Morgan-Monroe State Forest advisories
- Beginning on or shortly after March 1, 2024, access to Cherry Lake dam will be restricted for needed repairs to the dam. Once all repairs are completed, the area will reopen. We apologize for the inconvenience.
- Hatfield Ridge Road is a gated road that is open only Sept. 1 through Dec. 1, weather permitting, and April 1 through May 30.
Morgan-Monroe State Forest encompasses more than 25,000 acres in Morgan and Monroe counties in south-central Indiana. The forest land encompasses many steep ridges and valleys and is forested with some of the state's finest hardwoods.
The original settlers of the area cleared and attempted to farm the ridges, but were frustrated by rocky soil unsuitable for agriculture. The state purchased the eroded, abandoned land to create Morgan-Monroe State Forest beginning in 1929.
The forest is located southwest of Indianapolis, 35 miles south from Interstate 465 via State Road 37 (five miles south of Martinsville or 16 miles northeast of Bloomington-follow signs eight miles east of State Road 37.)
The office for the state forest was rededicated on May 10, 2019, after a four-year reconstruction. There are 17 unique wood species used in the 6,600 square foot structure. It houses many educational displays on topics such as property history, cultural and ecological features, wildlife, and forest management.
Primitive camping is available for a fee; campers must register for camping at the forest office. Mason Ridge Campground, located behind the fire tower north of the forest office, has vault toilets and seasonal drinking water available. There is a picnic table and grill located on each of the campground's 19 sites. On busy weekends, overflow camping is available at Oak Ridge Campground. Oak Ridge has 10 sites and the same facilities as Mason Ridge.
Scout Ridge Youth Tent Campground is available for scouts or other groups. The six sites in Scout Ridge Campground are larger than regular campground sites and there are several picnic tables and grills available. Scout Ridge Nature Preserve is located in this area.
Backcountry camping is available. All campers must register with State Forest Office via person, email at morgansf@dnr.IN.gov, at the kiosk, or phone (765-792-4654). Please note the phone is not recommended because the office is closed in evenings and on Sundays. Users must indicate the general region of planned camping. During periods of high fire danger the area may be closed by the property manager. Camping groups are restricted to either family units or groups not exceeding six persons. No campsite may be established within ¼ mile of access points into the area. Use of the area is restricted to a maximum of three nights by any individual. Morgan-Monroe State Forest has a carry-in, carry-out trash policy, i.e., what you carry in you must carry out. Additionally, the backcountry area is restricted to only minimal-impact camping/hiking in order to preserve the natural state of Morgan-Monroe State Forest.
- Oak Ridge campground is closed Jan. 1 through March 31.
- Scout Ridge campground is closed Jan. 1 through March 31. Special requests can be made during this period through the forest office.
- Marson Ridge campground is open year-round.
Water is shut off at all campgrounds and shelters Oct. 31 and turned on in March as weather permits. A year-round hydrant is located southeast of the main office.
Small campfires are allowed while backcountry camping, but the DNR recommends using a portable backpacking stove for cooking instead of a campfire. A portable stove will cook your meal long before a fire is ready. Another advantage is that it helps prevent fire-blackened rocks in areas where people camp. If using a campfire, make sure a campfire is allowed during the time of your trip. Different properties may have different rules regarding campfires. Even properties that generally allow campfires may ban them on a temporary basis because of dry conditions. Use only small dead and downed wood where permitted. Do not break or cut tree limbs or trees, even dead ones. Dead trees provide habitat for many birds and animals. Do not stockpile wood. While this was once considered a friendly gesture in remote areas, today it is one more way of reducing the spirit of solitude and independence that people seek when backcountry camping. Any campfire in a backcountry area should be in a pit 12 inches or less in diameter, and a 3-foot diameter area should be cleared to mineral soil around the fire. Before leaving an area where a campfire was built, mix ashes with the soil (100% extinguished), fill the pit, and cover the cleared area with the humus layer that was originally removed.
Draper Cabin is a primitive, wooden-floored log cabin that takes visitors 100 years back in time to the days before electricity, vehicles and modern plumbing. Reservations for the cabin are accepted from the first weekend in April to the weekend before Thanksgiving. The cabin may be rented on a day by day basis, depending on weather conditions, during the winter. Click here for rental information and a picture of the cabin .
Cherry Lake Lodge
Nestled deep in Morgan-Monroe State Forest you’ll find the solitude you seek, while still having a comfortable bed in which to sleep, hot and cold running water, indoor restroom and shower, and full kitchen facilities. This recently renovated lodge is everything you’d expect in a woodland retreat at a very affordable rental rate. It’s a place where the whole family can explore the woods all day, and relax to a warm fire at night. Click here for rental information and rates.
Forestry Training Center
As recently as 2011, this was an old storage building. Nestled in the middle of Morgan-Monroe State Forest, this now beautifully renovated facility features state-of-the-art technology surrounded by warm Indiana native hardwood paneling. The center can be rented by any organization or agency whose mission is related to managing and conserving Indiana’s natural resources.
