“Hoosier” favorite camping experts?
Sorry. Bad joke. But if you’re looking for information on Hoosier National Forest camping, then we promise we’ll make this worth the pun. Let’s go over everything you need to know!
What to Expect in Hoosier National Forest
Hoosier National Forest is one of the smaller national forests out there, but that doesn’t make exploring it any less exciting.
If anything, its size makes it more easily traversed, especially for backpacking enthusiasts.
You can expect to encounter beautiful, sprawling trails, plenty of opportunities for water-based fun, and great hunting and fishing available to you!
The biggest thing to keep in mind on your Hoosier National Forest camping trip is the potential for closures and restrictions.
Check the list of “Active Forest Orders” to stay up-to-date on what to expect from your stay.
This list will keep you apprised of trail closures, fire and firewood requirements and restrictions, and other changes to the national forest experience.
While Hoosier National Forest camping doesn’t have too many rules, make sure you’re following the guidelines put in place.
Hoosier National Forest Camping
Best Season(s) to Visit
Avoid camping in Hoosier National Forest in the winter. Trust us, Indiana winters are not camper-friendly!
Spring and fall are the best seasons to schedule a Hoosier National Forest camping trip. If you’re looking to experience the forest in all its autumnal glory, schedule your visit between the middle of September and the middle of October.
If spring growth is what you’re looking to experience, it’s best to visit in late April to May. Winter can cling to Indiana a little bit longer than you’d expect.
If you choose winter camp, be sure to bring the proper equipment. Always err on the side of caution when it comes to staying warm. The bragging rights that come with camping through an Indiana winter aren’t worth hypothermia or frostbite.
Best Spots for RV Camping
Tipsaw Lake Recreation Area is the best choice for RV camping in Hoosier National Forest.
You can book electric-only sites or electric and water sites.
If you have a boat with an electric motor, you can take it out on the lake. You can also paddle-board and fish.
If you’re not much of a waterbug, you can try your hand (or boots!) at hiking instead. There’s a hiking trail that loops around the lake. It’s nearly six miles in length, but it’s considered a beginner-level hike.
Best Spots for Group Camping
Tipsaw Lake is also the place to go for group camping in Hoosier National Forest. There are two loops allocated to group camping: Goldenrod Loop and Primrose Loop. Both can accommodate up to 65 individuals across six sites.
While water and vault toilets are provided on the actual sites, a quick jaunt into the main campground will give you access to showers.
There is only one electrical hookup in Goldenrod, and you won’t find any in Primrose.
Best Spots for Remote Camping
Hoosier National Forest is much more relaxed when it comes to remote (or “dispersed”) camping than other national forests.
Pretty much any area in the forest is remote-camping friendly. You aren’t even required to check in if you’re only planning an overnight stay!
You can check the USDA website to find out which areas do not permit remote Hoosier National Forest camping.
If you plan to remote camp in the national forest, please be respectful! Leave No Trace principles apply. Do your best to leave your site just as pristine as it was when you found it.
You will only need a permit for remote camping in Hoosier National Forest if you have a group that exceeds 75 people.
Best Spots for Cabin Camping
If tent camping isn’t for you, and you don’t have access to an RV…no worries!
Hoosier National Forest has two cabins you can choose to rent. It’s the best of both worlds—the rustic atmosphere of camping with the comfort of a roof over your head!
While you won’t find flush toilets in these cabins, you will have electricity. A vault toilet is available, as well as running water in the cabin.
These cabins are located in Hardin Ridge Recreation Area. They’re built directly on Lake Monroe, allowing for easy access to swimming, fishing, and other water activities.
If you’re all right with a bit of a hike to reach the lake, you can also book cabins at Lake Monroe Village.
If you’re more of a glamper, you can stay at Soaring Eagle Cabin, which overlooks Lake Monroe and includes all the modern amenities you could ask for!
Things to Do While Camping in Hoosier National Forest
Whether you’re a novice hiker or an experienced adventure-seeker, hiking through the Hoosier National Forest is a treat.
With 27 trails that wind through the forest, you’ll be able to choose from a wide range of difficulties. Whether you’re a solo hiker or a parent with kids, you’ll be able to find a suitable trail to take on!
If you’re seeking easier trails for beginners, start out with the Saddle Lake Loop or the Monroe Trail.
If you’re looking for a bigger challenge but aren’t quite ready to take on expert-level trails, try the Nebo Ridge Trail.
Do you scoff at the idea of anything less than a limit-testing trail expedition? Then you’re going to want to take the Grubb Ridge Bottoms Trail to the Peninsula Trail.
Horseback Riding and Mountain Biking
If you want to explore the trails in style, you’ll be thrilled to hear that horseback riding and mountain biking are permitted on most trails that wind through Hoosier.
However, there are a couple of catches:
- You need a permit if you want to bike or ride the trails rather than hike.
- There are no rentals available. If you want to ride horseback, you must BYOH—bring your own horse. The same goes for mountain biking.
Fishing and Hunting
Hoosier National Forest camping isn’t complete without a bit of fishing.
Though you will need an Indiana fishing permit, you can fish just about anywhere in the forest.
Lake Monroe is a favorite fishing location, as is Sundance Lake. You can catch bluegill, largemouth bass, channel catfish, and several other fish species.
Hoosier National Forest is also a hunter’s haven. There’s no check-in required; all you need is a hunting license!
Good news—you need not worry about predators such as bears or mountain lions during your Hoosier National Forest camping trip! The biggest thing in this forest is the white-tailed deer.
That said, you’ll still want to properly bag up your trash and store your food. Possums, raccoons, and other uninvited visitors might otherwise turn up at your campsite.
What is the biggest worry you need to remember while camping in Hoosier National Forest? A duo of “poisons” growing amongst the foliage.
Poison ivy and poison sumac are both prolific in the forest. Trust us, nothing will ruin your camping trip faster than an unbearable itchy rash.
When hiking, wearing long pants to protect your skin from accidental exposure is best.
Try not to wander off the trails; this increases your risk of encountering these plants.
Make Sure to Bring
When packing for your Hoosier National Forest camping expedition, be sure to bring along…
- Calamine lotion in case of poison ivy or poison sumac exposure
- Long pants
- Hiking boots
- Sunscreen—if you think itching is bad, you definitely don’t want to suffer soreness and blisters
- More water than you think you’ll need. You’ll especially want to do this if you’re remote camping or camping during the warmer months
Get Ready To Hike Through Hoosier!
Now you’re equipped with everything you need for a successful Hoosier National Forest camping trip! To discover more national forest destinations to explore, check out the rest of our national forest camping guides!