Hiking has steadily risen in popularity over the last four years, according to statista.com, a website that tracks statistics from over 18,000 sources. Bloomington and its surrounding areas offer an abundance of quality hiking trails that are suitable for a novice or expert.
“For Indiana, and even for the Midwest, you could not get anywhere better to hike than Bloomington,” IU freshman Adam Diersing said.
Diersing worked over the summer as a member of the Ohio River Foundation’s conservation team, helping to build and maintain trails in Hoosier National Forest, which offers many hiking areas for college students.
One of the best hiking trails offered at Hoosier National Forest is the Pate Hollow Trail, according to alltrails.com, a hiking recommendation website. The trail, which runs in a loop along the northern part of Lake Monroe, stretches 5.8 miles and offers challenging elevation and is dog friendly, according to alltrails.com.
Diersing said one should consider the different accommodations trails have when picking a hike, such as being dog friendly or offering free camping. Furthermore, James Farmer, assistant professor of outdoor recreation, said one should also consider the popularity and traffic of the trail.
“I would point to finding a spot where you will run into as few people as possible in order to just be in and with nature, to listen, to observe and to reflect,” Farmer said.
One area that typically offers this tranquility is the Charles C. Deam Wilderness, Diersing said. Located about 20 miles southeast of Bloomington, the Deam Wilderness offers a less crowded hike than other popular areas, Diersing said.
In addition to having free camping, this section of land offers quality hikes varying from a few miles, such as the 7.9 mile Sycamore Loop Trail, to overnight hikes, such as the Peninsula Trail, which boasts an elevation gain of 1,253 feet, according to alltrails.com.
For hikes closer to campus, look no further than Griffy Lake. Located about 10 minutes north of IU, Griffy Lake has hikes for those looking for a more moderate pace. With nine trails totaling over 11 miles, Griffy Lake is perfect for those looking for a short drive and quick hike. Furthermore, the area is open year-round and allows dogs as long as they are kept on a leash, according to the City of Bloomington's website.
For a shorter, more relaxed hike that still offers scenic views, hikers may try Wolf Cave Trail, located within McCormick’s Creek State Park in Spencer, Indiana. The trail, which is only 30 minutes northwest of Bloomington, loops around a number of sinkholes, caves and creeks. It only has an elevation gain of 193 feet, according to McCormick's Creek's website.
Additionally, Diersing said trails within state parks such as McCormick's Creek tend to have more trees and scenery.
“State parks are generally more intact than state forests because state forests harvest their trees on the trails,” Diersing said.
For the more experienced hiker, Morgan-Monroe State Forest near Martinsville, Indiana, offers some challenging trails with rewarding views. One such hike is the Low Gap Trail, a ten mile loop trail known for its scenic wildflowers. The trail also offers free camping for visitors and allows dogs as long as they are on a leash, according to Hoosier Hikers Council.
In addition to these trails, other areas such as Brown County State Park and Yellowwood State Forest offer a variety of hikes popular among Bloomington residents.
“Whether you are looking for a lazy afternoon stroll or a three to four day backpacking trip, South-Central Indiana has fantastic options,” Farmer said.
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