City Hiking Guides

Exploring the Best Hikes in Ohio

POSTED ON May 1, 2024 BY Ralph S.


Introduction

Ohio, an often underestimated gem in the heart of the Midwest, is home to some of the most captivating hiking trails in the United States. Whether your next adventure is hiking through one of Ohio’s 75 state parks or discovering new paths along Ohio’s scenic rivers, you’ll find wonder when you uncover some of the best hikes in Ohio on its plentitude of nature trails.

From the rejuvenating greens of spring to the colorful canvases of fall, each season offers its own unique allure, making it perfect to explore the great outdoors year-round. Not to be overlooked, the serene beauty of winter snow-laden paths provides an enchanting backdrop for hikers. Summer beams with vibrant life, welcoming adventurers to explore the lush landscapes under the sun.

Cincinnati and Cleveland stand as gateways to breathtaking natural retreats, while hidden gems like Thompson Township Park beckon the curious to venture deeper into Ohio’s wilderness.

Whether you’re planning to visit familiar trails or chart a course along lesser-known routes, Ohio’s rich tapestry of landscapes promises an unforgettable experience for hikers of all levels.

Hiking Trails Overview

The Glens Trail at Gorge Metro Park in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.

The state’s extensive network of trails winds through state parks, recreation areas, and scenic byways, each offering a distinct experience.

For those drawn to the rugged beauty of cliffs, crevices, and rock outcroppings, Gorge Metro Park and Rhododendron Cove State Nature Preserve stand as prime destinations. These areas provide a closer look at Ohio’s geological wonders and lush vegetation, particularly captivating during the fall foliage season.

Not to mention, the rolling hills and cascading waterfalls of Hocking Hills State Park epitomize the picturesque Midwestern landscape, making it a must-visit for nature lovers. Here, the trails lead adventurers through dense forests, deep gorges, and towering cliffs, offering some of the most scenic views in the state.

For those intrigued by wetland ecosystems, the unique marshes of Magee Marsh Wildlife Area provide a birdwatcher’s paradise, especially during the migratory seasons.

Buckeye Trail

Buckeye Trail

  • Location: Ohio, USA
  • Distance: 1,444 miles (2,224 km)
  • Hiking Duration: Varies widely depending on the section
  • Difficulty: Varies from easy to challenging
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Map: Click Here

The Buckeye Trail encircles the state of Ohio, presenting an unmatched opportunity to experience the diverse landscapes Ohio has to offer. Esteemed as the only long-distance hiking trail entirely within Ohio, it affords adventurers the chance to traverse through the state’s picturesque countryside, from the serene woodlands to the rolling hills, all connected by a continuous dirt path.

Among the myriad of sights along the trail, the Tinkers Creek Gorge Scenic Overlook stands out as a must-see, offering panoramic views that exemplify the region’s natural beauty. Additionally, sections of the trail, like the boardwalk through swampland areas, provide a unique vantage point of Ohio’s wetlands

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East Rim Trail

The Ledges Trail is one of the most scenic hikes in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio.

  • Location: Peninsula, OH
  • Distance: 2.3 miles (3.7 km)
  • Hiking Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • View map here

The East Rim Trail, nestled in the verdant expanses of Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Peninsula, OH, marks a significant milestone as Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s inaugural mountain bike path. This loop trail not only caters to the biking community but also extends a warm invitation to hikers and runners seeking a moderately challenging adventure amidst nature. Its unique design stands as a fusion of excitement and scenic beauty, serving as a pivotal connection to an extensive network of bike trails stretching over 100 miles (160 km) across the region.

Woven into the park’s lush landscapes, the East Rim Trail offers an immersive outdoor experience. Hikers can expect breathtaking views and rugged terrain that demand a healthy dose of endurance and grit.

Hinckley Lake Loop Trail

Hinckley Lake, OH

  • Location: Hinckley, OH
  • Distance: 3.7 miles (5.95 km)
  • Hiking Duration: 1.5–2 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Trail Type: Loop

The Hinckley Lake Loop Trail, circling the serene Hinckley Lake, is a moderate loop that promises enchanting views and a tranquil hiking experience. Esteemed for its accessibility and scenic beauty, the trail offers a variety of activities, including bird watching, fishing, and boating on Hinckley Lake.

