Monroe County offers an incredible assortment of nature hikes for every experience level. Certain hikes have a peak season when it comes to the beauty of the surrounding nature, and the following trails are known to be a special treat during spring. Lace up your walking shoes, don a light jacket, and give these five hikes a try next time you visit Bloomington in the spring months.

Easy Hikes

Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve

Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve is one of seven public nature preserves owned & managed by Sycamore Land Trust in Monroe County. It's a wetland habitat comprised of 733 acres of protected land. The preserve is open to the public to explore from its 2.5-mile trail, which is mostly elevated plastic and wood boardwalk. The plastic portion of the boardwalk is accessible to those with limited mobility, and several observation decks are spread throughout the trail, allowing visitors to experience otherwise inaccessible areas of the habitat. The flat nature of this trail is what makes it ideal for all walks of life, including kids and leashed dogs.

Boardwalk during Spring at Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve
Photo by Kyah Hiers

Spring is a special season at Beanblossom Bottoms for a few reasons: bald eagles are known to lay eggs and hatch out in March & April, frogs return from their winter hiatus to sing their throaty tune together in a loud chorus, and spring wildflowers & tree blooms begin to blossom in the wood boardwalk portion of the park. These nature phenomenas really emphasize the beauty of the season of rebirth in Bloomington.

Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve is open from dawn to dusk, seven days per week.

Latimer Woods

Latimer Woods is a small wooded park in the middle of Bloomington. The 10-acre plot is a bit of a hidden gem — it stands just across the street from the College Mall, but many don't realize that it's a public park with a .38-mile trail. The short trail winds through what was once Latimer Farm, and there are interpretive signs that detail the history of the property along the path. If you're a beginner hiker or you're hiking with small children, this would be a great trail for you to seek out. Dogs are also welcome, as long as they're on a leash.

Trail path through Latimer Woods

The trailhead can be hard to find — it, along with parking, is located in The Stratum apartment complex. There's a designated area for visitor parking near Garage #32, where the trail begins.

Latimer Woods is open from dawn to dusk, seven days per week.

Moderate Hikes

Leonard Springs Nature Park

Leonard Springs Nature Park consists of 95.5 acres of land and a 1.1-mile trail that loops around the property. The path passes wetlands, an old reservoir, two caves, and several springs. Kids and leashed dogs are welcome, but be aware of the trail's steep forested slopes and metal-grate staircase — small dogs, in particular, may have trouble with the stairs.

Tree top view of the narrow creek at Leonard Springs Nature Park during spring
Photo by Jerry Downs

The park is especially stunning during spring due to the abundance of blooming redbud trees and the lush greenery of the grass & budding trees. The old reservoir is a favorite area during the season due to the narrow creek that winds through its grassy clearing and the redbud trees that frame the open space.

Leonard Springs Nature Park is open from dawn to dusk, seven days per week.

Porter West Preserve

Porter West Preserve, another Sycamore Land Trust property, is a 188-acre nature preserve with a 2.6-mile moderate trail, open to the public for exploration. The preserve features a historic cemetery, four wildlife ponds, sandstone outcrops, several sinkholes, a spring, and an abundance of mature forestry. This trail is moderate enough for kids and leashed dogs to handle — its slight elevation is what classifies it as moderate. Other than some slopes, the Porter West Preserve is a fairly tame hike.

Man walking with a hiking stick on a trail at Porter West Preserve

The diverse habitat is excellent for bird-watching, and we recommend traversing the trail during the season of rebirth so you can admire the carpet of spring wildflowers that covers the forest floor during the first few months of the year. Like Beanblossom Bottoms, Porter West is also known for its singing spring-time toads.

Porter West Preserve is open from dawn to dusk, seven days per week.

Rugged Hikes

Cedar Bluffs Nature Preserve

Cedar Bluffs Nature Preserve offers a unique perspective of nature in Monroe County — the 23-acre property features a 75-foot high limestone bluff and gnarled red cedars clinging to cliffs, displaying nature's will to survive in a harsh environment. We recommend visiting during spring so you can see the stunning juxtaposition of the property's spring wildflower-covered canyon, sharply contrasting with the gnarled bluffs. The lavish display is in a limestone rock-walled valley that also features a tributary stream of Clear Creek and other interesting rock formations.

View of Clear Creek at Cedar Bluffs Nature Preserve during spring

Cedar Bluffs provides a marked hiking trail until you reach the banks of Clear Creek. At this point, hikers must cross a rocky shoreline (which can be extremely slippery when wet, so navigate with caution), then follow the unmarked-yet-heavily-used pathway up to the top of the bluff. The nature preserve recommends that you turn around and retrace your steps when you're ready to leave the bluff-top forest — you will be trespassing on private property if you walk down the hill from the bluff to the road. Due to these aforementioned challenges, the Cedar Bluffs hike is not friendly for small kids, dogs, or individuals with limited mobility.

Cedar Bluffs Nature Preserve is open from dawn to dusk, seven days per week.

Looking for more to do in Bloomington this spring? Check out the following: