Hoosier National Forest protects more than 200,000 acres of land in south central Indiana. The forest is bounded by the Ohio River to the south. Hickory, oak, walnut and hemlock trees densely cover the hills, ridges and valleys of the forest.
The forest has more than 200 miles of multi-use trails open for horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking. Primitive, basic, electric and equestrian camps are available throughout the forest. Trails lead to box canyons, rock shelters, caves and seasonal waterfalls at Hemlock Cliffs, and at Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest, a short trail goes through an 88-acre old-growth forest. Hunting is allowed in some areas. Four stocked lakes along Highway 37 in the southern part of the forest offer tranquil fishing and boating opportunities. The Ohio River is popular boating and for catfish, bass and crappie fishing.
During the fall and spring, scenic drives showcase the forest's colors. Several areas, like Buzzard Roost along the Ohio River, are designated as wildlife viewing sites and offer the best opportunities to see birds, deer and other forest animals. Southern sections of the forest and views of the Ohio River valley can be seen along the Ohio River Scenic Byway. This route continues east and west following the river toward Ohio and Illinois and passing through historic river towns and farmland.
Two big lakes border the forest, 10,750-acre Lake Monroe, in the northern section of the forest and 8,800-acre Patoka Lake in the central section. Marinas at both lakes offer houseboat and other recreational boat rentals. Resorts and state recreational areas provide lodging and access to the lakes. Other popular lake activities include sailboating, waterskiing, fishing and birding.
Other nearby natural attractions include several caves, Bluesprings Caverns, south of Bedford and U.S. National Landmark caves, Marengo Cave in Marengo, and Wyandotte Caves near Carefree. Skiing is available at Ski World Ski Area east of Bloomington and Ski Paoli Peaks Ski Area in Paoli.
Towns in the forest area offer antiques, golf courses and wineries. Just north of Patoka Lake, renovations to the French Lick Springs Resort and Casino and West Baden Springs Hotel, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, are bringing new life to this historic resort area. At the Indiana Railway Museum in French Lick visitors can take train rides through the forest.
Hoosier National Forest is 51 miles south of Indianapolis. It is accessible via Interstate Highway 64, U.S. Highways 50 and 150 and State Highway 37. National chain hotels can be found in Bloomington, Columbus and Bedford. Other lodging options in the area include bed and breakfasts, resorts and camping.