One of the trail’s highlights is the West Drive Scenic Overlook, which provides hikers with spectacular vistas of the lake and surrounding forest. For more information on Hinckley Lake activities, visit Hinckley Lake Boathouse & Store.

Additionally, this well-maintained trail connects with the Bridle Trail, offering an extended exploration of the area’s natural beauty. Its proximity to the rugged terrain of the 1.1-mile (1.77 km) Whipp’s Ledges Loop Trail in the Whipp’s Ledge Picnic Area adds another layer of adventure for hiking enthusiasts. This integration with surrounding trails and natural attractions makes the Hinckley Lake Loop Trail a must-visit for outdoor lovers seeking a moderately challenging but deeply rewarding experience.

Little Miami Scenic Trail

Bridge Over The Little Miami River Scenic Bike Trail

  • Location: Southwestern Ohio
  • Distance: 78.1 miles (about 126 km)
  • Hiking Duration: Varies depending on pace
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Type: Point-to-point

The Little Miami Scenic Trail stands as a remarkable landmark in the United States, being the fourth longest paved trail, stretching through five southwestern counties of Ohio. Esteemed for its scenic beauty and easy accessibility, it caters to a diverse crowd, from the casual stroller to the serious biker, even accommodating the occasional horseback rider. Rich in greenery and flanked by the serene Little Miami River, the trail offers a peaceful retreat into nature.

Featuring a well-paved path, the trail slices through picturesque landscapes, small towns, and historical points of interest, providing an immersive outdoor experience. Attractions along the route include the charming town of Loveland, known as the “Sweetheart of Ohio,”  and the historic Fort Ancient Earthworks, offering not just a physical journey but a trek through Ohio’s rich heritage. This multi-use rail trail sees heavy recreational use year-round, proving to be a staple for outdoor enthusiasts in the region.

Marion Tallgrass Trail

Marion Tallgrass Trail

  • Location: Marion, OH
  • Distance: 12.44 miles
  • Hiking Duration: Varies depending on pace
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Trail Type: Point-to-point

The Marion Tallgrass Trail offers an easy and accessible route for walkers, cyclists, and nature enthusiasts looking for a tranquil outdoor experience. This point-to-point trail extends from the eastern trailhead just west of Marion to the county line, providing a scenic passage through Ohio’s natural landscapes. The trail is known for its well-maintained path, making it perfect for families, beginners, or those seeking a peaceful stroll or bike ride amidst nature.

One of the most captivating features of the Marion Tallgrass Trail is its immersive experience in the beauty of Ohio’s tallgrass prairies. Visitors can enjoy the changing scenery, from lush greenery in the spring and summer to stunning golden hues in the fall. Birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts will find the trail a haven for viewing a variety of local birds and wildlife in their natural habitat.

Hiking in Nature Parks and State Reserves

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Ohio’s state parks offer a rich tapestry of hiking opportunities, featuring an array of nature trails, bridle trails, and loops that meander through hills, creeks, meadows, and dense woods.

These locations, including those near Cincinnati, invite adventurers to explore the diverse landscapes Ohio has to offer. Hiking is not just permitted but encouraged, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the scenic beauty located within these parks.

Whether you’re looking for a tranquil hike or a challenging trek, Ohio’s state parks provide the perfect backdrop for outdoor exploration.

Here are the best parks to explore:

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Brandywine Falls | Cuyahoga Valley National Park - OH

  • Location: Cuyahoga Valley National Park, OH
  • Size: 32,572 acres (50.9 sq. mi.)
  • Number of Hiking Trails: About 30
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: Over 125 miles (201 km)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a sprawling haven between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. This park offers a plethora of outdoor activities, such as scenic hikes, bike paths, and a picturesque scenic railroad. Among its most captivating sights is the Brandywine Falls, a stunning waterfall that attracts families and adventurers alike.

For bird enthusiasts, the Gorge Trail provides an exceptional birdwatching experience, highlighted by the seasonal return of the cerulean warbler. This one-mile loop is effortless yet rewarding, offering intimate encounters with nature’s wonders. In addition to the rich biodiversity, visitors can extend their exploration to Buttermilk Falls, ensuring an engaging outdoor adventure within the park’s diverse landscapes.

