Camping Guide: Top Ohio Hikes

Laura Arenschield
Caption: Virginia Kendall Ledges trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Since hiking goes hand-in-hand (or maybe boot-in-boot) with camping, we’ve identified three of the best treks in the state. Even though Ohioans might not be blessed with the breathtaking panoramas of the Front Range of the Rockies or the ancient redwoods of California, we still have plenty of places to walk in the woods and find peace and beauty amid the trees.

Best Short Hike: Virginia Kendall Ledges, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Trail length: 2.2 miles

Trailhead address: 701 Truxell Road, Peninsula

Pets allowed? Yes

Sandstone cliffs packed with quartz, granite outcroppings and hemlock-lined trails make this one of the most beautiful natural places in Ohio. The cliffs—formed when glaciers passing through Northeast Ohio butted up against the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains millions of years ago—offer spectacular views of the surrounding valley.

Best Medium Hike: Buckeye Trail and Gorge Overlook Loop, Hocking Hills State Park

Trail length: 6.1 miles

Trailhead address: 19852 Ohio Route 664, Logan

Pets allowed? Yes

The Hocking Hills are Ohio’s most popular hiking area, and for good reason. Trails wind through beech, hickory, poplar and maple trees. Black Hand sandstone forms the caves and cliffs for which the region is known—Old Man’s Cave (named for Richard Rowe, who, according to local legend, lived as a recluse in the cave), the Devil’s Bathtub and the backbones of both the Upper and Lower falls. This loop will take you past most of those highlights. Go early in the day, near sunrise, to avoid crowds.

Best Long Hike/Backpacking Trip: Shawnee Backpack Trail, Shawnee State Forest

Trail length: 36.4-mile main trail; 19.6-mile north loop, 26-mile south loop, 9.5-mile side trail

Trailhead address: 13291 U.S. 52, West Portsmouth

Pets allowed? Yes

Ohio’s best backpacking trail is in the state’s largest state forest, known as the “Little Smokies of Ohio.” The trails can be combined to create roughly a five-day backpacking trip, or hiked individually for a one- or two-night trek. Be on the lookout for wild turkeys, songbirds and the occasional bobcat or black bear.


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Three ideal books to peruse while spending time in Ohio’s outdoors —Bob Downing

“Grandma Gatewood’s Walk,” Ben Montgomery (2016)

Emma Gatewood remains Ohio’s queen of the outdoors. In 1955, the 67-year-old woman from Gallia County hiked and camped the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 146 days. She had told her family that she was going for a walk. This remarkable feat was just one part of the extraordinary life of “Grandma Gatewood,” as recounted in Montgomery’s compelling book.

“Worldwalk,” Steven Newman (1989)

From 1983 to 1987, Steven Newman walked solo around the world, a trek that covered 15,509 miles through 21 countries on five continents. His incredible journey—recounted in Newman’s book “Worldwalk,” as well as in a previous book, “Letters from Steven”—ended at East Fork State Park near his hometown of Bethel in Clermont County.

“The Big Year,” Mark Obmascik (2004)

In 1998, Greg Miller of Sugarcreek traveled 130,000 miles across North America in an informal competition to identify as many bird species as possible by sight and sound in 365 days. He spent $31,000 and maxed out credit cards as he identified 715 species and competed with two other birders, chasing rare and elusive birds from Alaskan islands to Texas swamps to an offshore cruise, as described in Obmascik’s book, which was later adapted into a 2011 movie with comedian Jack Black portraying Miller.

Camping Reads