Sunday, June 23, 2013

25 Great Ohio Hiking Spots

View 25 Great Ohio Hiking Spots in a larger map

It's summer in Ohio, and it's the perfect time to embark on a road trip and go on a fantastic, scenic hike in one of the many unique areas of the state!
But where to go?!

OHventures has compiled a list of 25 Great Ohio Hiking Spots, most from my our personal experience and past reviews (and others by asking readers for their favorites). Be sure to click the links below to read our more in depth posts on each location!
(NOTE: These are NOT ranked in any specific order, nor are these considered the "best" hiking spots in Ohio, just great ones to check out!)
Photos by OHventures

1. Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park (State Route 282, Nelson Township): Known by regulars and locals as simply “Nelson Ledges,” the Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park has always been notorious for its eclectic visitors (AKA hippies) and risky rock-strewn terrain (AKA not for novice hikers). Check out the dramatic quartz and sandstone rock formations, such as Old Maid’s Kitchen, Dwarf’s Pass, Fat Man’s Peril, The Squeeze, and Devil’s Icebox
2. Shawnee State Park (4404 State Route 125, Portsmouth): This park gets its name from the Shawnee Indians, who used to hunt in the area. Today, the park does not offer hunting, but does accommodate camping, fishing, boating, hiking, swimming, picnicking, tennis, volleyball, basketball, and golf. Also included in the park is a nature center, bridle trails, and many, many more amenities. Nearby points of interest are the covered bridges,Ted Strickland's childhood home, and Ohio's largest yellow buckeye tree.
3. Alum Creek State Park (3615 S. Old State Road, Delaware): Having the largest inland beach in all of Ohio's parks, there are two hiking trails and both are ranked as "easy" trails. The Park Office Trail is 1.5 miles, and the Hollenback Trail is about double that length. A Multi Purpose Trail is available for snowmobiling, dog sledding, and cross country skiing. 38 miles of bridle trails also exist.
4. Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve (2200 Gratiot Rd SE, Newark): Ten miles of hiking paths run alongside the magnificent sandstone formations, which are a tremendous sight to see. On the other side of the path is the Licking River, which runs east to west and is responsible for forming the gorge many years ago. The preserve got its moniker from a dark, hand-shaped Indian petroglyph which was engraved on the face of a massive sandstone cliff along the north side of the river.
5. Inniswoods Metro Gardens (940 S. Hempstead Road, Westerville) Inniswood is one of those places that is so gorgeous that it is difficult to find words to accurately encapsulate its beauty (which is why I have dedicated a photo blog solely to this park). The hiking paths found at Inniswood are mostly man-made boardwalks, which makes exploring the area easy for all types of hikers of all ages and abilities. Be sure to go for the cascading waters at the stunning rock garden, the handsome trellises and brick walkways that make up the rose garden, and the bee garden!

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

6. Cuyahoga Valley National Park (15610 Vaughn Rd, Breskville): Radiant with plants and other wildlife, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is Ohio's one and ONLY National Park and is ideal for hikingbiking, cross country skiing, picnicking, fishing, horseback riding, sled riding, and even golfing! Marshes, lakes, meadows, hills, and creeks are right at your fingertips, as well as berry, sheep and tree farms. Education centers, shelter houses, nature centers, and reservations add to the lineup of what the colossal park has to offer. Check out the Kendall Lake hiking trails or the famed Towpath!
7. Caesar Creek State Park (8570 E. State Route 73, Waynesville): Located in the Southwest portion of our state at the crossroads of Warren, Greene and Clinton counties, there are many highlights within Caesar Creek, including an educational Nature Center, and an intricate collection of paths for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. Pioneer Village contains 15 authentic buildings from the late 1700s and early 1800s. Many of these buildings are original structures where the founding pioneers of Ohio's earliest years resided.
8. Charles Mill Lake Park (1277 State Route 430, Mansfield): Pack a picnic to eat at Charles Mill Lake Park's peaceful 1,350-acre reservoir with 2,000 acres of land. Afterwards, hike on designated trails through the woods, but be sure to pack lots of bug spray! The hiking trails are not on difficult terrain and are easily navigable. Afterwards, swing by the marina to rent a boat to enjoy the waters of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District!

