Low Gap Trail


Low Gap Trail is a ten mile loop in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest. This is not my favorite trail, mostly because of the extensive road walks. However, it offers several stiff climbs and access to the backcountry camping area. It is also well-marked with white diamond blazes.

Parking for the Low Gap Trail is on the right side of the Main Forest Road as you make your way from Indiana 37 towards the Forest Office. The gravel parking lot is just past the turnoff for Beanblossom Road, and can accomodate at least ten cars.


Rock Shelter

A short three-mile loop that incorporates part of the Low Gap Trail begins at the parking lot and passes by the Rock Shelter, a very scenic overhanging rock formation in a small ravine, before returning along a fire lane.

For hikes of the complete Low Gap Trail, I prefer to begin at the end, and hike the trail "backwards", as this bunches much of the road or fire lane walking towards the front of the hike, and leaves the better portions for the end. If you decide to take this approach, ignore the sign marking the beginning of the trail and instead depart from the other side of the parking lot.

You'll dive into the woods and soon find yourself hiking along a path that parallels, at a distance, the Main Forest Road. The trail crosses the road to Draper Cabin then continues to, and turns right to follow, Orcutt Road, which takes on more and more of the appearance of an actively used road before entering privately owned land, passing several houses, and ending as a long gravel driveway that descends to Low Gap Road. This is my least favorite portion of the hike.

The trail crosses Low Gap Road and, passing a metal gate, ascends sharply onto Shipman Ridge and into the Backcountry Area. Camping is permitted here free of charge, as long as use is pre-registered at the Forest Office.

This section continues following Orcutt Road until the path suddenly turns right and leaves the road, following a long slowly descending ridge line before reaching the valley of the East Fork of Honey Creek. The scenery here is much improved, and while the Creek is seasonally dry, it still offers nice camping spots under tall pines.

After following the creek valley for a short distance, hikers face a stiff climb up a branch of Gorley Ridge. The descent ends back in the Honey Creek valley and the trail flattens out somewhat before passing a parking lot, leaving the backcountry area, crossing Low Gap Road, and quickly climbing to the top of Lanota Ridge.

Atop the ridge the trail follows a fire lane for a short distance before diving off to the left and venturing onto a finger of the main ridge. The path then descends into a branch of Sweedy Hollow, and passes by the Rock Shelter formations before climbing again, this time onto Tincher Ridge, and heading back toward the parking lot.

Again, this portion of the trail has something of the character of a road walk, and only in the last few hundred yards does it veer off to the right onto a footpath that makes the final approach to the end of the path.


Directions

Follow signs from IN 37 between Martinsville and Bloomington to the Main Forest entrance. Turn east onto the Main Forest Road and proceed 3.1 miles to the Low Gap parking area on the right.

North 39 18.661 West 86 25.476
DeLorme 44:G-H/3-5


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Facilities

None.


Nearby Natural Areas

Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve
Morgan-Monroe State Forest
Yellowwood State Forest


References

Bloom: Hiking Indiana; Page 140
Habeck: Wild Indiana; Page 104
Indiana Department of Natural Resources
McPherson: Indiana Best Hikes; Page 320
McPherson: Nature Walks in Southern Indiana; Page 191