- Usage guide and rates
- Forest Training Center Policy form 56845
- View interactive floor plan and photos
Three forest lakes, Bryant Creek Lake (9 acres), Cherry Lake (4 acres) and Prather Lake (4 acres) are all open to fishing; a valid Indiana fishing license is required. Boat ramps are located on Bryants Creek and Cherry Lakes; boat motors are limited to electric trolling motors only. Beanblossom Lake drained when the levee failed after several days of heavy rain in November 1993. Swimming is not permitted in any of the lakes.
Panning for gold is permitted on Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forests. A gold panning permit is required! The permit, which can be obtained free of charge, allows for panning gold on a hobby basis. The displacement of any material through use of a pick, shovel or sluice is not allowed due to concern for water quality. Archaeological evidence found, such as projectile points, pottery or bones must be reported to the Forest Office to determine if a major archaeological site is in the vicinity. To obtain a permit, visit or call the Forest Office at 765-342-4026.
Pursuit of all legal game during designated Indiana hunting seasons is allowed with a valid hunting license issued by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (and applicable stamp privileges, federal stamps or permits, and HIP number). Trapping is only authorized in designated areas and by permit only. Contact the property manager for details. Hikers are advised to wear hunter orange or other bright clothing while on trails during hunting season.
- Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forest hunting map north
- Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood State Forest hunting map south
Several picnic areas and picnic shelters are available for day use. Picnic shelters are located at Cherry Lake, Bryant Creek Lake and Scout Ridge Campground. The Walls Picnic Shelter with a large picnic area and playground is located at the junction of Forest Road and Beanblossom Road. Shelter houses can be reserved online. Visit camp.IN.gov for pricing and reservations. For more information on shelter use please call Morgan-Monroe State Forest office at 795-792-4654. Other picnic areas, with picnic tables and grills, are located throughout the forest.
All trails are loops, except the 40-mile Tecumseh Trail, which follows part of the Low Gap Trail. Trails are marked with numbered posts, decals on posts, or painted blazes (double blazes indicate a turn). The Tecumseh Trail is marked with T at trail intersections. Horses, bikes, and ATVs are prohibited on hiking trails. Short trails that are not listed below connect the campground and office parking area to hiking trails.
- Tree Identification Trail – 1 mile, easy
The trailhead is located at the forest office parking area. This trail includes 26 labeled trees, and an identification booklet is available at the forest office. This trail follows part of the shoreline of Cherry Lake
- Pathfinder Orienteering Trail - .5 mile, easy
The trailhead is located south of Scout Ridge Campground. Grab a compass and follow the course through the forest to find all the points. Booklets may be picked up at the office.
- Scout Ridge Nature Trail - .6 mile, moderate
The trailhead is located behind the shelter house at Scout Ridge Campground. An information booklet is available at the forest headquarters. This half-mile trail winds through the15-acre nature preserve, which is mostly dominated by beech and maple. Glacial boulders can be found along the stream bed.
- Three Lakes Trail – 9.5 miles, rugged
Trailheads are located at Cherry Lake Shelter and at Bryant Creek Lake Shelter. This trail loops around the property’s three original lakes. Cherry Lake and Bryant Creek Lake are still intact. The third lake, Bean Blossom Lake, was drained when the levee failed after several days of heavy rain in November 1993. This trail has a lot of elevation change.
- Mason Ridge Trail – 2.7 miles, moderate
This trail loops along each side of Main Forest Road and follows Mason Ridge with little elevation change. Trailheads are located at Orcutt Road and Landram Ridge on Main Forest Road.
- Rock Shelter Trail – 3 miles, moderate
This loop trail follows along a rocky creek bed for about a mile and leads to a large rock shelter along the trail. Along the trail you will also find a small wildlife pond. The trailhead is on Forest Road at Landram Ridge. The trail follows the first part of Low Gap Trail.
- Low Gap Trail – 9.8 miles, rugged
This is the only trail that loops through the Back Country Area, east of Low Gap Road, where overnight backpack camping is permitted. The trailhead is located along Forest Road just east of the turn for Bean Blossom Road and the Wall Picnic Shelter. Although there is no fee for camping, you must register at the forest office before camping in the Back Country Area.
- Tecumseh Trail – 40 miles, rugged
This long-distance trail incorporates several existing trails at Morgan-Monroe and Yellowwood state forests. The trail follows ridge tops, climbs into and out of numerous peaceful wild hollows, and crosses many streams. Camping is allowed along the trail and in its three shelters in accordance with the rules posted on the managing properties’ respective websites under “Camping.” Camping is allowed along the trail following some basic rules posted on their webpage under camping. The shelters are included.
- Hike-Bike Trail – 5.2 miles, easy
This ADA-accessible paved path starts at the forestry office and winds through forest before ending at the Bryant Creek shelter house.
- Tree Identification Trail – 1 mile, easy
- Photos & Videos