The Deam Wilderness is the only federally-designated Wilderness Area in Indiana. It includes about twenty square miles on the south side of Lake Monroe. This is not the sort of pristine wilderness available out west. There is, after all, a road running through it, and there are signs of the former inhabitants everywhere.
But it’s what we’ve got and we’ll take it, often in large numbers. The Deam is close to Bloomington and Indiana University, and nice weather can bring out lots of people.
The Forest Service allows camping on most of the property (exceptions apply; see posted information at the trailheads for the latest information) and that makes the Deam a favorite of local backpackers. Designated campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but the Forest Service generally permits off-trail camping in the rest of the wilderness.
There are numerous footpaths, but two are favorites.
The Peninsula Trail begins at the Grubb Ridge parking area and proceeds north and west for nearly five miles, finally ending near the tip of a peninsula that juts into Monroe Lake.
Campsites dot the northern and western shores of the peninsula, and this is a very popular weekend spot during the warmer months. However, during a late-October weeknight trip I appeared to have the place to myself, and enjoyed a great sunset, views of the Milky Way, and a chorus of coyotes somewhere in the distance.
Flat stones line Monroe Lake’s shore – they’re great for skipping - and the sound of the waves striking and jostling the rocks has a certain tranquilizing effect.
On the way back you’ll need to regain the three or four hundred feet of elevation you lost getting here, but overall the hike is not terribly strenuous and it works as either a long day hike or a short overnight expedition.
Access to the Sycamore Loop is from the Hickory Ridge trailhead. The trailhead is a very popular stop in its own right because of a fire tower, which you can climb for views of the surrounding forest.
The Sycamore Loop somewhat resembles a capital “P”; the stem is an old forest road that leads north to the Terrill Cemetery. I prefer to get most of the road walking out of the way first and hike the 1.5 miles to the top of the “P” before turning right onto the main body of the trail.
The return leg is along intermittent Sycamore Creek; large sycamore trees fill the valley and there are several nice campsites.
Monroe County. From the intersection of IN 46 and IN 446, go south 12.3 miles on IN 446, then turn left on Tower Ridge Road. Proceed 4.3 miles to Grubb Ridge, or 6.1 miles to Hickory Ridge.
North 39 01.982 West 86 20.468
North 39 02.067 West 86 19.265
Nearby Natural Areas
Bloom: Hiking Indiana; Pages 189, 194, 196
Habeck: Wild Indiana; Page 108
McPherson: Indiana Best Hikes; Page 341
McPherson: Nature Walks in Southern Indiana; Page 341