Morgan-Monroe State Forest spans more than 24,000 acres and its rugged, undeveloped landscape makes it a haven for hikers and backcountry campers. Accommodations in the forest are rustic at best, so anyone whose idea of camping involves sitting in an RV with all the comforts of home should look elsewhere. But for those of us who want a real wilderness experience, Morgan-Monroe State Forest is ideal.
The Mason Ridge Campground is the main campground in Morgan-Monroe State Forest, with 19 primitive campsites. The smaller Oak Ridge Campground has 10 sites that are used for overflow camping when the Mason Ridge Campground fills up. RVs are permitted at the campgrounds, but the shady setting and minimal amenities make the campsites better suited to tents and small pop-up campers. Grills and picnic tables are included at each campsite, and all visitors have access to vault toilets and drinking water. The campsites do not include hookups of any kind.
Into the Backcountry
If you really want to get away from it all, backcountry camping is permitted throughout a large portion of Morgan-Monroe State Forest. Accessible only on foot, the backcountry area is a densely wooded section of the forest where hikers and backpackers can pitch a tent overnight at any suitable spot. No amenities of any kind are provided, so visitors must bring all necessary supplies with them -- including food and water -- and leave no trace of their presence when they leave. You can reach the backcountry area by following the Low Gap Trail for about 4 miles, although a parking area on Low Gap Road allows you to get there with a much shorter hike.
Lots To See and Do
Hiking is one of the main activities at Morgan-Monroe State Forest, and if you plan on camping in the backcountry, there's no getting around doing at least a little bit of hiking. The Low Gap Trail begins at the forest headquarters and loops through 10 miles of dense forest before returning to its starting point. Some of the terrain is quite strenuous, and shorter hikes are available on the Mason Ridge and Rock Shelter trails. Three small lakes in the state forest are open to fishing and boating -- electric motors and non-powered craft only -- and several picnic areas and shelters provide a place to stop for lunch.
Know Before You Go
All camping in Morgan-Monroe State Forest is strictly first-come, first-served. A fee is charged to stay at the Mason Ridge or Oak Ridge Campground, and you must register and pay at the forest office upon arrival. Backcountry camping is free of charge, but you still must register at the office before setting up camp. The campground can get busy on summer weekends, so consider visiting on a weekday or during the off-season if you want solitude. Camping is available year-round, but drinking water is turned off in the winter. Season dates vary; current information is available on the Indiana Department of Natural Resources website.