Guest Blogger: Rachel from Hobby Help
Heading into the great outdoors of Brown County? This guide will help you plan your camping trip, from choosing a campground to packing your gear.
Where and how to camp:
In Brown County, you have three main camping options
- Car camping: Drive to your campground and pitch your tent by your car.
- RV camping: Drive to your campground in an RV and sleep there.
- Equestrian camping: Drive your horse trailer into the park and go camping with your horse.
Backcountry camping – Hiking out into the wilderness with all your gear and choosing a campsite in the woods – is not permitted in Brown County State Park or Yellowwood State Forest. If, however, you decide to hike the Tecumseh Trail (more on that below), you’ll have the chance to go backcountry in the Morgan-Monroe Backcountry Area.
In this guide, I’ll focus on car camping, though much of this advice applies also to RV and equestrian camping. After all, in any of these cases, you’ll be sleeping at a designated campground and you can use your vehicle for gear storage.
The nice thing about this is convenience. You can bring heavier gear, camp chairs, coolers full of extra food, books, board games, and so on without worrying about weight or space constraints.
So, where exactly should you camp? And how can you find a good campground? Luckily, Brown County has some great options!
Brown County State Park:
Encompassing 16,000-acres of wooded hills and ravines, Brown County State Park has some great hiking and bridle trails and maintains numerous campsites. Remember that backcountry camping is not permitted in the park; you’ll need to select a designated campground
You can choose among a variety of campgrounds with different levels of amenities. Search online for a campground that suits your needs, whether you prefer simple accommodations, require an electric hook-up, or are planning to bring your horse.
Here’s a quick rundown of what’s available:
- 401 electric campsites (17 are wheelchair accessible) in Raccoon Ridge, Buffalo Ridge, and Taylor Ridge Campgrounds. These sites have electrical hookup, modern restrooms, fire circles, picnic tables, and drinking water.
- 118 horseman electric campsites (1 is wheelchair accessible). Just as above, these sites offer various amenities in addition to horse tie-ups.
- 28 non-electric campsites in Raccoon Ridge Campground. The key difference is, as you might expect, lack of electrical hookup, but there is still access to modern restrooms and drinking water.
- 91 horseman primitive campsites. These sites are more basic, with only pit toilets. However, there is drinking water available in the area.
- Rally Campground with 60 campsites. These sites are basic and have pit toilets. They’re designed for larger camping groups and families of 5+ people.
- Youth Tent Area designed for groups of 10+ young campers and adult trip leaders. Once again, this area is simple and basic, perfect for a pop-up tent. There’s also drinking water available nearby.
Brown County State Park also has a Country Store, where you can purchase firewood, ice, snacks, and souvenirs.
Yellowwood State Forest:
Yellowwood State Forest is another excellent option in the Brown County area. It has hiking and horseback riding trails, and you’re also able to go hunting, fishing, and even gold panning (permits required for all three activities). Yellowwood offers basic campsites with drinking water and vault toilets, plus sites specifically for equestrian campers.
The 42-mile Tecumseh Trail starts up in Morgan Monroe State Forest and winds its way down to Brown County. I recommend getting the map and downloading the trail guide from the Hoosier Hikers Council if you plan to tackle this trail in its entirety.
You’ll find an array of lodging along the trail, including campgrounds and shelters, as well as an opportunity to go backcountry camping. The Morgan-Monroe Backcountry Area is in between miles 5.5 and 8 on the Tecumseh Trail, so pitch your tent in the wild, just as long as it’s 200+ feet away from water sources and dry stream beds.
At mile 35, many hikers check in at the Hickory Shades Motel in Belmont. After a few days of hiking, you may be grateful for the showers and modern amenities—before getting back out on the trail again.
Bill Monroe’s Music Park and Campground:
Book a campsite or cabin at Bill Monroe’s for a relaxing weekend. The campground is open May to October, and some of the cabins stay open year-round.
Brown County KOA:
Swing by the KOA for some great facilities, including WiFi, a camp store and lounge, a swimming pool, and water and electric hookups. This space is open April 1 to November 1 and offers RV campsites, tent campsites, and cabins.
What to pack:
New to camping? Here’s a basic packing list to help you plan your trip!
- Dry-fit and Merino wool shirts
- Wool socks
- Cold/inclement weather gear (jacket, raincoat, gloves, long underwear)
- Hiking boots or sneakers
- Camp shoes
If you’re car camping, you can bring as many outfits as you like! I always make sure I’ve got an extra pair of socks. I also like to bring two sets of shoes, one for hiking, and one comfortable pair that let my feet breathe back in camp.
- Day pack
- Trekking poles
- Water bottles/hydration pack
- Water filter (if necessary)
- Toiletries and first aid kit
- Valuables (phone, wallet, etc.)
A simple day pack should be plenty to contain your water bottles, snacks, camera, sunscreen, and so on while you go on day hikes. Visit an outdoor store to get a good quality pack with a hip belt that takes the weight off your back and shoulders.
I love trekking poles on hikes with steep inclines. They also come in handy for stream crossings and for testing out terrain.
Check your campground amenities in advance—many have access to drinking water, which means you don’t need a water filtration or purification tablets. In this case, just bring some water bottles or a hydration pack and fill up at camp. However, I sometimes do bring by LifeStraw along just as a backup.
As for toiletries, don’t forget the basics: toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, sunscreen, and insect repellent. If your campground has showers, pack the shampoo.
- Sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and pillow
- Cookware (pots and pans, stove, utensils, lighter, etc.)
- Food and cooler
- Camp chairs
I’ll focus here on a few items that will ensure your comfort while you’re at your campsite. Camping chairs are awesome and let everyone gather around comfortably (instead of retreating to their tents or the car). I love kicking back in my camp chair and catching up on a novel.
I also like to have an awning over my tent and camp area, especially if the forecast indicates rain. Cooking without an awning in rainy conditions is miserable, if not impossible, so I recommend putting one up (even if it’s literally just a large tarp). You and your group can cook, hang out, and stay dry under there no matter what the weather decides. Just make sure you secure it firmly in case of wind.
Finally, a good camping cooler will definitely improve how you eat while you’re out in the wilderness. You can drastically expand your meals beyond staples like rice, quinoa, or pasta. I highly recommend getting a cooler so you can bring whatever food you want and keep your drinks cold too!
Note that November through March constitutes the “off-season” for camping in Indiana. Some campsites may be closed, while others offer more limited hours or amenities. Brown County State Park’s Country Store is closed November to March.
On the plus side, prices are often cheaper!
If you plan to camp over the winter, make sure you check the hours and availability of the specific campsite you have in mind.
Perhaps the most important piece of advice? Do your research beforehand! When are the check-in and check-out times of your campground? What amenities are available? What are the basic rules and regulations regarding pets, trash disposal, and firewood use? With a little advance planning, you can avoid unpleasant surprises and enjoy a relaxing, invigorating, and extremely scenic trip to the great outdoors!