Delaware State Park Hiking Trails

Delaware River

  • Location: Delaware, OH
  • Size: 1,686 acres (682 ha)
  • Number of Hiking Trails: undefined
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: undefined

Delaware State Park is a public recreation area that offers outdoor activities set against the backdrop of Ohio’s natural beauty. Nature enthusiasts will find landscapes comprising trails that weave through wildlife habitats and shaded camping spots, perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in the tranquility of nature. The park’s reservoir stands out as a beacon for water sports buffs, offering boating, swimming, and fishing opportunities.

The diverse ecosystem also facilitates a variety of recreational activities, ensuring every visit is filled with discovery and adventure.

Christmas Rocks State Nature Preserve

Christmas Rocks State Nature Preserve

  • Location: Lancaster, OH
  • Size: 415 acres (0.649 sq. mi.)
  • Number of Hiking Trails: 2 (orange trail and blue trail)
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: 4.75 miles (7.6 km)

Christmas Rocks State Nature Preserve boasts two loop trails that create a harmonious hike when combined. This preserve offers hikers the chance to explore a variety of geographical features, beginning with an enchanting old covered bridge at the trail’s commencement. The pathways meander through a picturesque stream valley surrounded by lush, forested ridges, culminating in a breathtaking viewpoint from atop the cliffs.

The main attractions of Christmas Rocks are its stunning natural landscapes. The orange and blue trails give visitors a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the beauty of Ohio’s natural terrain. From the serene beauty of the stream valley to the expansive views from the clifftop, hikers can experience a tranquil retreat within the preserve.

Hocking Hills State Park

Hocking Hills and Cuyahoga Valley National Park

  • Location: Logan, OH
  • Size: Not specified
  • Number of Hiking Trails: About 19
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: Not specified

Hocking Hills State Park, renowned as Ohio’s most beloved state nature preserve, is a scenic sanctuary offering myriad outdoor activities set against captivating waterfalls, towering cliffs, and mysterious gorges. The park is a treasure trove with around 19 hiking trails, each revealing the park’s natural splendors, including the iconic Conkles Hollow, the captivating Whispering Cave, and the stately Hemlock Bridge. Not just limited to hiking, the park also invites visitors to try their hand at archery, enjoy fishing in its serene waters, or take a dip in the swimming areas amidst nature’s unparalleled beauty.

One highlight of the park is the Conkles Hollow Rim Trail. The other two significant trails include the Ash Cave Trail and the more challenging Cantwell Cliffs Trail.

Another must-visit within the park is the Old Man’s Cave area, an emblematic site featuring deep, rocky gorges and mesmerizing waterfalls, such as the Devil’s Bathtub and Lower Falls.

Hiking Trails in North Chagrin Nature Center

  • Location: Mayfield Village, OH
  • Size: 1,700 acres (2.67 sq. mi.)
  • Number of Hiking Trails: Multiple
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: Various lengths

North Chagrin Nature Center is nestled within a wildlife sanctuary known for its lush landscapes and a variety of nature-focused amenities. The area is a congregation of extensive hiking trails, scenic picnic spots, and an educational nature center, offering an enriching outdoor experience for all ages. Its trails, diverse in terms of flora and fauna, provide a serene escape into nature, highlighting the beauty of Ohio’s natural heritage.

Regarded as a hidden gem, North Chagrin Nature Center boasts picturesque vistas and engaging wildlife encounters.

Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park

Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park is located southeast of Cleveland Ohio.

  • Location: Garrettsville, OH
  • Size: 167 acres (0.26 sq. mi.)
  • Number of Hiking Trails: 4
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: 3 miles (4.8 km)

Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park presents a unique natural landscape within its 167-acre confines. The park is celebrated for its striking geological features, including rugged cliffs and a diverse array of plant life that captures the essence of Ohio’s rich ecological tapestry. A haven for nature lovers, it operates as a day-use park, mainly attracting visitors for picnicking and its accessible hiking trails that cater to a variety of skill levels.

