“A mix of new quality MTB trails and older trails.”
— Nate Hawkins
Many trails here are shared between bikers, hikers, and horses. Bikes yield to all other trail users. Especially take care around horses. Talk to the rider for the best way to proceed. Announce your presence WELL in advance. If unsure, dismount and pass the horse on the downhill side of the trail.
Bikes are prohibited in the floodplain east of the levee trail.
This trail system is undergoing a major overhaul. New trails are being built and many old trails are being closed. Temporary signs continue to be removed by parties unknown, so wayfinding can be tricky. Stick to this ride and you'll do fine. As the new trail system becomes more developed and finalized in the coming year or two, this guide will be expanded with more details, and the underlying trails will be added.
This trail is a great place to take beginners and kids. The southern loop is all shared use, but grades are low, sight lines are wide, and there are no technical features. Introduce them here.
All trails have two-way traffic, so be prepared for oncoming trail users.
The northern loop begins with the Lenape
Trail, which is a stretch of singletrack where horses are prohibited. It is narrow and has some fairly technical sections with optional lines for the more difficult spots. There are picnic tables tucked in the woods in a couple of spots that are ideal for a picnic lunch or rest stop.
Need to Know
The trail system at this park is undergoing major redevelopment as part of a RTP grant awarded to HMBA. You'll see many unsigned intersections. Some prohibit bikes and some permit them (and some of the ones that permit them will be closed in favor of new routes), so it is best to avoid exploring them unless you meet up with a local who knows these trails.
Begin with the multiuse trail at the southwest corner of the parking lot. This loop is just over a mile long and serves as a good warmup ride, and a great introduction for beginners and kids. Expect to see small kids here on nice weekends. Horses are also permitted, so while it may be tempting to hammer on the smooth, wide trails, control your speed to avoid crashes with other trail users.
As you are finishing the loop, you'll reach an intersection with the Lenape
Trail that is marked by a boulder in the middle of the intersection. Head left to finish the loop (or repeat it) and turn right to head down the Lenape
Trail. The Lenape
meets up with a wide gravel trail (that also intersects with the parking lot) and heads downhill before making a left and returning to a singletrack trail.
It weaves in an out of gullies with the occasional technical spots and takes on a very flowy character with short climbs and downhills that transition well. Lenape
ends by dumping you out onto the levee where three trails intersect. The trail to the left is hike and horse only and leads into the floodplain where bikes are prohibited. The trail to the right is a wide gravel path that runs along the top of the levee (and is a multiuse trail with bikes, hikers, and horses).
You leave the levee trail by making a hard right turn along a ridge. There is an optional elevated skinny that's been repurposed from a downed tree as an optional line. Follow this stretch of singletrack until it reaches a wide path that crosses a powerline right-of-way and climbs steeply uphill. This section of path returns you directly to the parking lot, but for a little more singletrack, make a left just before you reach the lot. When you reach the intersection with the boulder, keep right and return to the parking lot.
Repeat this ride, or ride it backwards on your next loop. There are more trails to come so soon you'll be able to expand on this ride.
History & Background
In 2002, Southwestway Park became the second largest park in the IndyParks system.
The park contains a number of prehistoric sites. The Delaware Rangers mistakenly destroyed a Delaware village during the War of 1812 as retaliation for the Scott County Pigeon Roost Massacre.
More recently, the area was settled by Quakers and used for farms and pastures until it was acquired for use as a regional park in 1972. The area specifically around Mann Hill was used extensively for off-road vehicle recreation until acquisition for parkland.
Mann Hill itself is a glacial kame, which is a hill or mound of outwash deposited on or at the edge of a glacier.
The park also contains a graminoid fen as part of its complex of wetlands. It has mineral-rich alkaline water flowing to the surface, which supports an early successional plant community dominated by tussock sedge and also containing swamp aster, pink turtlehead, boneset, cowband, lizard's tail, and swamp goldenrod.