Hoosier National Forest in south-central Indiana has over 203,000 acres with rolling hills, beautiful lakes, hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, and fun playgrounds and picnic areas. In fact, the forest offers not just fun but education. Mano Point was once a prehistoric village and now it is an amazing picnicking site along the Ohio River. You can learn about the historic Buffalo Trace pathway, explore some spooky caves, and even climb some exciting cliffs if you are adventurous enough.
Take a float trip down the Little Blue or Lost River or go for a swim in Monroe Lake, which is the biggest lake in the state. Grab your kayak or canoe and a fishing pole and head out on one of the lakes to try and catch a fish dinner. You can also take a walk or a long hike on one of the trails. There are more than 100 of them, for a total of 260 miles of trails to explore.
If you want to stay the night or the whole week, there are plenty of campsites to choose from. Although there are only three official RV campgrounds in Hoosier National Forest, there are many more throughout the forest that can accommodate RVs as well. We highlighted our top three choices here for you.
Just 76 miles from Indianapolis and only a half hour from Louisville, Kentucky, you will find Hoosier National Forest in south-central Indiana. The drive to the forest is half the fun with two of the most beautiful and scenic byways in the Midwest. Part of the 943-mile Ohio River Scenic Byway meanders along the Ohio River for some fantastic views of the river and the wildlife that live there. Just follow Interstate 165 along the southern edge of the forest to get the full panoramic view of the hills and valleys.
The Indiana Historic Pathways Byway is also a great way to see some historical as well as scenic views. The byway takes you through the forest on Highway 50. There are other scenic roads along the way as well. In fact, all of the roads around the forest are quite lovely no matter what time of year you visit. However, these back roads can get dangerous during the winter because they do not plow many of them like they do the city and county.
If you are driving a big rig or pulling a camper or trailer, you need to take it easy no matter when you are here because the roads are curvy and narrow. It is hard to maneuver large vehicles on most of the campgrounds, so it is best to leave your RV at the campsite and walk or ride to where you want to go while you are here.
In south-central Indiana, in a dense pine forest, the Indian-Celina Lake Campground has 63 campsites. Thirty-two sites have electric hookups and can accommodate an RV or trailer up to 35 feet long. All of the campsites have their own picnic table and a campfire pit with a grill for cooking. The campground has two shower houses with hot water, modern restrooms, and drinking water hydrants around the park. There is also a playground for the kids.
Indian Lake is 152 acres and Celina Lake is 164 acres. They both have boat ramps and allow electric motors. You can catch bass, catfish, crappie, bluegill, and sunfish. There are also two trails, one of which takes you to the Rickenbaugh House and cemetery that were built in 1874. The tranquil campground is popular so be sure to make a reservation or get here early to get a good spot. Pets are welcome too but must be restrained and supervised at all times.
At Tipsaw Lake Campground there are 35 spacious campsites separated into several loops that are open from April to October. All the campsites have their own fire pit with a grill for cooking and a picnic table. The pad lengths run from 20 to 120 feet long so you can fit no matter how big your rig. Some of the sites have electric hookups, a few have full hookups, and the rest are primitive. Each loop has hot showers, modern flush toilets, and drinking water hydrants. If you have a large group, there are a few group sites that can accommodate up to 65 people.
The 131-acre Tipsaw Lake has a variety of panfish and bass, and you can fish from the shore or by boat. There is a boat ramp for easy access, but only electric motors are allowed. They even have a recharge table for an electric boat motor. For the kids, you can find a huge playground and a swimming beach. This is a popular campground so make sure you get a reservation or come here early to get a good spot. Pets are allowed as well but have to be restrained and supervised at all times.
Hardin Ridge Campground in Hardin Ridge Recreation Area is a huge area with six different camping loops. There are 203 campsites with pads ranging from 26 to 75 feet long. Most of the spots have electric hookups, although some have electric and water. Each loop has drinking water hydrants, shower houses with hot water, and flush toilets. Some of the campsites can be reserved so get your reservation in advance or get here early to get a good spot, especially on weekends and holidays. Dogs and cats are welcome but need to be restrained and supervised during your stay.
There is a huge sandy beach open from Memorial Day until Labor Day on the 10,750-acre Monroe Lake, which is the largest lake in Indiana. Boats are allowed and they have a triple lane boat launch. You will find all types of hungry fish in this huge lake and they also have a small fishing pond with catfish, bluegill, and carp. If you need to walk off that big fish dinner you caught, take a hike on one of the two trails in the park before heading back to the camp for s’mores.
No matter which campground you choose to park your RV at, they all have some fantastic picnic areas. If you have a large group of people, there are more than 30 reservable picnic pavilions with picnic tables, BBQ grills, and most have water and restrooms too. You will usually be able to find a playground for the kids nearby to keep them busy. And if you go to Hardin Ridge, Indian-Celina Lake, or Tipsaw Lake, you can find several picnic areas right on the water.
Attach the bikes to the RV before heading to the Hoosier National Forest because you can enjoy over 150 miles of mountain biking and recreational biking trails here. For a nice, short ride, try the 2.2-mile Brown County multi-use trail. If you want something a bit more exciting, check out the 16.9-mile Shirley Creek multi-use trail or the 12.6-mile Youngs Creek multi-use trail. You can join the equestrians on the 45.1-mile Hickory Ridge multi-use trail or the 22-mile German Ridge multi-use trail.
Don’t forget to pack the beach toys and floaties in the camper before heading to the forest because there are quite a few awesome swimming beaches here. Lake Monroe is the largest lake in the state at over 10,000 acres and has the largest swimming beach in the forest. Indian Lake and Celina Lake both have awesome beaches as well, and Tipsaw’s 131-acre lake also has a nice sandy beach to play at. If you would rather do some river swimming, check out the Lost or Little Blue River.
Indian-Celina Lake Campground has the one-mile Celina Interpretive Trail and the 16-mile Two Lakes Loop Trail, which takes you around the outside and in between both Indiana and Celina Lakes. Tipsaw Lake has the seven-mile Tipsaw Trail, which is for hiking as well as biking. The Hardin Ridge Campground has the 1.5-mile Twin Oaks Interpretive Trail and the two-mile Hardin Ridge Trail, which is for hiking and biking. In all, Hoosier National Forest has over 100 trails you can choose from ranging from less than a mile to 45 miles in length, for a total of 260 miles of trails.
Pack your hunting gear and hunter orange hat or vest in the campervan before heading out because there are a lot of critters in the Hoosier National Forest. If you are looking for large game, deer and turkey hunting are excellent here and if you want to hunt some furbearers, there are tons of otters, minks, beavers, coons, possums, and foxes. You may even see some coyote, skunks, and weasels. Don’t forget to carry your hunting license and tags with you when you hunt and use safe hunting practices at all times.
If you are an equestrian, you can go ahead and hook up the horse trailer to the RV because there are quite a few equestrian trails in the Hoosier National Forest. The Wilderness West hiking and horseback riding trail is 33.7 miles, Hickory Ridge multi-use trail has 45.1 miles of trails, and the 22-mile multi-use German Ridge Trail has a plethora of outstanding views of the surrounding area. In total, there are over 150 miles of trails that you and your horse can explore and enjoy.