Looking for a location to backpack within a few hours of Cincinnati, but want to try something new instead of returning to Zaleski State Forest, Shawnee State Forest or Red River Gorge? The Charles Deam Wilderness is worth a try.
Encompassing nearly 13,000 acres in south central Indiana, The Deam Wilderness is located within Hoosier National Forest and boosts 37 miles of trails. It also touches Lake Monroe; the largest man-made body of water within the state.
Taking advantage of a recent break in the weather, I headed out to Deam to see the area for myself. The area offers a number of camping options including the state park, private campgrounds and National Forest camping, but I was looking to backpack.
Parking at the Grubb Ridge Trailhead the footpath is starts out relatively flat and well maintained. Horses share most of the trails in Deam Wilderness, but the damage seemed minimal as I hiked in rather dry conditions. A few wildflowers and blooming redbuds and dogwoods brightened the views and, once on Peninsula Trail, the overlooks of Lake Monroe were pretty impressive.
Heading generally downhill, the just under 5 miles to camping on the shore of the lake was completed at an easy pace in a little over two hours. There are several lakefront sites to choose from. It is obvious that the area is popular with both hikers and boaters however, and the area was suffering from an abundance of litter left by previous occupants. The usual beer cans were joined by a couple abandoned, broken tents and even an old pair of boots to mar an otherwise beautiful spot. Despite signs of misuse though, there were still some nice options to pitch a tent or two and downed wood for a fire was abundant. Other than wishing I had packed a fishing rod, I was pretty happy with the situation.
In the morning the rain had returned and it didn’t take long for conditions to become pretty sloppy at times. Despite being wet, the trails were worth the hike. The Hickory Ridge Fire Tower, at 110 feet tall, gives some great views of the area. Terrill Ridge Trail leads to some excellent campsites near a pond and the Sycamore Trail provides around five miles of horse free footpath. All in all, a nice alternative for a weekend trip from the “usual” backpacking enjoyed Cincinnati area campers.
For a PDF map of the area, click here, then click on the Charles Deam Wilderness.