Humans stand on two feet for a reason: To walk, to run, and to hike. In Ohio, getaways like Mohican State Park will unfold before you while the fresh, earthy aroma of Rhododendron Cove's undergrowth fills the air — the trees in Old Man's Cave and Cedar Falls can show you the way. Here are fourteen locations with scenic views steeped in Ohio pride that deserve to be discovered. From expert to novice hikers, we selected trails for every skill level. Lace on your hiking boots and get ready for these memorable hikes in the Buckeye State!
Old Man's Cave and Cedar Falls
Hocking Hills State Park is one of the most popular parks in the state for a reason. You can follow many paths, so choosing each trail can be challenging. However, we recommend a charming loop from Old Man's Cave to Cedar Falls and back. This 6-mile loop will bring you through to the Upper Falls, then the gorge valley, passing the Lower Falls and Queer Creek. Following the trail, you can look for blue blaze marks around Grandma Gatewood Trail, where you will encounter recess caves, seasonal waterfalls, and slump blocks before reaching Cedar Falls. At this point, you can choose between going up to the parking lot to find facilities to stop for a picnic on the tables or descending via the Gorge Overlook Trail, leading to Rose Lake and back to Old Man's Cave. For a more extended adventure, explore the new trails to Whispering Cave by following the Hemlock Bridge Trail, adding 1.2 miles to your hike.
Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve
Oak Knob Trail and the Marie Hickey Trail are some of the best trails in the Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve. Together, they form a 2.5-mile loop. You can see a waterfall, a small stone gorge, and a picturesque hemlock grove following the signs. The trail does not feature markers or blazes, so it can be hard to navigate when the leaves cover the path. Being a little short, we suggest combining it with other trails at the preserve, such as the Quarry Trail or Canal Lock. Finally, dogs are not permitted at Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve.
Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve
Stretching along the rim of a narrow gorge formed by the Little Miami River, Clifton Gorge boasts 3-mile-long trails. These trails seamlessly link with the extensive 11.4-mile trails found at the adjacent John Bryan State Park, allowing for more comprehensive and immersive hikes. Narrows Trail in Clifton Gorge is a crowd favorite; it guides hikers past observation decks offering panoramic views of the gorge's narrow sections, lively rapids, and enchanting waterfalls. After completing the Narrows Trail, we suggest the Gorge Trail, which meanders alongside the shore of the Little Miami River. Dogs are not allowed at the Clifton Gorge Preserve, but they are welcome at John Bryan State Park.
Shawnee Day Hike Loop
Forests surround Shawnee State Park in Scioto County, located near the banks of the Ohio River. It has 75 miles of bridle trails and another 72 miles of hiking trails. With this many trail lines, there are plenty of routes. The Shawnee State Forest Day Hike trailhead offers three distinct hiking options. These include the well-known 7.2-mile classic loop, a more recent 4.2-mile loop, and an extended 8.4-mile loop. It is important to note that many hikers accurately classify all three hikes as 'strenuous.'
The classic 7.2-mile hike takes you up and down a couple of 600-foot ridges; the path is heavily forested the whole way. The more recent 4.2-mile loop and the extended 8.4-mile loop are particularly colorful in the fall. Dogs are allowed here as long as they are in good shape.
Note: Shawnee State Forest might be closed at times for logging activities. Check the ODNR Shawnee State Forest website.
Edge of Appalachia
Buzzardroost Rock Trail in Adams County is just a half-hour drive from Shawnee State Park. The trail is 2.2 miles long and ends with a breathtaking view overlooking the Ohio Brush Creek Valley. While venturing towards the vista, you will pass by steep cliff edges, streams, dense forests, rugged rock outcroppings, and a prairie landscape. About halfway in, you can decide between two paths, one that goes through an area of prairie or another that goes along the cliff edge; they both end up at the vista, don't worry. The trail's distinctive blend of pine forests and expansive prairies creates an ambiance reminiscent of landscapes in Colorado or Wyoming rather than southern Ohio — a unique hike for the area.
Mohican State Park
Our suggested hiking route at Mohican State Park starts at the south end of the covered bridge, opposite the picnic area. Entering the trail to the west, follow the path that runs parallel to the river until you reach the turn-off for Big Lyons Falls. After enjoying the view of the falls, ascend the stairs and continue your journey to Little Lyons Falls, eventually reaching Pleasant Hill Dam. To complete the loop, descend the grassy slope of the earthen dam and cross to the other side of the river. Following the flat trail along the river, you will eventually return to the covered bridge. The hike spans approximately four miles. For a bit of trivia, Mohican State Park is home to the Mohican Trail 100, one of the oldest ultra marathons in the US. Also, it hosted the first-ever US Track and Field Ultra Marathon National Championship in 2005. Dogs are permitted here.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Accompanying the Cuyahoga River, Cuyahoga Valley National Park encompasses a winding, verdant valley. Also, it is the sole national park in the state of Ohio. It features 125 miles of trails over 20,000 acres. Among these trails, The Ledges Trail holds a special place as a beloved choice among visitors. Despite its modest length of 1.8 miles, this trail offers a captivating adventure. It treats hikers to awe-inspiring vistas of towering cliff walls, narrow crevices, slump-block formations, and a breathtaking overlook. The Ledges Trail showcases the remarkable beauty of the park, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and outdoor explorers.
