It’s almost summer, the weather is warm and sunny, it’s a great time to enjoy the outdoors. The following is a list of classic hikes we’ve always enjoyed and some new ones we’ve recently discovered.
Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserves
There are numerous trails at Blackhand Gorge. Our favorite is the Marie Hickey Trail and the Oak Knob Trail – a 2.5 mile loop. The trail features varied terrain, including a picturesque hemlock grove with a small stone gorge and waterfall. The trail features signs, but no blazes so parts of it are a little difficult to find in the fall when the trail is covered with leaves.
The hike is a little short, so we normally combine it with other trails at the preserve, such as the Canal Lock (and inter-urban tunnel) trail or the Quarry Trail. Dogs are not permitted at this state nature preserve.
Christmas Rocks State Nature Preserve
Christmas Rocks features two loop trails – an orange trail and a blue trail that can be combined into a pleasant 4.75 mile hike. The hike offers interesting flora, a scenic stream valley, forested ridges, and a stunning cliff-top view. The vista is especially colorful during fall foliage season.
As a bonus, you can visit an old covered bridge at the start of the hike, and if so inclined, a couple more in the vicinity (about 10 minutes by car). Dogs are prohibited at Christmas Rocks Nature Preserve.
- TrekOhio: Christmas Rocks
- TrekOhio: An Overview of Hiking Trails in Fairfield County
- TrekOhio: Fairfield County Parks & Preserves
Old Man’s Cave / Cedar Falls (Hocking Hills State Park)
Hocking Hills State Park is the most popular park in Ohio, and with good reason. Picking a great hike from this park is not a problem. Choosing ONE great hike from this park is a bit difficult. However, I can definitely recommend a 6 mile loop from Old Man’s Cave to Cedar Falls and back. Outbound, follow the trail from the Upper Falls through the gorge valley past the Lower Falls, and out to Queer Creek. Turn left and follow along the creek. You will see blue blazes marking the Buckeye Trail. This portion of the Buckeye Trail is named the Grandma Gatewood Trail after the famed hiker.
You’ll pass seasonal waterfalls, slump blocks, and small recess caves and eventually end up at Cedar Falls. An inclined side trail can (optionally) take you up to the parking lot, where you’ll find picnic tables, restrooms, and drinking water. Otherwise, take the stairs next to the falls, cross a small field and then an iron-bridge. This is the Gorge Overlook Trail marked with red marked posts. This trail leads to Rose Lake and then back to Old Man’s Cave along the upper rim of the gorge.
- TrekOhio: Old Man’s Cave to Cedar Falls and Back – illustrated description of this loop hike
- TrekOhio: Old Man’s Cave
- TrekOhio: Cedar Falls
- TrekOhio: Rose Lake
- TrekOhio: An Overview of Hiking Trails in Hocking County
- TrekOhio: Hocking County Parks & Preserves
Lamping Homestead (Wayne National Forest)
Lamping Homestead has a 4.5 mile loop trail in the middle of the Marietta Unit of Wayne National Forest. The trail descends into forested hollows and up over and around ridges. The trail is blazed with white plastic diamonds. If you’re lucky you may see one of the Eastern Box turtles that inhabit the region. Picnic tables, camp sites, and vault toilets are available. But water is not, be sure and bring plenty with you. Dogs are permitted at Lamping Homestead.
Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve / John Bryan State Park
Clifton Gorge has 3 miles of trails along the edge of a narrow gorge of the Little Miami River. These trails connect to the 11.4 miles of trails at adjacent John Bryan State Park, allowing for a longer hike.
From the parking lot near the Nature Center (off of SR-343), the 1/2 mile (one way) Narrows Trail passes several observation decks overlooking narrow sections of the gorge, rapids, and waterfalls. At the end of the trail – you’re about a block away from Clifton Mill – a historic mill that has a restaurant.
Upon returning from the Narrows Trail, we typically take the Gorge Trail which follows along the shore of the Little Miami River passing large slump blocks, a seasonal waterfall, and a slump block cave. At the preserve boundary, the trails continues into John Bryan State Park, following the river along either side. A wooden pedestrian bridge crosses the river near the preserve / park boundary. You may return the way you came, or take the Rim Trail which ascends to the gorge rim near the preserve / park boundary and also returns to the parking lot. Dogs are not permitted at the Clifton Gorge Preserve, but are allowed at John Bryan State Park.
- TrekOhio: Clifton Gorge Nature Preserve
- TrekOhio: John Bryan State Park
- TrekOhio: Greene County Parks & Preserves
Glen Helen Nature Preserve
Glen Helen has 25 miles of trails to explore. It is located nearby Clifton Gorge and John Bryan State Park. We recommend the (red) Inman Trail which passes several points of interest including two waterfalls and the spring from which Yellow Springs gets its name. You can combine this with other trails to make a hike of the length you desire. Dogs are permitted at Glen Helen Preserve.
Mohican State Park
We’ve often hiked at Mohican State Park and have a favorite route. Starting at the south end of the covered bridge (opposite the picnic area and latrines), enter the trail to the west. Follow the trail parallel to the river and then take the turn-off for Big Lyons Falls. After viewing the falls, ascend the wooden stairs and proceed to Little Lyons Falls and then on to Pleasant Hill Dam. The dam offers a scenic view of the Clear Fork valley on one side and Pleasant Hill Lake on the other and is particularly colorful in the fall. Proceed down the grassy face of the earthen dam crossing to the other side of the river. Follow the flat trail along the river back to the covered bridge. Total distance is about 4 miles. Dogs are required (just kidding, but they are permitted here)
- TrekOhio: Mohican State Park
- TrekOhio: Mohican State Park in Winter
- TrekOhio: Ashland County Parks & Preserves
Nelson Ledges State Park
On our recent trip to Nelson Ledges State Park, we left the park with a big smile on our faces. The park only has 3 miles of trails, but they are amazing trails. They twist through a maze of rock chasms and slump blocks and our hike ended with a view of a cascading waterfall.
Oak Openings Metro Park
Oak Openings Metro Park has over 30 miles of trails and very diverse terrain. During the spring bird migration it is a premier site for bird watching. Our trip there was brief, hiking the 1.7 mile Sand Dunes Trail which features deciduous woods, a pine forest, meadows, and sand dunes left over from an ancient lake. We also hiked the 1.9 mile evergreen trail. We look forward to a return trip to explore more of the 4,000 acre park. Dogs are permitted.
Augusta-Ann Olsen State Nature Preserve
Augusta-Ann Olsen has 3.5 miles of trails. We hiked there in the third week of May and it was filled with a variety of wildflowers. The trails are diverse featuring meadows, deciduous and pine forests, high cliffs, and the rocky banks of the Vermillion River. Dogs are not permitted.
Do you have a favorite hike that was not mentioned? I invite you to add a comment below describing it.
- Trek Ohio: Ten More Great Hikes in Ohio
- Trek Ohio: Hocking Hills: Overview of the Hiking Trails
- Trek Ohio: Fairfield County: Overview of Hiking Trails
- Trek Ohio: Ohio Backpacking Trails
- TrekOhio: TrekOhio Challenge 2016 — In 2016 we offered a prize to people who hiked some of our favorite trails; however, there is no challenge scheduled for this year. Nonetheless, you might want to check out the trail that we selected for the challenge.