There are several natural areas in Indiana named after Charles C. Deam, Indiana’s first State Forester. But there’s only one “The Deam” – the only federally designated wilderness area in Indiana. It occupies about twenty square miles on the south side of Monroe Lake. 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 relatively close to Bloomington and Indiana University, and nice weather can bring out lots of people.
There are more than thirty miles of trails in The Deam and all, except for portions of the Sycamore Loop, permit horses. The Forest Service also allows camping on most of the property (exceptions apply; see posted information at the trailheads for the latest information as well as trail maps should you wish to carry one with you) 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.
My two favorite trails, the Peninsula Trail and the Sycamore Loop, get detailed treatment elsewhere. My experience on the others is more limited, but the Cope Hollow Trail is appealing, especially if you have time to hike it as an out-and-back. I’ve found the alternative, returning via a portion of the Grubb Ridge Trail, a hit-or-miss proposition because the constant stream of vehicles passing along the virtually adjacent Tower Ridge Road kicks up so much dust that virtually everything is coated with it.
Directions: Monroe County and Brown 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.