There are times in life when we need to step outside, get some fresh air, stretch our legs and find some peace and solitude. We have a hidden gem right here in Hendricks County, Indiana, that will help with that: Burnett Woods Nature Preserve in Avon.

Located on County Road 100 South, just east of Dan Jones Road, Burnett Woods is an 80-acre Indiana State Dedicated Nature Preserve that is owned and maintained by the Central Indiana Land Trust. Their purchase of the land was made possible by a gift from Ruth Burnett.

Burnett Woods is chock full of black walnut, oak, hickory, maple and tulip poplar trees, which provide lots of shade in the summer and display rich, beautiful color in the fall. It's also full of native wildflowers -- such as wild geranium, woodland phlox, prairie trillium and toad-shade trillium -- and shrubs that provide a different kind of beauty in the spring.

A couple of small, slow-moving creeks also pass through the property.

One fine day, my daughters and I ventured into Avon to explore Burnett Woods. We found the best option is to park at the Avon Light and Life Free Methodist Church located at 8264 E. County Road 100 South in Avon. Park behind the church next to the softball diamond and walk in a southeast direction across the grass toward the road. You'll run right into the entrance to Burnett Woods.

No Invasive Plants, Please Woodland phlox is a colorful -- and native -- wildflower that can be found in Burnett Woods.

Before you start hiking, there is a boot brush station asking visitors to wipe their shoes before progressing further into the nature preserve. That seemed like an odd request, since it's an outdoor trail, but a sign at the station explains why it's so important to clean your shoes. It keeps seeds from invasive plants like Japanese Stilt Grass and Garlic Mustard from being introduced to the habitat.

Why are invasive plants bad? I'm glad you asked. 

Native plants are plants that have naturally existed in an area without having been introduced by humans. They have been here for thousands of years, forming symbiotic relationships with the native wildlife.

Native plants thrive in the soil and climate of our area, and they are a vital source of food and shelter for native animals, birds, insects, etc. There are additional ecological benefits to native plants, too, if you're interested in delving into the subject matter.

Invasive plants come into an area and use up the space, light and nutrients of native plants without providing the same benefits. They spread quickly and choke out the native plants. Some common invasive plants that we're constantly battling in the parks where I work include multiflora rose, garlic mustard and honeysuckle. 

So, keeping this in mind, my daughters and I dutifully wiped our shoes on the boot brush before heading into the woods. 

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What You'll Find Burnett Woods

We discovered there are two trails in Burnett Woods: a half-mile blue trail and a 0.9-mile red trail. Both trails are loops, so there is only one entrance and exit to the nature preserve.

We opted for the blue trail loop. The trail is well-marked with blue dots painted on a few trees along the way, as well as signage that keeps hikers going in the right direction.

The blue trail is a flat, easy walk filled with brilliant colors of foliage if you visit in the fall. The multiple types of trees provide a wide array of yellows, red and oranges that envelop you as you walk.

Since our initial visit, I have been back several times and hiked the red trail, too, which is just as beautiful.

As you progress through the woods, the traffic sounds fade away and the peaceful sounds of nature take over. We saw squirrels and chipmunks as we hiked, and we discovered several different animal tracks.

It was a fun walk through the woods, and my daughters enjoyed it, too.

Improvements Coming My favorite time to visit Burnett Woods is in the fall.

In December 2022, the Central Indiana Land Trust announced that they received $12,000 in grant money from the American Rescue Plan Act, administered by the Hendricks County Community Foundation. 

This money will fund improvements to Burnett Woods that include improved signage and bolstered infrastructure in the form of boardwalks, bike racks and a kiosk.

These improvements will make an already fantastic property even better, so keep an eye out for them when you visit Burnett Woods!