Morgan-Monroe State Forest advisories
- Note: If you are planning a trip to Morgan-Monroe State Forest, you should call ahead to the forest office at 765-342-4026 to determine the best route. Construction on State Road 37 as part of the Interstate 69 project has affected access to some roads into the forest.
Morgan-Monroe State Forest encompasses more than 24,000 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 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, phone (765-792-4654), or sign-in sheet at kiosk. 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 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.
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.
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.
Whitetail deer, ruffed grouse, turkey, squirrel, fox, and raccoon. A valid hunting license is required. Hikers are advised to wear hunter orange or other bright clothing while on trails during hunting season.
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. Use of all shelterhouses is on a first-come, first-served basis; reservations are not accepted. There is no charge to use the picnic shelters. The picnic shelter at Beanblossom Lake is closed.
Other picnic areas, with picnic tables and grills, are located throughout the forest.
The following trails are near the Forest Office and Mason Ridge campground.
Scout Ridge Nature Preserve
- Trail -1/2 mile
- Tree Identification Trail - 2/3 mile
- Tree Identification Booklet
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.)
- Rock Shelter Loop - 3 miles (moderate)
Scenic trail. Departs from the Low Gap Trail parking area.
- Mason Ridge Loop - 2.7 miles (moderate)
Trail circles the main forest road. Pick up trail at the Orcutt Road parking area near the Forest Office, or at the Low Gap Trail trailhead.
- Three Lakes Trail - 10 miles (rugged)
Connects Cherry, Beanblossom and Bryants Creek Lakes. Trailheads are located at the south end of Cherry Lake and at Bryants Creek Lake shelter.
- Low Gap Trail - 10 miles (rugged)
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 Beanblossom 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. For a detailed map of the back country area, obtain a Morgan-Monroe State Forest trail map or purchase a topographical map of the Hindustan quad.
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