Morgan-Monroe State Forest
Morgan-Monroe State Forest contains more than twenty-three thousand acres of wooded hills and ravines. The forest is home to wild turkey, ruffed grouse, pileated woodpeckers, and many kinds of wildflowers.
Bryant Creek Lake
It is also a less crowded alternative to Brown County State Park during the autumn leaf viewing season, though DNR permits hunting on the property during specified times. It also has a state-dedicated nature preserve and an impressive collection of hiking trails.
The Three Lakes Trail (perhaps misnamed since a 1993 levee failure drained Beanblossom Lake) is loop of just over ten miles. It starts and ends near Cherry Lake, and follows a roughly triangular path, with a lake (or former lake) at each vertex. The trail lies to the west and south of the forest headquarters. Though the tread is relatively flat along ridge lines or stream valleys, expect numerous climbs and descents, particularly as you cross from one ridge to another.
The Low Gap Trail is another ten mile loop; it extends east into the back country area, nearing Brown County. The DNR allows camping in the backcountry area and this is a favorite destination for backpackers. There is a fair amount of walking along gravel roads and ridge lines, but also some scenic stretches and a few stiff climbs. I recommend hiking this trail backwards to get most of the road walking out the way first. The Rock Shelter Trail is a three mile sub-loop of the Low Gap Trail that passes by interesting rock formations in Sweedy Hollow.
Scout Ridge Trail
Scout Ridge Nature Preserve is adjacent to the Youth Campground. A 2 mile loop begins behind the shelter house, descends to follow the course of an intermittent stream through a scenic valley, and then climbs back to the start, past large beech trees. The Illinois glacier stopped here more than 100,000 years ago.
There are several other trails. The Tree Identification Trail is an easy one mile loop that starts near the forest headquarters. The Mason Ridge Trail (about 3 miles) shadows the main forest road and shares about half its tread with the Low Gap Trail. The forest is also the northern terminus of the Tecumseh Trail, a forty-two mile link to Brown County State Park that hiking advocates hope will someday comprise the northern third of the greater Knobstone Trail.
Morgan County and Monroe County. From the intersection of IN 37 and IN 39 south of Martinsville, south 3.7 miles on IN 37, then left 3.0 miles on Old SR 37 to the forest entrance on the left.
North 39 19.620 West 86 28.340
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Water, shelter houses, pit toilets, primitive camping.
Nearby Natural Areas
Bloom: Hiking Indiana; Page 140, 144
Habeck: Wild Indiana; Page 104
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
McPherson: Indiana Best Hikes; Page 316
McPherson: Nature Walks in Southern Indiana; Page 188