You won’t find this trail on any official map of Indiana’s Brown County State Park. Heck, you won’t find it mentioned anywhere period. In fact, the trail doesn’t even have a name, so we’ve dubbed it “Abe Martin’s Secret Trail” due to its close proximity to Abe Martin Lodge.
Only a few know of its existence, and unless you’re one of those few who do know, you’ll never find it without GPS. In fact, that’s the only way we found it after studying heatmap signatures left by wearers of activity trackers.
Download map GPX file
Abe Martin’s Secret Trail trailhead. From the north entrance of the park, head south on Brown County State Park Road for 1.4 miles. Turn left at the sign for Abe Martin Lodge and follow the drive .8 miles. Look for the Trail 2 trailhead, which is behind the lodge. To get to it you must pass through the parking lot on the right and loop around on the one-way drive to the back. There is less parking behind the lodge but the spaces are usually not full.
2.5 – 3.5 hours
2.5 miles one way
Out and back
$7/vehicle (in-state), $9/vehicle (out-of-state)
Allowed on 6-foot leash
Dense tree canopy
Copperheads, timber rattlers, ticks
Hiking Abe Martin’s Secret Trail
First, a word of warning: Don’t do this hike alone, and don’t do it without a GPS-enabled device (enabling the GPS tracker on the map above will work offline if you load this page before you lose service, but don’t rely solely on it). You should also have a good idea of the general layout of Brown County State Park in case you lose the trail.
Be advised that this trail is not maintained and requires a bit of instinct to locate at times, and we’d recommend not doing this hike in the summer due to chiggers and ticks waiting in the ferns and grasses. If you do attempt it in the summer, wear long pants (and boot gaiters aren’t a bad idea either).
To get to Abe Martin’s Secret Trail, you must first descend Trail 2 behind the lodge to the ravine. At about a half mile as Trail 2 comes its closest to the adjacent bridle trail and creek bed, cross southward into the small valley between the two facing hills. Abe Martin’s Secret Trail begins there, although it will not be apparent at first.
The faint path begins to climb the western hill, switching briefly to the northwest before straightening out again in a mostly southern direction. At times the trail appears more defined like any other well-traversed hiking trail, but since it is not maintained be prepared to cross some downed trees and dodge more than a few sticker bushes. It should go without saying that this trail wouldn’t be good for children to attempt.
At .8 miles the trail empties into a small picnic site on East Road. From here, it is again not obvious where the trail continues as it does not pick up immediately across the road.
Instead, walk a short distance east to locate the continuation of the hiking trail. Again, this might take a little bit of instinct, so be sure to look closely for signs of disturbed leaves on the forest floor and check your GPS.
From here it is about .3 miles more before reaching a dry creek bed and a much more welcoming and well-defined trail. This is Weed Patch, an intermediate level mountain biking trail that is absolutely immaculate. Before continuing, make note of the area you just left and notice how, had you not just come from down the hill, you would not know there is a trail there. That’s important.
This should play into your next decision as to whether you want to continue along Weed Patch to the fire tower or if you want to turn back. We had already planned to forge ahead and loop back via paved roads, but after seeing very few discernable natural waypoint markers, I doubted if I’d ever find this trail on the way back, even with GPS. I suppose we could have left a marker, but that doesn’t fit into our leave no trace hiking philosophy.
The second part of this hike to the fire tower stands in sharp contrast to where you just came from. Weed Patch mountain biking trail is gorgeous – clear, well-built, maintained … it’s obvious why Brown County State Park has become one of the top ten MTB destinations in the United States. From here your might be inclined to head north on the trail, but the correct direction is south (left).
As a rule, I generally avoid mountain biking trails – especially busy ones. Besides, Brown County State Park has 20 miles of dedicated hiking trails, so even though the mountain bike trails are multi-use, there’s little reason to stray from the hiking trails (unless you’ve done them all like us and are looking for something different). But although the park was crawling with early Autumn leaf peepers that day, we only saw about ten mountain bikers on the trail over the next one and a quarter miles.
Despite things working out for us, I should caution that there are parts of the trail that are very narrow with steep banks on either side. If you tend to wear headphones on the trail, don’t do it here. Weed Patch is a fast trail, and you’ll need to keep your eyes and ears peeled for bikes. I’ll admit that this aspect added a bit of danger/excitement to our hike.
At last we came to our reward: the old fire tower at Weed Patch Hill. If you’re feeling up to it, you can climb to the top. We’ve been to the top before, and on this day we opted to pass since we were limited on time. Of course, if you’re feeling really lazy you can simply drive to the tower and park in the lot right next to it. I won’t judge.
We walked along the road back to the small picnic area that dissects Abe Martin’s Secret Trail, which led us past a beautiful overlook of the hills of Brown County – a vista I had never noticed before by car.
All in all, we vastly prefer this hike over Trail 10, which begins at the fire tower and loops two miles through a rather non-descript area of the park. Instead, Abe Martin’s Secret Trail combined with the Weed Patch MTB trail treats the fire tower destination as a reward for your efforts, but you can try them both and decide for yourself.
Use map for real-time navigation
Load this web page on your phone before heading to the trail. Once there, be sure to put your device in airplane mode in order to save battery life.
Simply tap the map marker icon on the map to show your current location and follow along.
Tap the layers icon to switch between topographic, satellite and other helpful map layers. Be sure to check out the Heatmap overlay to see where others have gone before you!