Newton-Stewart State Recreation Area
There are several State Recreation Areas arrayed along the shores of 8,800-acre Patoka Lake, but for my money the best of the lot is the Newton-Stewart State Recreation Area. The most interesting parts of this recreation area occupy about a thousand acres on a peninsula that juts up from the southern edge of the lake. Thereís a small but striking visitorís center thatís worth a quick stop; itís at the end of the main road, which splits at one point into single lanes that traverse narrow passages rock formations.
The star hiking attraction is the Main Trail, a challenging 6.5 mile loop that begins on the west side of the visitor center parking lot and circles the peninsula. In the process, it passes Totem Rock, an impressive overhang (pictured at left), about a mile and a half in. Itís mostly a woodland walk, with fewer lake views than one might expect, at least when the leaves are out. However, old lanes intersect the trail at various points, and you can follow some of them toward the waterís edge. During my last visit, extensive portions of the trail were overrun with Japanese stiltgrass and other vegetation. Take precautions against ticks and chiggers. For the more adventurous, there are several backcountry campsites in addition to the main campground.
Garden Rock Trail
The Garden Rock Loop is more popular. It starts at the visitor center and is less than a mile long but passes rock formations along the way. In spring, check the tops of several huge fallen rock chunks for wildflower colonies that thrive there, out of the reach of deer. The loop also has a short out-and-back segment attached to it that leads out to the waterís edge, along a sheltered inlet.
TRAIL MAP (Click to enlarge)