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Camping, swimming, fishing, hiking, boating, beaching — do it all (and more) at Monroe Lake.

Monroe Lake is Indiana’s largest land-bound body of water. At nearly 11,000 surface-acres, this lake offers an abundance of space for recreation of all types — no matter the season, there's an activity for everyone to enjoy.

 

Use this navigation list to easily jump from section-to-section:


Boating

Party Boat

Monroe Lake is a great spot for any type of watercraft. With nine launch ramps, it's easy to bring your own boat down to Bloomington's sandy shores. The lake is also home to three boat rental facilities, each offering a variety of pontoons, speed boats, jet-skis, fishing boats, kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and watersports accessories such as tubes, wakeboards, skis, and more. You can also receive kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and windsurfing lessons from LT Paddle Sports — those with experience can opt to simply rent the equipment and forgo the instruction. 


Beaching

beach at paynetown

Monroe Lake offers three public beaches for all to enjoy. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, dip your toes in the water or get some sun on the beaches at the Fairfax State Recreation Area (SRA), Paynetown SRA, and Hardin Ridge Recreation Area. Beachside activities include swimming, picnicking, kite flying, volleyball, sunbathing, sandcastle building, frisbee, and more.


Fishing

Little boy fishing at Hardin Ridge Recreation Area

Monroe Lake is home the largest, most varied selection of fish in Monroe County. Bluegill, largemouth & yellow bass, walleye, black & white crappie, channel & flathead catfish, and bullhead & hybrid stripers are what you can expect to catch at this well-stocked lake. Fishing is allowed year-round — popular areas for casting a line are the Crooked Creek Ramp, the Cutright State Recreation Area, and the Pinegrove Ramp. Bring your own boat, rent one for the day, or enjoy angling from the banks of the lake, shaded by the lush forestry surrounding you.

Before you cast your line, be sure to obtain an Indiana State Fishing License from the IDNR office for all anglers ages 18+.


Hiking & Trail Running

Two people hiking at Monroe Lake

Spending a day on the water in Bloomington doesn’t mean you have to spend a day in the water. Monroe Lake is also home to a variety of trails varying in difficulty, offering a hiking experience for everyone to enjoy. If you really want to get your blood pumping, give trail running a try. Trail running combines running with the challenge of navigating natural surroundings at a fast pace. Shoes specific to the activity are highly recommended.

The key to a great hike is preparation, so be sure to grab a trail map and pack plenty of water before you set off. Closed-toe shoes are necessary for navigating difficult terrain. Also know your limits — there's no shame in turning around on a trail if you feel too worn out to finish it! Remember that the distance you hike-in is the distance you have to hike back, so don't push yourself beyond what you're reasonably able to achieve. For curious pet owners: dogs are welcome as long as they're on a leash.

Monroe Lake visitors have several trails to choose from:

Easy Treks
  • Hardin Ridge Trail at the Hardin Ridge Recreation Area
    • 2 miles
    • Used for hiking, trail running, and mountain biking
    • Connects to the Ted T. Turtle Interpretive Trail
       
  • Tree Trek Trail at the Paynetown State Recreation Area
    • 0.5 miles
    • Used for hiking and trail running
    • Connects to the Blue Bird Trail
       
Intermediate Treks
  • Blue Bird Trail at the Paynetown State Recreation Area
    • 1.25 miles
    • Used for hiking and trail running
    • Connects to the Tree Trek Trail and Whitetail Trail 1
       
  • Pate Hollow Trail System at the Paynetown State Recreation Area
    • 6.7 miles
    • Used for hiking and trail running
      • Mountain bikers are not permitted to use this trail system
         
  • Ted T. Turtle Trail at the Hardin Ridge Recreation Area
    • 1.2 miles
    • Used for hiking and trail running
      • Mountain bikers are not permitted to use this trail
    • Connects with the Hardin Ridge Trail
       
  • Turkey Trot Trail at Allen's Creek State Recreation Area
    • 1.9 miles
    • Used for hiking and trail running
       
  • Whitetail Trail 1 at the Paynetown State Recreation Area
    • 1 mile
    • Used for hiking and trail running
    • Connects with the Blue Bird Trail


Camping & Lodging

Campgrounds

jellystone


Hardin Ridge Campground

The campground at Hardin Ridge offers six camping loops and a total of 203 forested campsites for visitors. Sites are a mix of electric and non-electric. Some sites offer water hookups — several showerhouses with restrooms are scattered throughout the campground for those without water at their site.

Some sites are free and first-come, first-served, while others are reservable for a fee. For reservable sites, reservations must be made at least four days ahead of your trip, but can be made up to nine months in advance. Visit this website for availability and booking.
 

Lake Monroe Village

Lake Monroe Village offers the best of both worlds: primitive & RV campsites, as well as cabin & villa rentals. Amenities include an outdoor pool, recreation hall, picnic pavilion, playground, and hiking area.
 

Paynetown Campground

The campground at Paynetown offers a total of 312 forested campsites for visitors. Sites are a mix of electric and non-electric. Some sites offer water hookups — several showerhouses with restrooms are scattered throughout the campground for those without water at their site.

