Posted in Helpful hints, Hiking

Ten Great Hikes in Ohio

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.

A hiker taking a break at Big Lyons Falls in the Mohican State Park.

Central Ohio
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.

Footbridge and seasonal waterfall on the Marie Hickey Trail in Blackhand Gorge
Railway tracks crossing the gorge viewed from the Marie Hickey Trail in Blackhand Gorge
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.

View from Jacob’s Ladder Trail at Christmas Rocks.

Southeast Ohio
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.

Old Man’s Cave
Cedar Falls
Rose Lake
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.

Trail in Lamping Homestead
Southwest Ohio
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.

Falls at Clifton Gorge
River bank along a trail at John Bryan
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.

One of the cascades on Birch Creek in Glen Helen
Northeast Ohio
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)

View from dam at Mohican State Park.
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.

Red Trail at Nelson Kennedy Ledges
Northwest Ohio
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.

Sand dunes at Oak Openings
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.

Augusta-Ann Olsen

Do you have a favorite hike that was not mentioned? I invite you to add a comment below describing it.

Additional information

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© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and 2012 to 2017

14 thoughts on “Ten Great Hikes in Ohio

  1. Bob and Deb,

    I would also like to recommend Indian Mound Park in Greene County (near John Bryan, Glen Helen, and Clifton Gorge). It is located off SR 42 just south of Cedarville. You can hike either side of Massie Creek Both hikes are interesting. On one side of the creek, you can see an ancient Indian Mound, hike along the creek, and pass several falls before reaching Cedar Cliff Falls. On the other side, you walk through some beautiful cliffs.

    1. We visited Indian Mound Reserve this year and posted this review. I’d agree with you – it’s a great hike. I’ve done two “Great Hikes” lists – at some point I need to do another.

  2. Northeastern ohio’s Summit Metro Parks have some stunning traits as well as pur neighbors the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Cleveland Metroparks. Sad that none of those were mentioned. I can think of many trails that rank right up there with those chosen.

  3. Boy, you both are really getting around a lot! Always such great photos you take of the lovely spots you visit. The picture at Old Man’s Cave is beautiful. Keep enjoying and sharing!

    1. Thanks. Old Man’s Cave is a favorite. It’s always great, but I especially enjoy the winter hike when it’s a “winter wonderland” and early spring when a lot of water is flowing.

    2. Thanks, Jill. 🙂 Doing this blog has been a great past time for us. We keep discovering new, favorite places in Ohio. I just learned last month that we have sand dunes in Ohio. Who knew?!?

  4. Wonderful post. I loved presentation of these ten hiking trails. I have to say that You have done great job when presenting these. Your country is wonderful!

  5. …. Although a bit short on parks, the entire Holmes County (SW of Canton) is one of Ohio’s treasures. Take almost any county road out of the county seat of Millersburg, and you will see sights not available anywhere else in the US.
    …. As for the Oak Openings metro park up by Toledo … you could easily spend a lifetime exploring that wonderful park, and never get bored in the process. Enjoy!

    1. We’ve been to Holmes County. Holmes County is the center of Ohio Amish country and is indeed scenic. On my ToDo list is a visit to Killbuck Marsh during bird migration season and cycling the Holmes County Trail bike path. This bike path is split into two parallel paths – one for bicycles and the other for Amish horse and buggies.

      1. I have a 2nd home in Killbuck…the dogs and I hike the trail a lot. So scenic and so much to see and hear. I’ve always felt really safe hiking by myself, being a single female. I can leave home and walk to the trail head, so much fun.

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