We visited the Morgan-Monroe State Forest for our anniversary hiking trip this year. We chose this location because it was close, we had not been here before, and we knew we could hike both trails in two days. All total (including walking down to the lakes and other off-trail jots) there are 22-ish rugged hiking miles within two trails: The Low Gap Trail and Three Lakes Trail.
On day one we did the Low Gap Trail. We arrived around 11:00 am on a Saturday (July 5th) and were shocked that we only ran into two other couples hiking. Usually when we go hiking over the 4th of July weekend trails are packed - this was not the case at all here. We hiked for almost 4 miles before we saw anyone. Overall, this trail was very easy and we got through the whole thing within 3 hours.
I must admit, there was surprisingly little to see on this trail. We saw almost no wildlife (very weird), birds were sparse, and there was no water or interesting things to see. There were also no areas to make "pit stops" or any place to look out at anything. At one point there was a rock face you could climb up to but that was it. It was funny because I remarked that we did not even see any deer and seconds later one bounded in front of the trail right as we were returning to the car. I would suggest this trail be taken in the fall perhaps for a better "nature experience."
The Three Lakes Trail was much more enjoyable. We were able to see a lot of wildlife and although the creeks were dry, this would be challenging to hike in the spring (you would probably need to hike in ankle deep water in some areas). The lakes were lovely as well and we stopped and ate lunch by one of the lakes after we hiked about 5 miles in. It was a lot of fun. We also stopped by Stepp Cemetery and looked at the old gravestones which was quite interesting for two history buffs.
Other people have mentioned you should hike this trail backwards - you absolutely should! If you begin your hike at the trail head, you will hike this trail for about 8 miles and while it is slightly rugged, it is really pretty level overall (not too strenuous). The LAST TWO miles are nothing up straight up and straight down - it is a WORK OUT for sure. If you hike the trail backwards, you will get these aerobics over with and the rest of the hike will seem super easy.
Again, we ran into almost no one else hiking on what would otherwise be considered to be a "busy outdoor weekend". We actually saw more people fishing than hiking. These are two great trails to take but I would suggest you visit in the spring or fall. These trails also intersect/begin with the Tecumseh Trail and you can register to pack-in/sleep in the forest overnight if you want to hike all 42 miles of this particular trail. We did see many overnight hikers setting up camp. I would absolutely return here in the fall!
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