The Laura Hare Nature Preserve at Downey Hill

Sponsor a Preserve, Summer 2020: this nature preserve is sponsored by Jenny Johnson, and Judy Stewart & Michael Fulton. We’re grateful for their support of our work! Learn more about Sycamore’s Sponsor a Preserve program.

Jenny Johnson says:

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to sponsor The Laura Hare Nature Preserve at Downey Hill! It’s a beautiful, 600-acre parcel in Brown County with options for hikes on well-maintained trails. I love that you can choose an easy flat hike along the old road or a more challenging six-mile loop hike from the ridgetops to the valleys.  As a special treat, if you happen onto the old homesite in the spring you can enjoy a beautiful mass of blooming daffodils! My hope is that others will find nature to be as restorative as I have…it’s a wonderful gift.”

Judy Stewart and Michael Fulton say:

“Laura Hare Nature Preserve at Downey Hill is one of our favorite hikes in Brown County. There is truly something special about this preserve — it never fails to delight us! We love visiting throughout the year to see the unique beauty of each season. We are so thankful Sycamore Land Trust is protecting these beautiful wooded acres, and we are happy to have the chance to sponsor this special place.”

Nearly one square mile in size, 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. An addition to the preserve was acquired in 2018 thanks to additional support from the Laura Hare Charitable Trust, who also funded the initial property acquisition.

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.

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.

  • 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: 599
  • Features: Classic steep Brown County hills, brilliant fall colors, seasonal ponds, cerulean warblers
  • Years acquired: 2012, 2018
  • 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 are open now, totaling 6 miles.