9. Atwood Lake Park (9500 Lakeview Road NE, Mineral City): The Atwood Lake Campground in Tuscawaras County is constantly buzzing with activity! Over 500 camp lots are available and 1,500 acres of water surfaces (with 28 miles of shorelines) are an outdoorsman's playground! Each October, Atwood Lake holds its annual "Fall Fest" celebration with fall food, crafts, Native American activities, and more!
10. Clear Creek Metro Park (185 Clear Creek Road, Rockbridge): This is by far the most strenuous and advanced paths on the list! Perhaps the fact I hiked here during the icy, snowy winter contributed to its difficulty, but regardless, there are plenty of extremely steep hills that will prove challenging (try the Hemlock Trail). Be sure to pack appropriately before heading here for the 12 miles of trails! There is a large barnon site that often holds events for the public.

Hocking Hills State Park

11. Hocking Hills State Park (19852 State Route 664 S, Logan): The holy grail of all Ohio hiking spots! There are 4 "sections" in Hocking Hills State Park. These include: Ash Cave & Cedar Falls, Old Man's Cave, Rock House, and Cantwell Cliffs. They are all based on rock formations that are so unique, you can't find anything like it in the rest of Ohio. Waterfalls, stone stairways, cliffs, and even what is referred to as the "Devil's Bathtub" are just some of the highlights. It is known as the most recognized state park in Ohio! Click here for my photos from Hocking Hills, winter hiking photos, and click here for a map and directions for each section of Hocking Hills! 
12. Mill Creek Park (123 McKinley Avenue, Youngstown): At 4,400 acres, this is the largest metropark in the entire state!! There are 14 hiking trails, two of which are right by the majestic landmark in the park, Lanterman's Mill. The best are Trails 7 and 8 (East Gorge Walk and West Gorge Trail) which together create a 2 mile loop along Mill Creek. There are massive rocks that exhibit Ohio's geology at its finest. Be sure to grab a trail map and explore! Click here to read about Lanterman's Mill, The Cinderella Bridge, and other attractions at Mill Creek Park.
13. Jackson Bog State Nature Preserve (7984 Fulton Dr NW, Massillon): This bog is really a sight to see! It is preserved here to keep the ecosystem in tact as well as to educate people about the great importance of bogs. There is a 1.25 mile-long boardwalk trail encompassing the bog as well as a few miles worth of forested dirt paths, which are rather hilly. It's well worth it to see the lily pads and other botanical wonders along the paths. Click here for a list of the 89 preserves throughout the state, courtesy of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
14. Quail Hollow State Park (13480 Congress Lake Avenue, Hartville): Quail Hollow State Park is a multi-functional park that has a variety of trails (14 miles total) accessible to handicapped individuals and experienced hikers alike. There is also a designated horse trail (5 miles) and mountain bike trail (4 miles). One of my favorite aspects of the park is the herb gardens and the Carriage House Nature Preserve, which has educational exhibits and interactive elements. It's a beautiful old house that the hiking path wraps around.
15. Scioto Audubon Metro Park (400 W. Whittier Street, Columbus): Of all of the parks listed, the Scioto Audobon Metro Park is the one I frequent most often. There are hiking paths, an educational center dedicated to nature & birds, a dog park, a playground, a small pond, a water tower, and - best of all - an outdoor rock climbing wall. Not to mention, it is one of the best views of the downtown skyline! It's agreat spot for birding and has also been the location for the Run With The Pack dog runs I have participated in.
16. Prairie Oaks Metro Park (3225 Plain City-Georgesville Road, Harrisburg): This is a very nice location for hiking, fishing, picnicking, andhorseback riding. There are long and winding paths for hiking, and some designated specifically for horseback riding. There are also two big ponds, one of which is specifically for dogs to swim in (or for them to frolic on top of when it is frozen over in the winter). The scenery is fantastic here...the lakes make everything look and feel calm and serene, and the trails have great views. The path crosses over the Big Darby Creek via a pretty impressive bridge.
17. Pymatuning State Park (6100 Pymatuning Lake Road, Andover): I used to frequent Pymatuning State Park as a teenager, heading that way to camp, hike, and best of all, swim and skimboard along the shore of the lake! Pymatuning is one of the only non-manmade lakes in Ohio, having been formed by glaciers many eons ago. It rests on the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania, and therefore, some of it is maintained by the State of Pennsylvania. There are a great deal of waterfowl, game birds, and even eagles! There are two easy hiking trails:Whispering Pines and Beaver Dam.

