Fern Cliff Nature Preserve

Fern Cliff Nature Preserve is home to tall cliffs and other rock formations encrusted with great masses of ferns.

Fern Frond

There’s only space for a car or two in the entrance lane, but crowds are rarely a problem.

While ferns and rock formations are certainly the main attraction here, other plants abound in the herb layer, including many wildflowers.

A sandstone quarry operated along the creek in the early 20th Century; some speculate that materials from the quarry went into the glass that made up the first iconic Coca-Cola bottle.

In any case, the quarry is long closed – it has begun to fill in with sphagnum moss - and the property has reverted to a better use.

This is an outstanding natural area and certainly one of the most spectacular sites open to the public in Indiana.


Beyond the gate, a trail leads into the preserve, skirting the western property boundary and the yard of an adjacent residence.

At a marker designating the site as a National Natural Landmark, the path veers from the boundary, past the ruins of a concrete block structure, and eventually begins to descend.

In spring, the woods reverberate with the sound of warblers and other birds proclaiming their territorial rights.

The trail levels out briefly, and then takes an abrupt right. Soon you'll find yourself standing on a promontory of sorts, with steep drops in most directions.

The cliff face to your right usually sports a thick coat of ferns, and a spring oozes from the soggy soil at its base. Explore the top of the promontory, where polypody is common.

Fern Cliff

A very steep “trail” - perhaps slide would be a better description - leads down through gaps in the rock to the base of the cliff; from there, you can make your way without benefit of trail through rich woods, and past old ruins, perhaps as far as Snake Creek.



Putnam County. From the intersection of Jackson and Walnut in Greencastle, just south of the courthouse square, proceed west 4.1 miles on Walnut, which becomes 125 South. Turn left onto 500 West and proceed 2.9 miles to 375 South. Turn right and go 0.8 miles to a gate on the right. Limited parking.

North 39 36.462 West 86 58.074
DeLorme 43:C10

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Nearby Natural Areas

Fortune Woods
Hall Woods Nature Preserve


Habeck: Wild Indiana; Page 79
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
McPherson: Nature Walks in Southern Indiana; Page 236
Nature Conservancy: Guide to Indiana Preserves; Page 76