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Knobstone Trail: Hiking & Rules

Hikers on Knobstone Trail

Hikers and backpackers should follow these suggestions for an enjoyable journey on the trail. In addition, review general property rules.

Rule basics

PRIMITIVE BACKPACK CAMPING is allowed along the trail only on public lands at least one mile, by trail, away from all roads, recreation areas, and trailheads, and out of sight from the trail and all lakes. Campgrounds are located at Delaney Park, Clark State Forest, and Deam Lake State Recreation Area.

OVERNIGHT TRAIL USERS should register at:

Indiana DNR Law Dispatch
4850 S. St. Rd. 446
Bloomington, IN 47401
(812) 837-9536

EVERYTHING CARRIED IN IS TO BE CARRIED OUT. Please respect these regulations, or camping may have to be prohibited in many areas.

HORSES AND WHEELED VEHICLES ARE NOT ALLOWED. No mountain bikes, ATVs, motorcycles, or other motorized vehicles.

BRING YOUR OWN WATER. It is not available from most of the streams shown on the map near the trail because they are dry during much of the year.

EMERGENCIES should be directed to the Indiana DNR Law Dispatch at (812) 837-9536.

TRAIL ROUTES may change due to environmental conditions or property management activities. Re-routes will be marked. View re-routes.

STAY ON PUBLIC PROPERTY and designated footpaths whenever possible. Do not trespass on private property. Hikers are responsible for helping maintain good relations with private property owners.

More helpful advice

  • Plan your trip
    Study maps and learn the terrain. Be familiar with all the options of time, alternate routes, and weather. Do not forget about the shorter daylight hours during late fall and winter. Travel with a first aid kit, map, compass, and cellular telephone. For safety, register at the nearest property office, gatehouse or Indiana DNR Law Enforcement Central Dispatch at (812) 837-9536. There are no feeds for hiking or camping. Backwoods camping is the only camping allowed. DNR encourages campers to call the DNR Law Enforcement Central Dispatch to inform them about overnight stays on the trail.
  • Bring and store water
    Water is scarce. Dehydration is the largest problem on the Knobstone Trail. Hikers can obtain water are at Elk Creek Lake, Deam Lake, and the small stream that runs along S.R. 56. There are no springs, fountains or other water supplies along the trail or at trailheads. A small pond near mile marker 13 can also provide water in dry times. High concentrations of algae may clog filters. If there is recent rain, many small intermittent streams will flow along the trail. July, Aug., and Sept. are the worst times to find water. The DNR recommends you cache water at strategic places near trailheads or road crossings. Please mark your supplies with the intended date of usage. This will allow DNR trial crews to get rid of old or unused items. Remember to treat all collected drinking and cooking water by boiling for several minutes or with a commercial water filter. Always wash your dishes or yourself a few feet away from the edge of a lake or stream. This allows the soil to act as a filter, preventing soap suds and scraps of food from polluting the water. After washing your dishes, rinse them a safe distance from the bank. A few feet can make a big difference
  • Protect from ticks
    Avoid tall grass and thick brush. The most effective commercial insect repellents contain the active ingredient DEET or PERMETHRIM. Once a tick becomes embedded, it’s best to remove the tick using tweezers. You want to gasp the tick close to its head firmly pulling it straight out. Apply antiseptic to the bite after removal. Learn more about ticks on the Indiana State Department of Health's website.
  • Wear bright colors only when need to be seen, especially during hunting seasons
    A majority of the Knobstone Trail travels through areas open to public hunting. Be aware of hunting seasons and what season may be open at the time of hike. During other times of the year, bright colors may actually “shrink” the outdoors by visually intruding into the personal space and solitude. When drab colors are used for clothing and tents, individuals are less visible, and more people can use the same general area without knowing of each other’s presence.
  • Be careful with fire
    DNR recommends a portable backpacking stove for cooking instead of a campfire. A portable stove cooks your meal long before a fire is ready. Another advantage is that it helps prevent fire-blackened rocks in areas where people camp. If using a campfire, make sure it is permitted. Different properties may have different rules regarding campfires. Even those that generally allow campfires may ban them on a temporary basis because of dry conditions. Use only dead and downed wood where permitted. Do not break or cut tree limbs or trees, even dead ones. Dead trees provide habitat for many birds and animals. Do not stockpile wood. While this was once considered a friendly gesture in remote areas, today it is one more way of reducing the spirit of solitude and independence that people seek. Any campfire in a backcountry area should be in a pit 12 inches or less in diameter, and a three-foot diameter area should be cleared to mineral soil around the fire. Prior to leaving an area where a campfire was built, mix ashes with the soil, fill the pit, and cover the cleared area with the humus layer that was originally removed.
  • Keep pets under control
    Pets should be on leash. Make sure all pet waste is kept away from the trail. Do not allow dogs to bark at or chase other trail users or wildlife.
  • Properly dispose of litter, including human waste
    Carry out what you carry in. Animals and frost action will uncover buried trash. To avoid contamination in areas without restrooms, use areas at least 200 feet from any water supply and camping zone. Dig a small hole approximately eight inches deep, which can then be covered with loose soil and leaf litter to promote decomposition and sanitary conditions.
  • Report illegal trail use
    No motorized vehicles and horse riding is allowed on the trail. The remoteness of the trail that makes it extremely difficult for conservation officers to patrol. If there is an area that seems to be getting especially heavy use and damage, law enforcement personnel have focused efforts to apprehend the culprits. Report illegal activity to the DNR Law Enforcement District 8 Headquarters at (812) 639-4148 or Central Dispatch (812) 837-9536). View contact information for DNR Law Enforcement.
  • Volunteer to help improve the trail
    The Hoosier Hikers Council has an established volunteer program to help maintain, improve and expand the Knobstone Trail. Individuals and groups are needed to help with Indiana trails.