (white trail marker) 1.2 miles
Moderate. The large area of pine was planted by the CCC's to reforest this old field that had started to erode. The trail is wide except for some areas where it crosses creeks. A couple of slopes must be negotiated along the trail.
- Cedar Tree Loop (blue trail marker) 3.4 miles
Moderately Rugged. The trail runs through areas of old fields that have large Cedar Trees in them. Sections of the trail run along the ridge top where wildlife openings are located. These openings provide habitat for many game and non-game animals. Morel mushrooms can be found on the ridgetops during the spring months.
- Orchard Ridge Loop (green trail marker) 3 miles
Moderately Rugged. The old field sites where once locations of peach tree orchards. During the fall or early spring you will notice the old peach tree rows when the leaves are off of the trees. Wildlife openings dot the ridgeline to enhance habitat. Chestnut Oak is the common tree species on the ridge tops while yellow poplar will be seen on the better sites in the old field sites and valley bottoms.
- Turkey Hollow Loop (orange trail marker) 2.4 miles
Moderately Rugged. This loop provides a scenic vista of Starve Hollow Lake at one of the picnic sites located on trail #2. Wild turkey were first seen in this area as they migrated north from the spot where they were reintroduced.