More than 200,000 acres of forest and natural beauty are preserved at this huge Indiana park. The Hoosier National Forest is the largest Indiana attraction, and it’s only a short drive south of Indianapolis. This Hoosier park stretches into nine counties, and trees are seen inside the forest for miles and miles. Scenic views, ancient trees and riveting valleys make visitors feel at one with nature while hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, camping or simply exploring Hoosier National Forest in Bedford, Indiana. It’s perhaps the state’s best kept secret destination, making it a semi-private getaway for a day trip from Indianapolis.
Eighty-eight acres of old growth still stand as ‘virgin forest’ inside the park. Nature lovers are particularly attracted to the area in Paoli, called the Pioneer Mothers Memorial Forest. A few of the largest trees in the Crossroads of America can be seen here, some stretching more than 130 feet into the heavens. It’s hard for many to imagine now, but forests like the one preserved here once spanned the entire state. So what happened to all the supposed natural beauty? Most of the land was deforested before the Great Depression of the 1930s, because southern Indiana’s lumber business was booming in the mid and late 1800s. The land was exploited for farming too, but the hard times of the 30s sent most farm families packing.
Hoosier National Forest began in 1934, when the Indiana legislative encouraged the United States Forest Service to buy up the lands. today, the forest is owned by a few separate entities, including the Defense Department, county governments, the Army Corps Engineers, the state of Indiana and a few private owners.
Most of the park’s 10 campgrounds are open all year-round, but the best time to visit is Autumn. The leaves shout bright colors, the weather is fair and the southern Indiana drive is breathtaking when the fall begins. there is no shortage of picnic areas, covered shelters and scenic viewpoints inside the forest. Twenty-eight total trails are available, and together total up to 260 miles of biking, horseback riding or hiking opportunities. Other featured areas inside Hoosier National Forest are the 13,000 acre Charles Deam Wilderness, Hickory Ridge Lookout Tower, and a valley of waterfalls, rock shelter and sandstone formations called Hemlock Cliffs.
A day trip from Indy to the Hoosier National Forest offers endless fun for all ages. Spending longer than one day in the area? Nearby attractions include the Bill Monroe Memorial Music Park and Campground in Bean Blossom, the Southern Indiana Center for the Arts in Seymour and Clifty Falls State Park in Madison. Bloomington, Indiana is a super hip town close by that’s home to dozens of other attractions, such as the Wylie House Museum, Indiana University, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and the famous IU Art Museum.
The drive down to Bedford, Indiana is amazingly scenic all year long, featuring large roadside forests and rolling hills. It’s truly an escape from the Circle City, and all the hustle and bustle of downtown Indianapolis. The best part is, admission to the forest is absolutely free. For more information about activities and events at Hoosier National Forest, or to reserve your campsite, call the state park at 812.275.5987.
Hoosier National Forest
811 Constituion Avenue
Bedford, Indiana 47421