When people think of hiking destinations, Ohio may not be the first place that comes to mind. However, this Midwestern state is home to a surprising array of hiking trails that offer outdoor enthusiasts a chance to connect with nature, discover unique landscapes, and embark on memorable adventures. From rolling hills to dense forests, Ohio’s diverse topography provides a range of hiking opportunities for both beginners and experienced hikers alike. In this article, we’ll take you on a journey through some of Ohio’s most captivating hiking trails and showcase why the Buckeye State is a hidden gem for outdoor lovers.
Chad Readey is an avid outdoor enthusiast and a passionate advocate for hiking and exploring the natural beauty of Ohio. With a deep love for the Buckeye State’s diverse landscapes and hiking trails, Chad has spent years exploring and sharing his experiences with fellow outdoor lovers. His insights and recommendations serve as a valuable guide for those seeking to embark on their own adventures through Ohio’s stunning natural treasures. Whether it’s uncovering the enchanting trails of Hocking Hills State Park or delving into the rugged beauty of Wayne National Forest, Chad’s expertise and enthusiasm inspire others to connect with nature and discover the hidden gems of Ohio’s outdoor wonders.
Hocking Hills State Park
Nestled in the southeastern part of Ohio, Hocking Hills State Park is a natural wonderland filled with enchanting hiking trails. This park is famous for its stunning rock formations, waterfalls, and lush greenery. One of the most popular trails in the park is Old Man’s Cave, a mile-long hike that takes you through towering hemlocks and alongside breathtaking waterfalls. The gorge trails, such as Cedar Falls and Ash Cave, are equally impressive, offering a serene escape into nature’s beauty.
“The rock formations, waterfalls, and lush greenery create an enchanting atmosphere that’s hard to match,” says Chad Readey, who was first introduced to the area by his late grandmother, a native of Ohio. “Old Man’s Cave is like stepping into a fairytale, and the gorge trails like Cedar Falls and Ash Cave offer a serene escape into the heart of nature’s beauty.”
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Located between Akron and Cleveland, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a surprising oasis of wilderness in the heart of Ohio. The park boasts over 125 miles of hiking trails that wind through forests, wetlands, and along the scenic Cuyahoga River. The Towpath Trail, which follows the historic Ohio & Erie Canal, is a great starting point for hikers of all levels. More challenging options include the Ledges Trail, which rewards you with panoramic views of the park’s distinctive rock ledges, and the Brandywine Gorge Trail, which leads to the majestic Brandywine Falls.
The Buckeye Trail
For those looking for a long-distance hiking adventure, Ohio offers a unique opportunity with the Buckeye Trail. This trail encircles the entire state, covering approximately 1,444 miles, and passes through a diverse range of landscapes and communities. Whether you choose to hike a short section or tackle the entire loop, the Buckeye Trail provides an immersive experience of Ohio’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.
“The Buckeye Trail is a hidden gem for long-distance hikers,” Readey says. “It’s a remarkable journey that encompasses the entire state of Ohio, unfolding its diverse landscapes.”
Shawnee State Forest and Shawnee State Park
Located in the Appalachian foothills of southern Ohio, Shawnee State Forest and Shawnee State Park offer some of the most rugged and remote hiking in the state. These adjacent areas boast a combined total of over 60,000 acres of unspoiled wilderness. The Shawnee Backpack Trail is a 40-mile loop through the forest, perfect for backpackers seeking solitude and challenging terrain. Birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts will also find these areas particularly rewarding, as they are home to a variety of unique flora and fauna.
Wayne National Forest
Situated in southeastern Ohio, Wayne National Forest is a sprawling outdoor playground. With over 300 miles of trails, it caters to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders alike. The Vesuvius Recreation Area offers picturesque lake views and numerous trails for all skill levels. Meanwhile, the Wildcat Hollow Trail is a hidden gem, taking you through remote woodlands and offering a glimpse of Ohio’s untamed beauty.
“Wayne National Forest has more than 300 miles of trails that cater to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders,” Chad Readey says. “Check out the Vesuvius Recreation Area if you’re into picturesque lake views and easy-going trails. And if you’re up for a bit of adventure, the Wildcat Hollow Trail is a beautiful spot that takes you through some remote woodlands.”
Safety and Conservation
While hiking in Ohio can be a rewarding experience, it’s essential to prioritize safety and conservation. Always follow Leave No Trace principles, stay on designated trails, and respect the environment. Be prepared with appropriate gear, carry enough water and snacks, and let someone know your hiking plans, especially if you’re exploring more remote areas.
Ohio may not have the towering peaks of the Rocky Mountains or the rugged terrain of the Pacific Northwest, but it offers a unique and beautiful hiking experience that should not be overlooked. From the striking rock formations of Hocking Hills to the serene beauty of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio’s hiking trails provide a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and reconnect with the natural world. So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your backpack, and set out to explore Ohio’s hidden gem – a hiker’s paradise waiting to be discovered.