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There’s a lot more to French Lick, IN than a name that sounds like the title of a particular sort of Urban Dictionary entry. To address the elephant in the room -- the settlement was originally a French trading outpost located near a salt lick. The small town has been one of Indiana’s premier resorts since the mid-1800s, when tourists flocked to take advantage of the supposed medicinal properties of the area’s sulfur springs.
While spa cures are less common today, French Lick is still a pretty popular spot, and it’s easy to see why -- the area is almost completely surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery Indiana has to offer, sitting on the edge of the Hoosier National Forest and close by to vast, gorgeous lakes. The town is full of small, artisanal shops and grand architecture, and, of course, there are the casinos.
Though the town doesn’t have its own dog park, French Lick prides itself on a warm welcome, and that certainly applies to your furry friend. It should come as no surprise that French Lick is near some fantastically fur friendly hiking options, and though you might need to drive a little to get the best for your buddy, you’ll find some pawesome dog parks a little fur-ther afield!
With Patoka Lake just a twenty-minute drive away from French Lick, you’d need to be barking mad not to check it out! This area is one of the true jewels of the Hoosier National Forest. Fitter furry friends looking for a challenge might want to try the main trail, a six-mile stretch with some punishing inclines. If you’re out of breath just thinking about it, don’t worry -- the Garden Rock Loop trail is only a mile long, relatively flat, and equally, if not more scenic, with native ferns and rock overhangs dotted along the route. Remember to bring bags and water!
If you and your pooch are looking for something different to do, a trip on the French Lick Scenic Railway might be just the ticket! Pups travel free on this furrific rail tour, which leaves from downtown French Lick and winds its way for twenty miles through the forest, taking in several sights along the way, including the famous Burton Tunnel, and the staff will fill you in on the history of the area on the way. A word to the wise, though -- it’s best to get there early in the summer. Not all the cars are air conditioned, and it’s first come, first served.
The Pioneer Mothers’ Memorial forest really is a mutts-visit! The preservation is one of the only surviving examples of virgin Central Hardwood Forest. The mighty oaks here are towering, majestic, and older than the United States itself. Not only that, but it’s a lovely spot for a short hike -- the trail here is only about a mile and a half long, and ideal for a more sedate stroll with your furry friend! You’ll find a couple of other trails leading off the beaten path, but they’re not very well-marked, so it’s a good idea to look up a map before you go.
Make no bones about it, if you and your pooch want to get lost in the wilderness, there are worse places to do that than Indian Celina State Recreation Area! The reserve is popular with campers, and it’s easy to see why -- the athletically inclined among us could spend days walking the trails here. The main draw, of course, is the sixteen-mile Two Lakes Loop Trail, which climbs up steep slopes on for half the length and meanders through flat forest for the rest, and features fantastic views of the water. Unfortunately, your buddy won’t be allowed on the beach, but you two can still take in the scenery.
By now, your buddy might be longing to lose the leash, and you might be getting a little tired of trees. The Huntingburg Bark Park might be a bit of a drive from French Lick, but it’s a pawfect place to let your furry friend run free! Located in downtown Huntingburg in an area known for its antique stores, there’s plenty of room in the one-acre park for your little tearaway to run around and blow off some steam. Bags and water are provided, so just bring your pup and prepare to play! Keep in mind that there’s no separate small dog area, so be mindful of your pup’s temperament.
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