Along the Ohio River on the border of Indiana and Kentucky you’ll find Clifty Falls State Park. Known for its majestic waterfalls and stunning river views, this historic site is covered in hiking trails and interesting attractions, as well as a lot of convenient parking lots.
Clifty Falls State Park is a popular year-round destination for folks visiting from nearby cities like Louisville and Indianapolis. Since it’s practically a part of Historic Madison, people often visit both at once, making an easy trip by Lanier Mansion State Historic site while they’re at it.
Whether you plan on staying overnight or you’re just rolling through to use the picnic area, we hope this guide can help you plot your waterfall adventure.
Do Go Chasing Waterfalls
For better or worse, the trails of Clifty Falls State Park are numbered and don’t have any interesting names. Fortunately enough, this doesn’t detract from their splendor. Each waterfall is overflowing with character that puts names to shame.
Below are some things to consider before deciding your route through the park. Some of the trails can get pretty long, so hikers should plan appropriately to maximize their experience, especially if they plan to walk or bike to the park for the cheaper entrance fee.
As ever, a map of the park is available at the Indiana State Parks website.
Big Clifty Falls
Located at the north end of the park, views of this 60-foot waterfall can be reached via trails 2, 7, and 8. Trail 2 starts in the south of the park and leads north along Clifty Creek. Meanwhile, the trailhead for 8 can be found next to the park’s northern parking lot and picnic area.
While most trails are considered rugged, trail 7 was built with ADA accessibility in mind, making it the best choice for easy viewing.
Little Clifty Falls
Little Clifty Falls is the same height as Big Clifty Falls and is also located in the north end of the park. In fact, it’s only yards away from Big Clifty. What a copycat!
However, unlike its older sibling, this waterfall can only be seen from trail 7.
Pouring from a streamlet named Dean’s Branch, you can access Tunnel Falls by taking trail 5. To reach the falls, you’ll have to maneuver some rugged trails and pass through a defunct railroad tunnel. At 83 feet, these are the tallest falls in the park, and getting to them is half the experience.
Unlike its neighbors, Hoffman Falls is located in the middle of the park, closer to the south gate. You can get there by way of trail 3 or 4, both of which are a mile or less in length. Even though these two hiking trails are on the short side, they’re still considered rugged, so be prepared for a more difficult hike.
Camping Clifty Falls State Park
Campers can expect to find everything they need to overnight at the park, including electric sites for RV hookups and a dump station for RVs. For those who prefer to enjoy nature in a more rugged fashion, non-electric camping sites are available. To make reservations, head over to the Indiana State Parks website at in.gov/dnr/state-parks.
For those who’d rather not rough it, there’s also the swanky Clifty Inn in the park’s southern section, not to mention all the hotels in nearby downtown Madison. Nearby Hardy Lake also offers excellent views for some great social media pictures if need be.
In addition to its waterfalls, the park has fun features kids will love like a Nature Center and a swimming pool with a waterslide. There’s also an incomplete railroad tunnel that’s open for exploration between May and October. Meanwhile, kids 30-and-up will probably appreciate the Clifty Inn’s restaurant and the many community events scheduled at the park.
Since this part of the U.S. was sitting under shallow sea around 400 million years ago, you might find fossils along its creek beds. Unfortunately, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources prohibits the collection of fossils on park grounds, so look and touch, but don’t take.
Have you seen any fossils while hiking through Clifty Falls State Park? Share your story on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!