Camp Nelson Park is unique among our locations we’ve designated as Hiking Trails. Its main reason for being is to preserve history, not necessarily nature. Its there to protect the fortifications and other major area associated with the Civil War depot and training center that originally took up the whole area between where the park and cemetery are now, all the way to the Kentucky River and Hickman Creek. It also preserves the house that officers used during the war, and has a museum (interpretive center) and classrooms.
Most trails in the park today go to the major fortifications and former building and other Civil War era sites with interpretive signs along the way. When people ask me about Camp Nelson trails, I tell them its a lot like walking through cow pastures, or maybe a golf course because its mostly open grass fields with mowed paths, and has giant flags you can see across the fields that mark the major historical sites. Definitely nothing you want to tour on a hot summer midday. But it does have a jewel hidden in the back of the property where the Fort Jones Trail enters the only heavily wooded section of the property. It has some actual elevation change, lots of trees, and some good overlooks of the Hickman Creek valley. You can get a good overview of the Hickman Creek Nature and Conference Center from the second overlook.
I came to appreciate these trails as a great place to take my dog for a long hike. Originally I went there when I didn’t want to go all the way out to RRG. We went there quite a bit as he got older and couldn’t handle the RRG trails. We’d try to take the outside boundary of just about every trail to make one giant loop of a little over 4 miles. Now that he’s gone, I haven’t been out there as much. I know they’ve bought the property next door to the south, and have extended the Fort Jones Trail all the way over to the National Cemetery. I would assume they will be adding more trails over that way in the upcoming years.
– Don Perkins