The Big Ben Nature Trail at Village Creek State Park is an excellent short hike to see all that makes Crowley’s Ridge unique. It showcases the geology, flora, and history of the region.
This hike is a self-guided nature hike, so be sure to pick up a pamphlet from the visitor center. The pamphlet coincides with 14 markers along the hike to show you the natural wonders of Crowley’s Ridge.
Finding the trailhead
To find the trailhead for the Big Ben Nature Trail, park at the visitor center parking lot. The trailhead is across the road from the visitor center parking lot, or to your right as you face the visitor center. A few other trails leave from the parking lot on your left, but Big Ben Nature Trail is on your right on its own.
Through the valley
The trail begins with some steep steps going into the valley. You are immediately given a glimpse of the unique shape of Crowley’s Ridge with a butte on top of the ridge. It stands out like something in the desert, but this formation has grass, shrubs, and even a tree on top. It looks like something from the desert with a bad haircut. This formation is loess topsoil. And because loess is fine and dusty, it erodes easily and creates the sheer bluffs along Crowley’s Ridge.
As you make your way into the valley, you can also see the deep cuts, or ravines, into the ridge to your left. On your right is the small creek that created the valley. Hiking through the valley with the creek on one side and the ridge with deep cuts on the other, you see the diverse vegetation of the region. The pamphlet and markers point out sugarberry, pawpaw tree, and tulip poplar trees, along with river cane, scouring rush, and Christmas fern.
You can also see how the creek cuts into the bottomlands and shapes the terrain of Crowley’s Ridge.
Up and over the ridge
Around the halfway point, about 0.25 miles, the trail turns to the west and begins to snake up to the top of the ridge. As it climbs the ridge the trail is a little steep, but it is only steep for a short way. The Big Ben Nature Trail takes you to the top of the ridge next to one of the deeply cut ravines showcasing the ruggedness of the ridge.
The trail curves and begins to head south along the top of the ridge. You soon come to an overlook where you can look down on the valley where you just hiked. The trail below is obscured by the uneven ground. But you can look at the tops of the trees that you just hiked under.
Around mile 0.36 the trail seems to go to the top of the ridge but immediately drops down an the eroded old roadbed. The pamphlet explains that this is possibly a spur of the Old Military Road. Because the loess is so easy to erode, the old roadbed is deep below the ridge. You can really see how fragile this terrain is.
On this portion of the trail, you are flanked by the roots of the trees along the rim. Erosion has washed away the soil exposing half of the trees roots for you to see.
Big Ben Nature Trail
The Big Ben Nature Trail at Village Creek State Park is a great short hike to explore Crowley’s Ridge. The information pamphlet and markers along with the trail point things I would have not noticed. It was great to learn about the geography, vegetation, and history of the region.
- 0.5 mile loop
- Elevation gain and loss 58 feet
- Dogs allowed
- Backcountry camping not allowed