Bloomington, IN: Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve Hike

I have a new favorite hike in Bloomington! And if you have been wishing there was an easy-to-access trail with panoramic views of Lake Monroe nearly the whole trail, you will also have a new favorite hike.

The Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve is managed by Sycamore Land Trust (I've gone to several of their properties, including Beanblossom Bottoms, Porter West, and Cedar Bluff). It's free to use, although there are time-of-day and parking restrictions because of its location in a residential neighborhood: 8am-8pm and there's only room for 7 cars (and 1 handicapped spot), and you will get towed if you park in the street, grass, or someone's driveway.

It is well worth the trip to check it out during a not-too-popular time during the week or in an off season, and probably with some careful planning on a weekend or holiday in the summer.

It is easy to find from 446 - go just a little bit past the turn off for Paynetown SRA and turn left on Rush Ridge. There is an obvious driveway to the parking lot (photo below). Google Maps thinks the parking area is about 450 yards farther down the road than it is, so just be paying attention.

There is an obvious trailhead and you'll quickly be on your way down a well-marked trail down the peninsula. The trail is 2.2 miles total (1.1 miles each way, which my fitbit hike confirmed). Aside from the very start, the trail follows an old road, so it is flat and wide and easy to navigate. It was a little wet today, but I didn't have many problems.

However, there are two large hills to climb (both ways). My fitbit tracks elevation gain on hikes, and it said I had 480 feet of elevation gain on this hike. It is no joke! This would be a perfect trail to train for some more elevated regions, both for hiking and for trail running.

Within a quarter mile, you will come around a bend and see the lake to your left. The right side view will be blocked by ground still, but it won't be far before you have Lake Monroe to look at on both sides of the trail.

I was lucky today and had a gorgeous Tuesday morning for a hike. It was chilly (30 degrees F; I brought a hat, scarf, and gloves) and as the morning progressed it became extremely windy, but it was sunny and blue skied and I couldn't have asked for better than that!

There is one park bench, which conveniently appears right after the first hill. There are much better views to be had later on (without so many trees in the way) but the bench looks directly south toward Cutright SRA (if you can see the boat slips to the left of this picture, that's Cutright). You can also watch the causeway with lone cars going over the road every so often. Later on the hike, you'll be able to peer farther to the right and also see Paynetown SRA's boat slips.

Gearing up for the second hill, the trail leads you down into the perfect tree canopy. I kind of felt like I was in some sort of fairy tale because of how the light was filtering just perfectly through these trees. The picture does not do it justice.

The big hill is at a point in the peninsula where the right side of the lake gets a little farther away, and instead is replaced by this geologic feature.

Eventually, the trail will lead you down the big hill to the best part, right down to the lake shore.

(In the photo below, you can see Cutright SRA to the left, the causeway road in the middle, and Paynetown SRA to the right.)

Go a little bit farther and you'll find a tiny beach area. It looks like it was recently underwater, and all I could think of was that I had my own private island. There was no one on the lake whatsoever, and it wasn't until I headed back up the trail that I saw another hiker.

Next time, when it gets warmer, I might hike in a chair or hammock and have a picnic right here. Unfortunately, there is no camping allowed, or else this would be the perfect place to wake up and watch the sunrise.

I didn't really want to leave because it was so beautiful and left me feeling so happy, but I was getting a little chilly and needed to continue on with the day. In the summer, I could stay here the entire day, swinging in a hammock, reading a book, and watching the boats go by.

I highly recommend a trip down to the lake to do this hike. If you're already on the east side of Bloomington, it's only another 10-15 minutes to the trailhead. Wear good shoes, plan for a low-traffic day, and bring some water (the hills will get your heart rate up). Enjoy!
Bloomington, IN: Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve Hike Bloomington, IN: Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve Hike Reviewed by Maria on 5:35:00 PM Rating: 5


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