The Laura Hare Nature Preserve at Downey Hill

Important information for your visit: Do not park on Valley Branch Road or along our neighbor’s driveway across Valley Branch Road. There are five spaces in the gravel parking lot.

Over one square mile in size with six miles of hiking trails, this rugged preserve adds to neighboring protected lands and helps form a huge block of contiguous forest habitat, protected forever for the benefit of songbirds, raptors, and box turtles.

The preserve is named for the late Dr. Laura Hare, who was a medical doctor by profession and a naturalist and conservationist by avocation. In 2012, The Laura Hare Charitable Trust provided the funds to acquire the 593-acre property from the Downey Hill Corporation – a group of families who sold Sycamore the property at a price much lower than appraised value. Additions to the preserve were acquired in 2018 and 2021 thanks to additional support from the Laura Hare Charitable Trust and our members.

A trail built by the Hoosier Hikers Council takes visitors on a beautiful journey from the ridgeline to the valley and back. Walk the easy portion along an old road, or do the loop for a more rugged hike. The final portion of the loop trail was completed by the Hoosier Hikers in the fall of 2017.

The south trail at the preserve is named in memory of Nick Jacobi (1986 – 2020), thanks to a gift from friends of the Jacobis. Nick grew up hiking and camping on the ridges and valleys around Downey Hill.

Sycamore staff, volunteers, and contractors work to control invasive plants and protect the health of the forest. A major ongoing effort is controlling Japanese stiltgrass, particularly along the trails to prevent it from spreading further. Multiflora rose, Asian bittersweet, and autumn olive along the forest edge on the sides of the old road and driveway are also being worked on. Volunteers and staff also maintain the trails and parking area.


  • From the intersection of SR 46 and SR 135/Van Buren St in Nashville, drive east on SR 46 toward Gnaw Bone for 5.5 miles until you reach Valley Branch Rd.
  • Turn right on Valley Branch and drive 1.5 miles.
  • Turn left into a small gravel parking lot.
  • County: Brown
  • Acres: 655
  • Features: Classic steep Brown County hills, brilliant fall colors, seasonal ponds, cerulean warblers
  • Years acquired: 2012, 2018, 2021
  • Acquired with gifts from: Members of the Downey Hill Corporation, The Laura Hare Charitable Trust, and Sycamore members
  • Trail: The entire loop trail and gravel road total 6 miles.
  • Parking capacity: There are five spaces in the gravel parking area. Do not park on Valley Branch Road or along our neighbor’s driveway across Valley Branch Road.

News & More Information

In 2021, Sycamore Land Trust announced the addition of 56 acres of protected land to the Laura Hare Nature Preserve at Downey Hill, thanks to the generous support of the Laura Hare Charitable Trust and Sycamore members. The acquisition brought the total protected acreage at Downey Hill to 655 acres, over one square mile. This new parcel of protected land will not be opened to public access or hiking. It has been protected for the benefit of the plants and animals who live there and to preserve natural habitats for future generations.