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There’s no need to go abroad when you can find adventure in your own backyard! Get inspired to #HikeYourHomeState with guides from locals in all 50 US states – starting with Ohio!
There are 165,217 acres of protected land in Ohio spread between federal lands, state lands, Metroparks, and more.
From the tiny 25 acre Spiegel Grove State Park in Sandusky to the massive 20,000+ acre Salt Fork State Park in Guernsey and everything in between, this guide to the best hikes in Ohio will take you to the most scenic spots, challenging trails, and beautiful places that the heartland has to offer!
Station Road Bridge in Cuyahoga Valley National Park
10 Best Places for Hiking in Ohio
Let’s start with the ten best hikes in Ohio. Though there are hundreds of trails to choose from (and we recommend exploring every single one) these places should take the top spots in your Ohio #HikeYourHomeState bucket list.
1. Cuyahoga Valley National Park
As the only National Park in Ohio, Cuyahoga Valley NP has some of the best hiking trails in the state. It covers 50 square miles between Akron and Cleveland and has over 125 miles of trails. Some of the highlights are Brandywine Falls, a 65 ft. waterfall, and the Ledges Trail Overlook.
2. Hocking Hills State Park & Hocking State Forest
Hocking Hills is the most popular and most recommended hiking spot in Ohio.
It’s made up of Hocking Hills State Park and the adjoining Hocking State Forest which cover a combined 19 square miles in the Appalachian foothills of Southern Ohio.
Some of the many Hocking Hills highlights include Ash Cave, Old Man Cave, Conkle’s Hollow, and Cedar Falls. Book a cabin, yurt, or even an old train carriage on Airbnb to make the most of your stay.
3. Maumee Bay State Park
Lake Erie is one of the most beautiful natural sites in Ohio and Maumee Bay State Park has some of the best hiking trails around it.
Leave the rocky foothills of Appalachia and step into a whole new landscape with 10 miles of trails through wetlands, marshes, beaches, and more.
4. Clifton Gorge
I grew up in Dayton, so Clifton Gorge is one of my favorite places to go hiking in Ohio. This unique 268-acre park boasts “one of the most spectacular dolomite and limestone gorges in the state” and was named a National Natural Landmark in the ‘60s.
5. Zaleski State Forest
28,000 acres of wooded goodness awaits you in Zaleski State Forest. As the second-largest state forest in Ohio, this hiking destination should be on any outdoor lovers’ bucket list.
Some of the highlights of Zaleski State Forest include the 23.5 mile backpacking loop and the serenely beautiful shores of Lake Hope.
6. John Bryan / Glen Helen
John Bryan and Glen Helen are another of my old stomping grounds from my trail running days in high school.
These two areas, the first a state park and the second a nature preserve, are next to each other and offer miles of trails over 2,000 acres.
After you go for a hike, make sure to stop by the charming hippie town of Yellow Springs for some shopping, a tarot card reading, or a beer at the local Yellow Springs Brewery.
7. Ohio Old Growth Forest Network
The Ohio Old Growth Forest Network is an awesome project for anyone interested in hiking in Ohio.
While the state is full of lush green forests, trails, and parks, very few of them are ‘old growth,’ meaning that they’re still untouched (and unlogged) from hundreds of years ago.
For example, in Dysart Woods, one of 12 designated old growth forest areas in the network, you can find trees that are more than 400 years old. Hiking back in time through the Old Growth Forest Network should be on all Ohioans’ state bucket lists.
8. Buckeye Trail
The Buckeye Trail is one of the coolest outdoor projects in Ohio, but still relatively unknown outside of hiking enthusiast groups.
The Buckeye Trail, completed in 1980, covers an astonishing 1,444 miles of trails throughout the state. Even better, they’re all interconnected to farm a massive loop from Lake Erie to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, to Cincinnati, and back around again.
True, much of it is on paved roads, but there are beautiful sections on trails as well and there’s no better way to #HikeYourHomeState in Ohio than by literally hiking around it completely!
9. Wayne National Forest
Wayne National Forest covers more than 240,000 acres in Southeastern Ohio and has plenty of highlights to explore during multiple visits to the natural oasis.
Wildcat Hollow is one of the most popular trails in the forest along with the more difficult Archer’s Fork Trail, but there are great options for every distance and fitness level.
10. Shawnee State Forest
Zaleski State Forest is only the second-largest state forest in Ohio because Shawnee State Forest has it beat with a whopping 63,000 acres of protected land.
Located in the picturesque Appalachian foothills, the park is aptly nicknamed ‘Ohio’s Little Smokies’ and has plenty of wilderness trails to explore, like the 40-mile Shawnee Backpacking Trail Loop with backcountry camping areas.
