Posted in Hiking, Park review, Southeastern Ohio

Strouds Run State Park / Sells Park

Strouds Run State Park is located in scenic Athens County close to Ohio University. The park and several adjacent parks and preserves feature miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians.

We visited the park several times last year. The park consists of 2,606 acres of forested hills and Dow Lake (a large man-made lake). Adjacent to the park is the 22 acre Sells Park owned by the city of Athens, the 106 acre Riddle State Nature Preserve and the 75 acre Blair Preserve. The parks are interconnected with a network of trails and are very popular with local mountain bikers.

Row boat upended on dock at Dow Lake in Strouds Run State Park

Getting oriented

We hiked the Athens Trail which begins in the adjacent Sells Park. Sells Park is located at the end of a cul-de-sac known as Avon Place that’s only several blocks from Ohio University. The park entrance has informational signs at the trailhead, a small parking area and a bike rack.

Below is a GPS trace of our hike. We began at the left, lower point and on the loop portion of our hike, we traveled in the counter-clockwise direction. The farthest point to the upper, right (reaching up to Strouds Rund Road) is an alternative spot where you could park and do the hike.

Since we started at Sells Park, we began our hike on the Athens Trail, then we followed Finger Rock Trail until we reached Dow Lake in Strouds Run State Park. The trails are well-marked; the Athens Trail marker is a white A-shape on a red rectangle. However, there are quite a few diverging side trails, so we recommend bringing a copy of the maps which we’ve linked to in the “Additional Information” section of this post.

GPS trace of our hike. We parked at Sells Park at the far left.
The trailhead for Athens Trail in Sells Park.

Outbound from Sells Park to Strouds Run Drive
The blaze signifying the Athens Trail.

Sells Park is relatively small, but the trails are steep taking you up to the ridge-line. We passed Sells Pond near the trailhead and then began the ascent through the heavily forested hillside and past exposed rock outcroppings. At the end of the ascent, you leave Sells Park and enter Riddle State Nature Preserve. The Riddle Preserve consists of a section of old growth forest featuring oak, hickory, tulip, and poplar trees. The trail continues along the ridge-line and eventually crosses into Strouds Run State Park.

Sells Pond
Passing through a pawpaw grove in Sells Park.
This is part of the ascent to the ridgeline in Sells Park. Once you get up to the ridgeline, you are in Riddle State Nature Preserve.
A view of Athens through the trees from an outcropping in Riddle State Nature Preserve.
In the summer foliage obscures Athens from your view.
Another view of the trail in Riddle State Nature Preserve taken in late summer.
The narrow ridgeline leading to Finger Rock.

As you might have expected, Finger Rock Trail leads to Finger Rock, an exposed rock outcropping that resembles a large finger pointing towards another outcropping. We arrived at Finger Rock around noon, and I looked at outcropping where the “finger” was pointing and interpreted this to mean “you should eat lunch over there”.

We climbed up the outcrop and found a rock “bench” on which to enjoy our midday meal. We were perched on the edge of a plateau with three sides sloping steeply downward.

The outcropping in the foreground is known as “Finger Rock.” It’s pointing at the outcropping where we had lunch. The blue blaze on the tree indicates this is Finger Rock Trail.
This outcropping has a built-in bench. This is where we sat as we had lunch.
Bob standing on the outcropping where we had lunch.

If you stopped to look at the surface of the outcroppings, it was interesting seeing all the ferns, moss and lichens growing on their surfaces, slowly breaking them down.

Ferns, moss and lichens growing on an outcropping.
Moss on an outcropping.
Lichens on an outcropping.

After lunch we lingered briefly to take more photos and then pressed on. From Finger Rock the trail descends in a series of switchback turns down to Dow Lake. The trail ends at a small parking lot / picnic area next to Strouds Run Road. Although there are no restrooms here, there are restrooms in two nearby parking lots. To reach them follow Strouds Run Road to the left (away from the lake) or to the right (towards the lake). You can also reach the lakeside parking lot by following a mown path to the right (when facing towards Strouds Run Road). These vault restrooms are off the parking lots that you’ll soon be encountering.

