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 summer. Lace up your walking shoes and give these five hikes a try next time you visit Bloomington in the summer months.

Easy Hikes

Lower Cascades Park

Lower Cascades Park is one of Bloomington's oldest and largest parks. While the park features many amenities, a local favorite is the Cascades Park Trail. It's an easy, heavily-trafficked, out-and-back route, just under one mile in length — 0.8 miles, to be exact.

Waterfall at Lower Cascades Park
Photo by Scenic Indiana

Hikers will come across a small waterfall on the trail, which is what makes it a top hike in Bloomington during the summer months. The easily navigable nature of the trail makes it great for both kids and dogs, the former of which will especially enjoy the waterfall.

Lower Cascades Park is open 5:00 AM to 11:00 PM, seven days per week.

Nature Trail at Griffy Lake Nature Preserve

Griffy Lake is home to quite a few trails, but a great trek for beginners and children is the 0.5-mile Nature Trail. It's an easy trail that begins across from the Griffy Lake Boathouse restrooms, looping through the wooded area to end where it begins. The Nature Trail features moderate slopes but is otherwise a flat hike.

Griffy Lake hiking trail near the lake

Enjoy the perfect summer nature day by trekking the short loop, then fishing off of the lake's shore, then heading over to the Boathouse to rent a kayak.

Griffy Lake Nature Preserve is open from 5:00 AM to 11:00 PM, seven days per week.

Moderate Hikes

Allen's Creek Trail at Allen's Creek State Recreation Area

The Allen's Creek Trail is a four-mile hike at the Allen's Creek State Recreation Area on Monroe Lake in the Hoosier National Forest. The trail is an out-and-back route, two miles both ways, on a gravel road. It stretches along a peninsula on the lake, coming to a halt at the end of the landmass with a gorgeous view of Monroe Lake.

Hiking trail at Hardin Ridge SRA

Bring plenty of water, and don't forget to pack your camera to capture views of the lake through the foliage.

The Allen's Creek SRA is open from dawn to dusk, seven days per week.

Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve

The Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve is home to one of Bloomington's most unique trails — the 2.2-mile out-and-back path stretches through a 48-acre upland habitat that juts out into Monroe Lake.

Boy walking on a path surrounded by trees carrying a walking stick at the Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula

The Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Trail features several changes in elevation, beautiful lake views, an assortment of wildlife, and geodes & interesting rocks. The hilly nature of this trail makes it moderate in terms of difficulty, but children, dogs, and beginner hikers should be able to traverse it with ample water & rest breaks. The lake view at the end of the peninsula make it a must during summer!

The Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve is open from dawn to dusk on weekdays only.

Ted T. Turtle Trail at the Hardin Ridge Recreation Area

The Ted T. Turtle Trail is another one of the many trails in the Hoosier National Forest, located more specifically at the Hardin Ridge Recreation Area on Monroe Lake. The 1.2-mile trail features informational signs along the way, interpreting different aspects of wildlife, history, geology, and other related topics.

Hardin Ridge Ted T. Turtle Trail

The trail leads hikers through forestry, along a small creek, down to Monroe Lake, and back. Its educational element makes it a great trek for families, although hikers should note that the moderate trail features some steep hills and a 157-step staircase, which could create moments of difficulty for small children, dogs, and beginner hikers. 

The Hardin Ridge RA is open from dawn to dusk, seven days per week.

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