Waterfall in Hocking Hills
Most Challenging Hikes in Ohio
Even though Ohio gets a bad rep for being full of nothing but flat farmland, that’s really not true. The Appalachian foothills spill into the southeastern part of the state, so that’s generally where you’ll find the toughest trails with challenging elevation climbs.
If you’re looking for a challenge, the most difficult hikes in Ohio are:
- Buckeye Trail – Cuyahoga Valley National Park Section
- Thunderbunny 50k course
- Logan Backpack Trail
Buckeye Trail Cuyahoga Valley NP Section
The Buckeye Trail covers an amazing 1,444 miles in Ohio and almost 40 of them run through Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
These are both some of the most beautiful miles of the trail and the most difficult. In this section you’ll face almost 3,000 feet of uphill climbing on muddy trails and 3,000 more going back downhill again.
The Thunderbunny 50k Ultra Marathon is held every year in May, but you don’t have to run it to challenge yourself on the trail.
This loop through Strouds Run State Park is open to hikers year-round and offers 3,720 ft. of elevation gain over 31 miles to test even the most experienced adventurers.
Logan Backpack Trail
The Logan Backpack Trail is a 21-mile figure-eight loop in Tar Hollow State Park. You can do it in two 10-mile loops or all together in one long trek that’ll take you up and down almost 3,000 feet of elevation gain.
Rocky River Metropark near Cleveland
Easiest Hikes in Ohio (for Beginners)
Even if you don’t consider yourself ‘outdoorsy,’ you can still enjoy and explore all the beautiful hikes in Ohio.
I think labels like this can be extremely limiting, so don’t feel like just because you’ve never gone hiking before or don’t have a ton of experience that you can’t start hiking now! Because you always can.
Some great trails for beginners to ease into hiking are the Blackhand Gorge Trail in the Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve, because it’s the only paved biking trail in Ohio’s state parks, and the Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga National Park. The latter is visited via wooden pathways and stairs through the forest and will give you a huge reward at the thundering falls with very little work.
Gorge Metropark near Akron
Best Time to Hike in Ohio
Like many Midwestern states, the best time to hike in Ohio is in the spring and fall because the weather is temperate. According to historic averages, January is the coldest month in Ohio and July is the hottest.
Fall is arguably the most beautiful season in Ohio but the blooming flowers in the spring (March through May) are pretty too.
If you’re prepared for the weather, winter can be a scenic time to hike as well, with the added benefit that any trail you hit will be nearly empty.
Finally, summer hikes in Ohio are nice if you time them in the late evening. Just make sure to avoid hiking at midday because the hottest part of the day in the hottest part of the year can make even the most beautiful of trails pretty unpleasant.
Quiet river in Yellow Springs
More Notable Natural Sites in Ohio
Hiking isn’t the only way to get outside in Ohio. Once you cross off the 10 best hikes in Ohio why not visit a few more natural sites in the state?
Some other notable places to add to your bucket list are the many Indian burial mounds. These sacred sites are built into interesting shapes and are a great place to discover the culture and way of life that was here before us.
You can also check out The Wilds, a non-profit conservation center and safari park in Columbus, the popular Ohio Caverns near Dayton, and the less-well-known but equally impressive Crystal Cave on South Bass Island in Lake Erie.
Peaceful spot in Hocking Hills
#HikeYourHomeState Ohio Challenge Downloadable Checklist
Ready to take the #HikeYourHomeState challenge??
Hold yourself accountable to getting out and exploring your own backyard with this free downloadable checklist (coming very soon) of the top 10 hikes in Ohio.
Get it, print it, hang it on your fridge, and hike your home state with us!
More hiking trails in Ohio include:
Oak Openings Preserve Metropark (Toledo)
Maumee State Forest (Toledo)
Mohican State Park (Columbus / Cleveland)
Rocky River Reservation (Cleveland)
Bedford Reservation (Cleveland / Akron)
Hinckley Reservation (Akron)
Hueston Woods State Park (Cincinnati / Dayton)
Germantown Metropark (Cincinnati / Dayton)
Twin Creek Metropark (Cincinnati / Dayton)
Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park (Cleveland)
East Harbor State Park (Toledo)
Rentschler Forest Metropark (Cincinnati / Dayton)
Caesar’s Creek State Park (Dayton)
East Fork State Park (Cincinnati)
Scioto Grove Metro Park (Columbus)
Sugarcreek Metropark (Dayton)
Ready to go?
There’s no need to go abroad when you can find adventure in your own backyard!
Plan a day trip to the top hikes on this list or browse Airbnbs for a spontaneous weekend away to explore a new corner of your home state.
Then, pack your bag with our 12 day hike essentials you can’t hit the trails without and #HikeYourHomeState with us!
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