Oak Openings Metropark
Surrounded by towering trees, this hiking location can be traversed by bridle or boot. Oak Openings Metropark offers over 70 miles of trails and showcases an array of diverse terrain. During the spring, bird migration makes this location a hotspot for birdwatching. The 1.7-mile Sand Dunes Trail is popular among hikers; it takes you through captivating landscapes, including deciduous woods, a pine forest, meadows, and remnants of ancient dunes formed by a long-gone lake. Additionally, the 1.9-mile Evergreen Trail is worth exploring too. With over 4,000 acres and more than ten trails, this park might need multiple trips to explore fully. Dogs are welcome here.
Lamping Homestead Trail
Right around the corner from Graysville, the Lamping Homestead Trail offers a captivating adventure. This exceptional loop trail, comprising two distinct paths, has gained recognition as one of the finest hikes in the Buckeye state. The rich historical background enriches the journey. Commencing at the two-acre Lamping Pond, the trail meanders through a white pine plantation and a mesmerizing beech-maple forest. Along its 300-foot vertical rise, remarkable caves and striking rock outcroppings treat hikers. Exploring the trail reveals intriguing historical remnants, including the Lamping family cemetery, a testament to the area's past that dates back to the 1800s. This hike seamlessly combines natural beauty and the opportunity to immerse oneself in the site's heritage. It may just be one of the best hikes in the state.
The Two Mile Loop
Bounded by the urban jungle of Youngstown, Mill Creek Park stands out as one of the largest Metroparks in the state. Within the park, a remarkable collection of fourteen hiking trails awaits, each boasting its unique appeal. However, two courses, the East Gorge Walk and the West Gorge Trail, emerge as the most popular options. Together they create The Two Mile Loop alongside Mill Creek. Encompassing striking scenery, the trail winds through imposing rock formations and rugged terrain. While parts of the trail feature a boardwalk, it is worth noting that it only spans a limited section. Pets on leashes are welcome at the Mill Creek Metropark.
Christmas Rocks State Nature Preserve
In this particular Nature Preserve, we suggest combining all the trails, resulting in a pleasant 4.75-mile hike. Jacobs Ladder and Christmas Rocks are the two loops color-coded with blue and orange; both are well marked. These trails offer a stunning cliff-top view, scenic stream valleys, and ridges full of interesting flora. We recommend coming here during the fall to enjoy even more colorful vistas. Some covered bridges can be a nice bonus to explore nearby. Be sure to bring the right shoes since there are a few wet sections, but not too muddy. Dogs are not allowed at Christmas Rocks State Nature Preserve.
Tucked deep inside Fairfield County, Rhododendron Cove is a well-kept local secret. At a small and hard-to-find gravel parking lot, you will see a mown path that will lead you to a ridge line where you will find gorgeous cliff faces and mossy rocks adorned with a ton of Rhododendron Maximum (Great Rhododendron). June to early July will see this trail covered in huge white and pink flowers as Rhododendrons blooms. This trail is only 2.25 miles long; it is short but unforgettable. If you are left wanting more, feel free to visit the adjacent Wahkeena Preserve driving up the road. Dogs are not allowed in either preserve.
Conkles Hollow Rim Trail
In the middle of the dense forests of southeastern Ohio, Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve stands out with its murky undergrowth; it is one of the most popular hikes in Ohio. Gorge Trail and the Rim Trail are the trails featured here. First is the Gorge Trail, a flat and paved path known for its exceptional scenic beauty. First is the Rim Trail, a 2.5-mile loop that encircles the outer edges of the gorge rim. This trail provides breathtaking vistas and is especially awe-inspiring when the fall foliage is at its peak. The Rim Trail may not be suitable for young children or people fearful of heights. Additionally, please be aware that dogs are not allowed in the preserve. Exercise caution during your hike for safety, and always remain on the path.
A single plateau emerges at the top of the Fort Hill promontory, offering 11 miles of nature trails around the peak. Within the undulating landscape, you will discover two Native American earthworks, the beautiful Baker's Fork Gorge valley, and three striking natural stone arches. You can find abundant wildflowers in spring, adding to the scenic beauty. The area boasts numerous trails, allowing you to tailor your hikes to different lengths and explore noteworthy attractions. We also recommend Canby's Mountain Lover Trail if the water is low enough at Baker's Fork. As you traverse the trail, you will encounter a ridgeline on the opposite side of Baker's Fork, offering scenic views. However, the true highlight of the course is the captivating Keyhole Arch, an impressive stone arch towering twenty feet high and nestled within a hillside. Once you cross Baker's Fork, the trail takes you directly through the captivating Keyhole Arch, adding an element of intrigue to your hiking experience.
Ohio is certainly one of the best places to go hiking in. This nature-rich state grants stunning vistas, gorgeous forests, and many rivers that adorn the trails. The mossy rocks, the heartwarming flowers, and the refreshing waterfalls will elevate your excitement and physical fitness. Ultimately, these are the most engaging courses found in the Buckeye State, so pack your boots and explore the beauty of Ohio!