Boyhood Nature Trail and Trail of Twelve Stones
Boyhood National Memorial
Geographic Location: south of
Length: 2.2 miles
Difficulty: 2/10 (Easy)
Last Hiked: June 2016
Overview: A fairly flat double loop around the property on which Abraham Lincoln grew up.
Memorial Information: https://www.nps.gov/libo/index.htm
Google Map: http://www.mappedometer.com/?maproute=530359
Directions to the trailhead: In southern
take I-64 to US 231 (exit 57A). Exit and
enter southbound on US 231. Drive US 231
south 5.7 miles to SR 162. Exit and turn
right on SR 162. Drive SR 162 west 1.2
miles to the signed memorial entrance on the right; the memorial entrance is
opposite the entrance to on the left.
Turn right twice to reach the main parking lot in front of the Lincoln State
Park . Visitor
The hike: He was born in
he became famous in Illinois, and
he made history in ,
but Abraham Lincoln spent his formative years in the low hills of southern Washington, D.C. Indiana. Frustrated with Kentucky’s
complicated property laws, in 1816 Lincoln’s
family moved from their Kentucky
home to a 160-acre land parcel in Indiana. In those days southern Indiana
was a wild, sparsely settled region, so Thomas Lincoln, assisted by his
8-year-old son Abraham, spent the first winter building a cabin and clearing
land for farming.
was good at first, but only two years into their Indiana
residency Abraham’s mother Nancy Hanks Lincoln died from milk sickness. Nancy
is still buried on this site today, and you will pass her grave on this hike. Abraham spent only 1 year in a classroom due
to the lack of educational opportunities in southern Indiana. Sources say that he honed his legendary
debating skills by participating in informal political discussions at Gentry’s,
the local general store.
In 1828, Abraham got his first job away from his parents’ farm: piloting a river flatboat. He would row people to the middle of the
River where they would board steamboats for distant
also guided produce-loaded flatboats down the Ohio
to market in Mississippi Rivers New Orleans. These trips gave Lincoln
his first exposure to the slave trade, which in turn formed the strong
abolitionist views that would characterize his political career.
|Start of trail through the Allee|
After a tour of the memorial building, walk across the parking lot and pick up either of the gravel trails that head toward a large flagpole. The memorial map calls this area the Allee. Walk past the flagpole to reach an old but well-kept cemetery. The large white headstone marks Nancy Hanks Lincoln’s grave, but many smaller grave markers here also date to the 1800’s.
|Nancy Hanks Lincoln's grave|
Exit the back of the cemetery on the wide dirt/gravel Lincoln Boyhood Trail, which heads downhill on a gradual to moderate grade. At 0.35 miles, you reach a secondary parking lot that is used to provide handicapped access to the reconstructed
farm. Restrooms are also available here
should the need arise.
|Cabin Site Memorial|
On the other side of the parking lot, you cross the southern boundary of Lincoln’s historic land plot just before crossing an active railroad track and passing along the edge of a meadow. At 0.5 miles, you reach the spur trail for the reconstructed Thomas Lincoln Farm, which exits left. Of the original buildings, only some of the hearthstones remain, and those stones are on display in the memorial building as opposed to here. An area called the Cabin Site Memorial marks where the
Lincolns’ original cabin
stood. A bronze fireplace and sill log
casting have been placed on the site, which was excavated by archaeologists in
1933. The reconstructed farm contains
several log buildings, including a homestead and barn, and some live animals
such as cows and chickens. Costumed
interpreters tell about the way the Lincolns
lived here. Take some time to tour the
farm and imagine what it would have been like to live here.
|Barn at reconstructed farm|
Back on the main trail, the trail curves right to re-enter the woods, pass the
monument to Abraham Lincoln,
and reach a trail intersection at 0.6 miles.
Trails here go straight and left.
We will eventually continue straight to hike the Trail of Twelve Stones
back to the Visitor Center, but turn left for now to begin the Boyhood Nature
Trail. The wide dirt/gravel trail
crosses moderately trafficked, paved Spencer
County Lewis Street
before reaching the intersection that forms the nature trail loop. For no particular reason, I chose to angle
right and hike the loop counter-clockwise.
While the memorial’s other trails tie in some way to
history, the Boyhood Nature Trail is just a nice, easy forest hike. This forest features lots of maple trees with
a few sweet gums and dying red cedars.
The trail often stays close to the memorial boundary with a road just
outside the east boundary and railroad tracks just outside the west boundary. Some interpretive signs point out common
plants in the forest.
|Boyhood Nature Trail|
Some wide wooden bridges take you over wet areas as you make your way around the nature trail loop. On the hot mid-June morning when I hiked this trail, a box turtle trying to cross the trail slid back into its shell as I approached. At 1.6 miles, you close the nature trail loop. Turn right to re-cross
then turn left to begin the Trail of Twelve Stones, the final leg back to the . Visitor
The Trail of Twelve Stones gets its name from twelve rocks that have been placed beside the trail, each rock representing a different point in Abraham Lincoln’s life. The first stone is from
birthplace in ,
the second from Jones Store 3 miles west of here, the third from Hodgenville, Kentucky Illinois,
and so on. Each stone has a plaque that
relates the significance of the stone, so walking past these stones is like
reliving Lincoln’s life.
|Stone from Lincoln's address podium in Gettysburg|
The trail climbs gradually as it passes the stones and re-crosses the railroad tracks. At 2.1 miles, you reach the last stone, which is from
just before you come back out at the Allee.
A left turn and short walk down the Allee will return you to the parking
lot to complete the hike. While you are
in the area, check out adjacent Lincoln State Park. Originally intended as a memorial to Nancy
Hanks Lincoln, the state park offers 6 easy-to-moderate hiking trails totaling
12.5 miles and several historical sites relevant to Springfield, Illinois Lincoln’s
boyhood days in southern Indiana.