Holy Outdoor Trails!


Enjoying our outdoor time on beautiful days has led us to hike and explore some amazing spiritual sites nearby Louisville.

We have done day trips to three, local, outdoor, spiritual grounds for hiking. I feel like we could have spent an hour or a whole day at each location.

Hiking at Abbey of Gethsemani, Mount St. Francis Sanctuary, and Monastery of the Immaculate Conception is great for outdoor exercise and exploring. I have one child who loves to walk trails, and one child who hates any form of physical exercise. But both children seem to love visiting the nearby abbeys and monasteries.
Abbey of Gethsemani
Our first, outdoor spiritual stop was at Abbey of Gethsemani. The Abbey of Gethsemani is a monastery near Bardstown, Kentucky. The Abbey of Gethsemani is considered to be the founding location for all Trappist monasteries in the United States. Founded in 1848, Gethsemani is also the oldest monastery in the United States that is still operating.
Abbey of Gethsemani
The Trappist monks live a contemplative life of faithful prayer and work. They are often quiet, in constant prayer. We were careful not to make too much noise on the grounds near the Abbey while visiting, and no pets are allowed.

While on the grounds, we looked at the tombstones dating back to the 1800’s. We sat in the bench areas, and enjoyed watching a family with little kids have a picnic in the grass nearby. Incidentally, you will pass a number of fast food restaurants on your way to the Abbey if you want to bring a “picnic” lunch to eat on the grounds on the spur of the moment.

The monastery is situated on a working farm where the monks support themselves and the abbey through its store, Gethsemani Farms, offering products like handmade bourbon fruitcake and bourbon fudge. (While the visitor center and store are closed during COVID, you can still order their products online).

The Abbey of Gethsemani has a whopping 2,000 acres, much of which is open to the public to walk and explore. The trails, woodlands and expansive fields are wonderful for quiet walks and reflection. There are several hiking trails – some nice and flat, some uphill, but some are quite a walk.

There is a place for trail maps on a sign by the Abbey parking lot, but when we went, there were no maps left in the box. Surprisingly, I had enough signal to pull the trail map up on my phone throughout our walk, however, you may want to print them out before you go. The trails are well marked and easy to follow, but you may end up walking for longer than you intend if you don’t check a map.

To start your hike, park your car at the Abbey and walk across the street from the main Abbey location. You can climb the first two hills and enjoy a seat overlooking the beauty of the surrounding fields. Then take the Road to Hanekamp’s, past Edmond Lake to a Marked Foot Path – Scenic Route, to the Path to Statues. It can be a REALLY long hike if you’re not careful. I recommend using a map or site like AllTrails while hiking.

Our next spiritual stop was Mount St. Francis Sanctuary and Center for Spirituality near Floyd Knobs, Indiana. 
Mount St. Francis Sanctuary
With nearly 400 acres, this multipurpose facility has nature trails, fields, and a lake open to the public. The main lake trail is under 2 miles and an easy hike (there are other paths that are longer and more difficult). Maps available inside the rotunda, or again, print them in advance, or use a site like AllTrails, however, the trails are well marked and easy to follow.
Mount St. Francis Sanctuary
While we were there, we saw numerous people hiking, walking their dogs, doing photo shoots, and picnicking. It’s a wonderful location for exercise or rest.

There are lots of statues, shrines, and other areas of interest on the Mount Saint Francis grounds. We grabbed a grounds map and made sure to visit each point of interest. My kids enjoyed finding statues on the trails and grounds like a scavenger hunt, and barely realized all of the exercise they were getting at the same time.

Mount St. Francis Sanctuary Our last, outdoor spiritual location was the Monastery of the Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, Indiana. This monastery had some great community events before COVID, and I can’t wait for them to return.
Mount St. Francis Sanctuary
The Monastery of the Immaculate Conception is known as the “Castle on the Hill.” The Monastery, founded in 1867, is home to one of the nation’s largest group of Benedictine women. The distinctive, Romanesque dome rises majestically over the town of Ferdinand, standing at 87 feet from the floor and 32 and a half feet in diameter. Throughout the church, 89 angels are present, 16 of which are depicted in stained glass windows surrounding the dome.

Initially, the Benedictine sisters who came to Ferdinand came to teach the children of area settlers. Now the Sisters serve as teachers, social workers, parish ministers, counselors, nurses, youth ministers, chaplains, librarians, and more in the community.

The sisters’ “Simply Divine Bakery” produces a variety of bake goods according to traditional German recipes, and they are sold in the monastery gift shop. There is also a kitchen garden. The gift shop items can be shipped until the gift shop is open to visitors again after COVID.
St. Benedict’s Brew Works is located on the Monastery grounds as well with a slogan of “Pray, Work, Brew.” While it is not open during COVID, it’s a fun bar to grab a drink if the kids aren’t with you for a visit.

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