When the B-Line Trail is too busy and Clear Creek isn’t enough of a challenge, what’s a runner to do? Take it off-road! Trail runners relish opportunities to focus more on the present, let go of training times, and commune with nature. Ultramarathoner Miranda Addonizio, who organizes trail runs for the Bloomington Area Runners Association, shares some lovely local loops to get away from it all:
Paynetown State Recreation Area: Pate Hollow Trail, Addonizio’s favorite, is located in Paynetown SRA at Monroe Lake. The trail is open only to foot traffic, so you won’t encounter any bikes or horses along the way. Interconnected trails allow runners to choose routes ranging from roughly 4 to 8 miles — if you choose the longest route, you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views of the lake. The White Tail Trail can be accessed from the same trailhead and leads into the Blue Bird Trail. “I love to come here on a Friday after work,” Addonizio says. “It’s like letting my breath out.”
Griffy Lake Nature Preserve: The closest nature preserve to downtown Bloomington, Griffy offers several trails ranging from easy to rugged. The longest trail, the South Shore, is 3.7 miles long and connects with the IU Teaching and Research Preserve trail system. Addonizio recommends these trails when you’re in the mood for exploration — some of the trails loop, while others are out-and-back. Although it’s tough to get lost here, keep one universal safety tip in mind: Download a PDF map to your phone before you hit the trails. You won’t have to carry paper, and you’ll be able to access the information even if your cell service is spotty.
Morgan-Monroe State Forest: A short drive north of Bloomington, this area is home to two 10-mile loops designated as rugged: Three Lakes Trail and Low Gap Trail (watch for a striking rock formation along this route!). The Mason Ridge Loop, a 2.7-mile moderate trail, connects to the Low Gap for runners looking for a little more mileage. Because trail running often includes steeper climbs and more concentration on the terrain, it can take longer than a run of equal distance on a paved course. Addonizio advises carrying your own water, preferably in a hydration pack so you can also take some snacks.
Brown County State Park: A dozen trails wind their way through this beautiful park in Nashville. While the individual trails are fairly short, they can be connected to create longer runs of up to 20 miles. One of Addonizio’s favorite spots to stop and enjoy (and another good reason to bring your phone) is Hesitation Point, found along the HHC Trail. These trails are single track and open to mountain bikers as well as to runners, so stay aware of who’s on the trail and know the rules for yielding (for example, runners yield to bikers and uphill runners yield to downhill runners, says Runner’s World).
McCormick’s Creek State Park: Like Brown County, runners will find shorter, interconnected trails in this park in Spencer. It’s not easy to run for mileage, but there’s plenty to explore. “You can see a lot of really neat natural features without miles and miles of running,” Addonizio says. Runners can choose from trails that lead to waterfalls, along a canyon rim, or right to Wolf Cave for some post-run spelunking. And if you want to cool off after your run, you’ll have access to the public pool in the summer months (call ahead to check daily pool hours).
Charles C. Deam Wilderness: Part of Hoosier National Forest, this park bills itself as providing opportunities for solitude. Addonizio agrees: “I love the pine groves. It’s like running through a cathedral.” The 4.9-mile Sycamore Trail is the only trail designated for just runners and hikers. Other trails are open to horseback riding, and runners are asked to yield to horses on the path. So a word of warning: Don’t get too far into your Zen and take your eyes off the road — there will be poop.