Depending on availability, reservations can be made the day-of your trip, but they can also be made up to six months in advance. Visit this website for availability and booking.
 

Yogi Bear's Lake Monroe Jellystone Park

Like Lake Monroe Village, Yogi Bear's Lake Monroe Jellystone Park offers primitive & RV campsites and cabin & villa rentals. Jellystone Park is a favorite for families due to their range of kid-friendly amenities, including an outdoor pool, splash pad, playground, jumping pillow, and more.
 

Hotels

Outside of the Fourwinds from the beach


Fourwinds Lakeside Inn & Marina

Lakeside lodging is available at the Fourwinds Lakeside Inn & Marina. Located just down the shore from the Fairfax SRA beach, the resort offers two restaurants, a marina, heated pools, mini-golf, and more.
 

Scenic View Lodge

Another lodging option is the Scenic View Lodge, which is settled high in the hillside, overlooking the Monroe Lake basin and its range of hills — it's reminiscent of the Smoky Mountain region. In addition to the Lodge, Scenic View also offers an RV campground one mile from the lake near the Charles C. Deam Wilderness, as well as a private rental within walking-distance of the Scenic View Restaurant & Bar.
 

Vacation Rentals

Exterior of Birdies Cottage

Prefer to enjoy your stay Airbnb-style? There are several vacation rentals available in close proximity to Monroe Lake, including the Acorn Resort and Birdies Cottage.


Recreation Areas, National Forests & Wildernesses

Recreation Areas

Fairfax Beach at Lake Monroe

Indiana’s largest lake is surrounded by several recreation areas, each offering a range of recreation opportunities from mountain biking to hiking and even horseback riding. The proximity to the lake allows you to enjoy an array of water-based activities as well as land-based recreation.

Surrounding the lake, you will find nine RAs:
 

Allen's Creek State Recreation Area

Allen's Creek SRA offers a boat launch ramp, a hike-in/boat-in camping area, and the 1.75-mile Turkey Trot Trail.
 

Crooked Creek Recreation Area

Crooked Creek RA offers a boat launch ramp.
 

Cutright Recreation Area

Cutright SRA offers a boat launch ramp, a marina, and a gorgeous view of Monroe Lake, split by a causeway.
 

Fairfax State Recreation Area

Fairfax SRA offers a beach with a playground, two shelterhouses, a tennis court, a basketball court, a small mini golf course, a boat launch ramp, the Fourwinds Lakeside Inn & MarinaParadise Rental Boats, and the 1.75-mile Big Oak trail system.
 

Hardin Ridge Recreation Area

Hardin Ridge RA offers a campground and two cabins, a boat launch ramp, a beach with a playground, an amphitheater, two picnic areas, three shelterhouses, the two-mile Hardin Ridge Trail, and the one-mile Ted T. Turtle Interpretive Trail.
 

Moore's Creek State Recreation Area

Moore's Creek SRA offers a boat launch ramp and a shelterhouse. The Lake Monroe Sailing Association's marina is at Moore's Creek as well, so visitors have the chance to see beautiful sailboats gliding across the lake during their outing.
 

Paynetown State Recreation Area

Paynetown SRA offers a campground, a boat launch ramp, a marina, a beach, a fishing pier, two playgrounds, five shelterhouses, and the 6.7-mile Pate Hollow trail system.
 

Pine Grove Recreation Area

Pine Grove RA offers a boat launch ramp.
 

Salt Creek State Recreation Area

Salt Creek SRA offers a boat launch ramp.

Many recreation areas host fun events throughout the year — check the Indiana DNR website for details!


Hoosier National Forest

Sunset on Monroe Lake at the Hoosier National Forest
Photo by Andy Parrish Outdoors

Indiana's only national forest surrounds a large portion of Monroe Lake. The Hoosier National Forest's boundary spans from the Allen's Creek State Recreation Area to the very eastern-most part of the lake, offering forest visitors the opportunity to experience Monroe Lake as well. For a full list of things to do at the Hoosier, visit this page.
 

Charles C. Deam Wilderness

Two kayaks on the shore of Monroe Lake in the Hoosier National Forest
Photo by Logan Armbruster

The Charles C. Deam Wilderness is a congressional-designated wilderness comprised of nearly 13,000 acres of the Hoosier National Forest. The wilderness is intended to be kept as just that: completely wild and primitive, offering visitors opportunities for solitude in a 100% natural forest-setting.

A large portion of Monroe Lake's shoreline rests in the Deam Wilderness, offering visitors the chance to experience both the wilderness and the water.


Responsible Recreation & Land Stewardship

Monroe Lake 3

Home to a variety of wildlife, a thriving forest, and fond memories for many Hoosiers, Monroe Lake is more than just another body of water. Land stewardship is key to keeping this beautiful lake accessible for all to enjoy. Whether you're visiting for a day on the water or a weekend in the woods, please practice Leave No Trace principles and respect the land around you.
 

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