Posted in Hiking, Park review, Southeastern Ohio

Wayne National Forest (Athens Unit): Wildcat Hollow

We chose the 5-mile long “short loop”.
Wayne National Forest encompasses over a quarter million acres in southeastern Ohio; the national forest is divided into three units: Athens, Marietta, and Ironton (see the links at the bottom for more information on these units). Like all national forests, recreational use of the forest is only one of its purposes. Forestry officials are also concerned with conservation, timber harvesting, mineral management, livestock grazing, watershed protection, and wildlife management. Among the recreational activities available in the Athens Unit are hiking, backpacking, horseback riding, ATV riding, hunting and fishing.

Within the Wildcat Hollow area of the Athens Unit, there is a 15-mile loop trail for backpackers (referred to on signs as the long loop), and a 5-mile loop trail for day hikers (referred to as the short loop). Bob and I have done the short loop hike a couple of times. We went once in the spring, and had a less-than-enjoyable time. The trail was extremely wet and muddy, and I’m referring to a suck-the-hiking-boot-off-of-your-foot kind of muddy. I kept thinking that once we got out of the hollow and onto the ridge, things would improve. But it was pretty much a five-mile slog through the mud.

However, we decided to give it another try when it was drier. So we returned during August of a previous year. The going was much better, and we actually enjoyed ourselves.


Getting Oriented
The trailhead is off of County Rd 58 near Glouster, Ohio. The parking lot is a pretty good size, and there are vault toilets near the parking area. If you follow the entry drive to the end of the driveway, you’ll see a sign for the trailhead straight ahead. It starts out as a very manicured looking trail, but soon turns into a more primitive, dirt trail. When the trail first comes to a fork, we chose the left fork which took us around the loop in a clockwise direction. From the GPS trace which is displayed over the topological map below, you can see that this hike starts in a low area, and after a while proceeds up the side of a ridge.

GPS trace of our hike at Wildcat Hollow (View on Google Maps)

In the map above, the black, binoculars icon marks the location of Monroe Outlook that we wrote up earlier. Also note that on the northernmost edge of the map, there is another map marker saying there is an Old Schoolhouse, but we haven’t checked it out ourselves.

The trailhead lies just beyond the parking lot.
There is a restroom near the parking lot.
Outbound: Wildcat Hollow Trail
Below is the trailhead as viewed from the parking lot. However, after going down the trail a ways, you’ll see another sign that says that you are approaching the trailhead, so I guess it all depends on how “trailhead” is defined.

Trailhead
Start of the trail
While on the short loop trail, we periodically came across campsites that backpackers use. These are pimitive campsites, usually amounting to no more than a clearing, and a fire circle that somebody else put together. For toilet facilities, make sure you’ve brought a shovel. With that said, if you are an impoverished college student who likes to camp, the price is right: camping is free.

Campsite
The fork in the trail below is where you get to decide if you want to follow the short loop in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction. We went left, so clockwise.

We went left (clockwise).
Just in case I thought I had already entered the trailhead, the sign below let me know the trailhead was in my future.

Another trailhead
The trail is blazed with vinyl, white diamonds. They appear at fairly regular intervals. In addition the trail is sufficiently popular that it was not overgrown.

White diamonds blaze the trail
During our August visit, most of the stream beds that we came across were either dry, or nearly so. When we visited during the spring, some wading was required.

Crossing a dry stream bed

Same stream bed, but photographed in the spring.

After a little over a mile, we were out of the hollow on on the side of a ridgeline.

Out of the hollow
We knew that we would see a road (Irish Ridge Rd. SE) when we got to the far end of the short loop. Right before that happened we came across the clearing below.

Crossing a clearing as we approach the road

Irish Ridge Road SE
Wildcat Hollow Connector

Once you get to Irish Ridge Road, the loop trail turns back south again. For a short ways you will follow a gravel road that is closed to public traffic. About the time that you see a big, brown tank on the right, you will want to veer off the road to the left and follow a dirt trail back into the woods. Even after veering into the woods, there are times when the trail will seem more road-like. But most of the trail is a simple dirt path. Once in a while you might come across a downed tree that you’ll have to scamper over or around.

The brown sign in the photo below allows you to choose between the short loop and the long loop. To do the five-mile day hike, you want to follow the short loop which will take you down this gravel road.

We chose the Short Loop.
From the road barrier, we could see the sign for our trail.
If you follow the road past the tank, you’ve gone too far. You need to veer off the road and into the woods at the trail sign to the left.
Inbound: Wildcat Hollow Trail

We were now heading south toward the parking lot. Most of this hike is on hillsides. As in the previous leg, once in a while you will come across a clearing that people are using as campsites.

Ridge
Campsite
Clearing
Trail
Some help getting through a muddy patch
Lush vegetation
Eye catchers along the trail

While hiking these are just a few of the wildflowers, butterflies, and fungus that we saw on the side of the trail.

Question Mark Butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis)
Caterpillar of the Sycamore Tussock Moth (Halysidota harrisii)
Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
Blue Mist Flower (Conoclinium coelestinum)
Some species of sunflower?
Ironweed
False turkey-tail (Stereum ostrea)
Additional information




Location
Wildcat Hollow Hiking Trail:
  • Address: Co Rd 58, Glouster, Ohio 45732
  • GPS Coordinates: 39.5740114, -82.0663771; if you use a smartphone app to navigate to the trailhead, there is a possibility that you will not have any cell service when you have finished the hike and are ready to use the app to navigate home. Our phone service uses both Sprint and T-Mobile, and neither were available for the return trip. So if you do use an app, you might want to cache or download the map before driving to Wildcat Hollow. Google Maps does let you store offline maps, and other apps may do so as well.
  • Google Maps: View on map or get directions
  • Directions: The trail map for both the short loop and long loop at Wildcat Hollow shows all of the roads in the vicinity. This could be helpful in locating the trailhead (PDF)
  • Nearby: Burr Oak State Park is relatively close to Wildcat Hollow. People who are staying at Burr Oak (whether in the lodge, a cabin, or at a campsite) could easily get to Wildcat Hollow if they wanted to do the day hike here.

More on Wayne National Forest

© Deborah Platt, Robert Platt and TrekOhio.com 2012 to 2018


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