Descending from Finger Rock.
Back in a hollow we encountered this huge sycamore tree. That horizontal limb so wanted to have a swing hanging from it. 🙂
Teasel near the western tip of Dow Lake; this is an invasive plant.
Inbound from Strouds Run Drive back to Sells Park

We returned via a different route. The Finger Rock Trail intersects Trace Trail which eventually connects with the Athens Trail. Trace Trail goes by a small pioneer cemetery. It then passes through the Blair Preserve, which is owned by the Athens Conservancy. On private property just beyond the Blair Preserve is an impressive looking escarpment. Although hikers cannot directly approach the escarpment, it makes for a scenic view. The well-blazed Trace Trail features sturdy bridges across small streams, and it’s open to both hikers and mountain bikers.

This is the tomb stone of Samuel Gillette. In 1874 he died at the age of 88 years, 3 months and 18 days. The inscription on his tombstone begins, “Our father has gone to a mansion of rest from a region of sorrow and pain…”
This is one of the cliff faces of an escarpment on private property visible from Trace Trail.

The trail follows a hollow along a small stream and finally ascends steeply to the ridge-line where it connects to the Athens Trail. We continued on the Athens Trail eventually passing through Riddle Preserve back into Sells Park. There we descended back down to the parking area.

The small stream next to the trail wandered back and forth through the hollow.
From Trace Trail in the hollow, you can see the indentation where the small stream is hidden and on the opposite hillside an outcropping.

We hiked about 5 miles, but only saw a small part of the trail network at Strouds Run. There is a trail around Dow Lake and many hiking, biking, and equestrian trails on the east side of the lake.

Stopping by the Beach and Camp Store

Following our hike, we drove to the area where the beach and camp store are located in Strouds Run State Park to have a look around. The Strouds Run State Park features its own campsites, fishing, a large swimming beach, and a boat rental area where you can rent canoes and other watercraft. The park is also open to deer hunting in season.

Dow Lake not far from the beach.
A portion of the beach in late autumn; dogs are not permitted on the beach.
Canoes for rent. In addition to renting the canoes, by going to the Boat House you can arrange to rent kayaks, paddle boards, pontoon pedal boats, water bikes, volleyballs, and fishing poles.
The Boat House is located near the beach. Besides providing rentals, the Boat House also sells camping and beach supplies, sunscreen, bug spray, live bait, firewood, hot and cold drinks, and snacks and ice cream.

The Athens Conservancy has been an active advocate for mountain biking at Strouds Run. It has purchased adjacent land (such as Blair Preserve) and developed many of the hiking / biking trails in the area. During our visits we saw several mountain bikers enjoying the miles of trails available in this park system.

Additional Information

Sells Park:
GPS Coordinates: 39.3433630, -82.0745440
View or get directions using Google Maps
Directions: Exit US-33 in Athens at East State Street. Turn left on to Avon Place and go to the end of the road. Park in the parking area at entrance to Sells Park. The trail-head is well-marked with signs.
Strouds Run State Park
GPS Coordinates: 39.3513230, -82.0435320
View or get directions using Google Maps
Directions from Sells Park: From Sells Park, head south on Avon Place toward Pleasantview Drive. Turn right onto East State St. Turn right onto N. May. Continue onto Cable Lane. Continue onto Strouds Run Road. Turn right onto Strouds Run Drive. Turn right onto Strouds Run Road.

More on Athens County

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2021

7 thoughts on “Strouds Run State Park / Sells Park

  1. During the 1950s and 1960s, I hiked most of the hills and valleys around Sells Park and Strouds Run when most of it still was undeveloped for recreation. I now am a member of a writer’s group and have written several essays about those enjoyable treks through nature.

    Incidentally, I have my parents’ 1905 topography / road map of the area, which shows that, at some point, the road names were mixed up. The original name of the main road from Athens to where the lake is now was Tucker Hollow Road (now relegated to a small offshoot), and Stroud Run (no S on the end) ran north from today’s lake and past the camping area.

    My finding your site and seeing the photos of the area is a delight. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. A few months ago we hiked “The Ridges” and went up to “Radar Hill” overlooking Athens. An enjoyable walk – I plan to write it up in the near future.

  2. …. Thank you for taking me along (via blog) – that was a great hike! There is certainly much to be desired down here in Flori-duh (it’s gonna be about 80 degrees today), but I sure do miss the hills and trees of Ohio.

    1. Your welcome, jimbey. I remember chatting with you at feygirl’s blog, “Serenity Spell.” Considing how winter is just hammering the northeast, I guess we are getting off easy here in Ohio. Still 80 degrees sounds pretty nice. 🙂

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