Trail: Blue Trail
Geographic Location: northwest side of
Length: 3 miles
Difficulty: 3/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: June 2015
Overview: A loop hike featuring a causeway through a bird sanctuary.
Park Information: http://www.indy.gov/eGov/City/DPR/ECPark/Pages/default.aspx
Google Map: http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=436460
Directions to the trailhead: On the northwest side of
Indianapolis, take I-65 to 71st
Street (exit 124).
Exit and go west on 71st Street,
which quickly ends at the park’s north entrance. Pay the entrance fee, then drive another 200
feet to the perpendicular parking area on either side of the road. Park here.
The hike: Consisting of a sprawling 5300 acres,
is the crown jewel of the City of Eagle
Creek Park Indianapolis’
park system and one of the largest city-owned parks in the country. Most of the park land was farmed as recently
as the 1930’s, at which time wealthy people from the city began buying the
depleted farm land to build country estates.
One such wealthy person was Josiah K. Lilly Jr., the grandson of the
famous pharmacist Eli Lilly and President of Eli Lilly and Company. Josiah Lilly bought over 2200 acres in
western Indianapolis, and his
library is used today as the park’s . Ornithology
In 1958, Lilly donated the land to
which in turn sold it to the City of Purdue University Indianapolis
in 1966. The dam that would create Eagle
Creek Reservoir, a major source of recreation and drinking water for the city,
was built in 1969.
officially opened in 1972. The park
features many amenities including a pistol range, a marina, the Eagle Creek
Bike Trail, the aforementioned Eagle
Creek Park , a nature center, a golf
course, and several buildings that can be rented for meetings and other occasions. Ornithology
In terms of trails,
offers 5 designated hiking
trails that total nearly 17 miles in length.
The park’s longest trail is the 6.75 mile Red Trail, which forms a grand
tour through the entire park. I wanted a
shorter hike on the hot summer day I came here, so I opted for the 3 mile Blue
Trail. The Blue Trail runs conjointly
with the Red Trail for its most scenic section, but it avoids the more
developed areas of the park frequented by the Red Trail. Eagle Creek
|Trailhead near park's north entrance gate|
The trailhead for the Blue Trail coincides with its crossing of
Street, the road you drove in on. The Blue Trail forms a loop, so you could go
either way. I chose to start on the dirt
trail that heads east into the forest and use the wide gravel road that heads
west as my return route, thus hiking the loop clockwise. The trail is unblazed, but many metal signs
written in blue ink identify the trail and keep you from getting lost.
The initial segment of trail is nearly dead straight as the combined Blue, Red, and Green Trails head due east on a wide dirt path. At 0.1 miles, the Red Trail exits to the right. Soon the highway sounds from I-65 can be heard, but the interstate never comes into view thanks to the beautiful mature maple, beech, and
oak forest. A few pine trees also make an appearance.
At 0.2 miles, the trail curves 90-degrees right just before the Green Trail exits left. The Green Trail stays near I-65 for most of its distance, and therefore it is one of my least favorite trails in this park. Now heading south, the Blue Trail intermingles with a Parcourse Fitness Trail before crossing paved
Street on a marked crosswalk. After crossing Acer
Lane on another marked crosswalk, notice the nice
stone picnic area and restroom structures to your right.
|Crossing a paved road|
The next segment of trail follows a sewer line. Despite the mature forest, modern sights and sounds such as the sewer caps, interstate noise, and airplanes from nearby Indianapolis International Airport ensure that you never feel you are anywhere other than a suburban park. Just shy of 1 mile, you cross paved
Lillylake Drive just
before descending to
itself. Some benches present the
opportunity to observe the aquatic activity, which included a family of Lilly Lake Canada
geese on my visit.
|Canada geese in Lilly Lake|
Some basswood trees, easily identified by their heart-shaped leaves and deeply furrowed bark, enter the forest mix in the lowland area near
. At 1.3 miles, the trail crosses Lilly
Creek Parkway, the park’s main road. A small parking area offers an alternate
point from which to begin this hike. A
moderate climb to a narrow ridge that overlooks Eagle Creek Reservoir follows. Numerous trails criss-cross in this area, so
watch for the metal Blue Trail signs. A
nice breeze from the reservoir welcomes you to the hilltop.
After descending the west side of the ridge, the Red Trail reenters from the left. The next segment of trail follows a semi-circular causeway that is only a few feet wide and extends way out into Eagle Creek Reservoir. The hike now dramatically changes character. What has thus far been a shady walk through mature forest becomes a sunny hike with water on either side. Eagle Creek’s main channel lies to your left, while the area to your right is managed as an Audubon bird sanctuary.
|Crossing the causeway|
Many people consider the trail over the causeway to offer the best hike in
Indianapolis. There is no limit to the number of birds you
might see. On my visit, I saw many red-winged
blackbirds, nuthatches, woodpeckers, sparrows, goldfinches, and more Canada
geese. One secret to this area’s bird
attraction is the large number of privet and honeysuckle shrubs beside the
trail. These shrubs produce berries that
form an essential part of many birds’ diets.
Asters and other wildflowers are abundant here also.
At the north end of the causeway, the trail curves right and starts following a wide gravel path formerly known as
69th Street as
it climbs gradually away from the reservoir.
As pretty as the causeway was, this segment is just as ugly, and it has
all the charm of a maintenance area. At
2.8 miles, the Red Trail exits left for the last time. More gradual uphill climbing on the wide
gravel road brings you to a vehicle gate near Eagle
Creek Parkway just inside the north entrance gate. Angle right to reach the perpendicular
parking area that contains your car and complete the hike.