Gorge Trail Metro Park

18. Gorge Trail Metro Park (1270 Front Street, Cuyahoga Falls): This northeast Ohio hiking hot spot has beautiful views and everything from gentle to strenuous hiking paths that are approximately 2-3 miles in length. Aside from the picturesque waterfall, the best part of the trail was definitely hiking in between the large canyons and over intricate root patterns.
19. Wildwood Preserve Metro Park (5100 W. Central Avenue, Toledo): While Toledo has many metroparks, The Wildwood Preserve is a favorite to locals who come here often to utilize the many trails for walking, hiking, running, or biking. There are many open areas for throwing around the Frisbee or just relaxing in the grass. Charcoal grills and picnic tables are also provided so you can have a picnic. On the grounds of the park is The Manor House, a former mansion with beautifully landscaped gardens.
20. South Bass Island State Park (1523 Catawba Avenue, Put-In-Bay): Sure, there's a lot of bars, wineries, and clubs to keep you busy when you are visiting Put-In-Bay. But there's also a lot of nature to be explored! After enjoying the nightlife on the island, hop in your golf cart and head to the South Bass Island State Park for a hiking excursion atop of the scenic white cliffs of this 33-acre park. Or, for the more adventurous type, take a canoe or kayak ride to the beautiful and unique park!
21. Indian Lake State Park (2774 State Route 235 N, Lakeview): A hugely popular tourist hotspot, Indian Lake State Park is located in Logan County, with the Ohio Caverns and Mad River Mountain nearby! One of the most beautiful spots for on-the-water fun, Indian Lake offers two hiking trails: The Cherokee Trail and the Pew Island Trail (a one mile path that encircles Pew Island and gives an amazing view). There is also a three mile bike path.

22. Twin Valley Backpacking Trail (9688 Eby Road, Germantown): Set in the rolling hills of the Twin Valley, this trail provides a backpacking experience reminiscent of other wilderness trails with beautiful hills, babbling brooks, abundant wildlife, history and small town charm. Secluded designated camping opportunities are sprinkled throughout this 22 mile trail that includes and connects Germantown and Twin Creek MetroPark.
23. Little Miami State Park (8570 East State Route 73, Waynesville): This is a new, non-traditional concept for a park: a trail corridor. The park itself runs 50 miles in length along the Little Miami River and goes through four counties: Greene, Warren, Clermont, and Hamilton. There are trails not only for hiking and backpacking, but for horseback riding, rollerblading, and running. You can also enjoy canoeing down the river, or ziplining at nearby Ozone Zipline Adventures.
24. Caldwell Preserve (430 West North Bend Road, Cincinnati): I have yet to go to this southwest Ohio locale, but I have heard tons about it from readers of the blog. Cincinnati Parks web site says it: "features a Nature Center, an amphitheater, and 3.5 miles of nature trails, including a level-paved trail that makes it possible for wheelchair users to go into the woods, see the flowers, and hear the birds" 
25. Portage Lakes State Park (5031 Manchester Road, Akron): While most of my time has been boating on the Portage Lakes and drinking at the Harbor Inn with the locals, there are also great hiking trails to take on if you're in the area: Planet Walk Trail, Shoreline Trail, Rabbit Hill Trail, and Pheasant Run Loop.

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