We originally picked Shawnee State Park because we remembered loving the Shawnee Forest Day Hike Trail. Unfortunately, we caught a case of the morning lazies and didn’t get started until late morning. And then we had to run to the gas station for a few quick supplies. And then it was nearly lunch so we might as well swing back by the camper for chicken salad. And then we switched on the TV to catch a great episode of Wild Ohio on PBS. And then it was after 1:00pm – kind of late to start a seven mile hike when it starts getting dark before 7:00pm. I’m sure we could have done it, but we opted instead to hike out the Knighton Nature Trail.
Our intent was to do the trail as an out-and-back. I think we had done some of this trail the last time and enjoyed it as well. Once we started, we realized the park had created a 5.2 mile loop trail that goes all the way around the lake. What a perfect compromise!
The trail did pose a few navigation challenges, but was overall a nice, easy walk on a warm October afternoon.
We began the trail from the campground by following the service road beside site #107. The trail seems to wind around and across a service road for a while, but it provided some great naturalist opportunities, including our first Winter Wren of the year! Soon we approached Turkey Creek Lake and began our circumnavigation of the lake.
One of the highlights of the trail is inlet with beaver damns. This is a great habitat to watch for not only the beavers that forged the damns, but turtles, fish, and dragonflies that enjoy the waters.
Eventually the trail turns into asphalt and approaches a beach parking area. The Park Loop Trail blue blazes become sparse in this region. My advice is to hike along the beach, across the bridge and climb the staircase.
From there follow the road to the right for a couple hundred feet. There is a blue trail marker in the distance, but it is not easy to see and there are several other trails that branch off from this location. But the Loop Trail follows the lake. The trail was nicely maintained through the prairie region and provided great opportunities to view butterflies, dragonflies and other insects.
Soon we crossed creek that feeds into the lake and enjoyed a quick snack at a picnic table within a grove of pitch pines. The trail then follows the lake for about a half mile. Our hike was made amusing by the thousands of grasshoppers that bubble up from the grass in front of us like popcorn. Be sure to follow the trail marker to the left at about the point where a tree extends into the water. It is not a very obvious turn unless you look left for markers at all the mown paths.
The path on this side of the lake is certainly not as remote. Cars on SR125 are never more than 100 yards away. But in my opinion, the views of the lake and the different ecosystems make this part of the trail worthwhile. But I will say that those seeking a more remote experience may be better served by turning around once reaching the asphalt on the trail and hiking back along the west side of the lake.
The final stretch extends to the boat launch at the southeast end of the lake. To pick up the trail, cross the lot to the log cabin. Behind the cabin, the trail converges with a short nature loop. Technically, I think the trail climbs back up the hill, but we knew the wood bridge joined back into the campground, so we headed back for a happy hour treat of popcorn!