The park boasts four scenic hiking trails, each offering a unique perspective on the area’s natural beauty. The trails include the White Trail (1 mile (1.6 km), easy), ideal for leisurely walks; the Yellow and Blue Trails (both 3/4 mile (1.2 km), moderate), offering a bit more of a challenge with some rougher terrain; and the Red Trail (1/2 mile (800 meters), moderate), which provides a condensed yet equally captivating experience of the park’s geological wonders.

Visitors can start their adventure from the parking lot, allowing easy access to a day filled with exploration and discovery of Ohio’s remarkable landscapes.

Quail Hollow Park Nature Trails

Quail Hollow Park

  • Location: Lake Ave. NE, Hartville, OH
  • Size: 703 acres (1.098 sq. mi.)
  • Number of Hiking Trails: Not specified
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: Not specified

Quail Hollow Park, nestled in Stark County, Ohio, offers a variety of outdoor activities, including camping, fishing, and traversing across distinct hiking trails. This county park is a prime destination for nature enthusiasts and families looking for a serene getaway. The park’s vastness and natural beauty provide a perfect backdrop for memorable outdoor adventures.

The park’s diverse ecosystem supports a wide range of flora and fauna, making it a haven for bird watchers and wildlife photographers. Among its most engaging offerings are well-maintained campsites and fishing areas that promise a peaceful commune with nature. The hiking trails, varying in difficulty, invite explorers of all ages and skill levels to discover the park’s hidden gems, from scenic overlooks to dense woodlands.

Shawnee State Park

  • Location: West Portsmouth, Ohio
  • Size: 1,095-acre (1.7 sq. mi.)
  • Number of Hiking Trails: 10+ within the park and surrounding state forest
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: about 147 miles (236 km), including 75 miles (120 km) of bridle trails

Shawnee State Park and the adjacent state forest encompass a vast network of trails, making it a premier destination for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. The park offers a variety of paths suitable for all skill levels. The North Loop at Shawnee State Forest, clocking in at 23 miles (37 km), presents a rigorous challenge for avid hikers. This specific trail is celebrated for its rich biodiversity, including rare wildflowers and abundant birdlife, providing ample opportunities for birdwatching and nature photography.

For those looking to immerse themselves fully in the wilderness, Shawnee State Park facilitates overnight backpacking adventures. The park has designated primitive campsites for backpackers venturing through its expansive trail system. These sites offer a rustic and genuine outdoor experience, allowing visitors to unplug from the modern world and reconnect with nature.

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Burr Oak State Park

Burr Oak State Park

  • Location: Burr Oak Lodge Rd, Glouster, OH
  • Size: 2,593 acres (4.05 sq. mi.)
  • Number of Hiking Trails: 9
  • Total Length of Hiking Trails: More than 30 miles (48 km)
  • Download the hiking trail map

Burr Oak State Park, nestled within the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, boasts a rich tapestry of natural beauty and outdoor adventure. With trails spread across 9 distinct paths, the park offers a diverse range of experiences for hikers, bird watchers, and nature lovers. These trails wind through dense forests, around the serene Burr Oak Lake, and offer breathtaking views of the Appalachian foothills, providing a peaceful escape into nature.

In addition to its extensive hiking network, Burr Oak State Park permits horseback riding on its bridle trails, adding another layer to its recreational offerings. The park’s Burr Oak Lodge provides comfortable accommodations for visitors seeking to extend their stay amidst the park’s tranquil beauty.

Conclusion

Ohio’s hiking trails beckon with the promise of adventure and the fulfillment of a deep connection to the natural world.

Whether you’re scaling verdant hillsides or meandering through ancient stands of trees, the hikes in Ohio offer a unique tapestry of natural beauty. From the wonder of waterfalls echoing within imposing stone chasms to the delicate balance found in the beech-maple forests, Ohio trails are ripe for exploration and discovery.

Embark on a journey to savor the simple pleasures of native splendor, and you’ll find a treasure trove of experiences waiting right outside your door.

Check out our city hiking guides if you’re looking for more destinations to plan your next hike.


RALPH S.

Ralph S. is the founder of Silverlight, an avid hiker and trail runner he enjoys spending time outdoors, riding his motorcycle and swimming at the beach when he's not busy replying to customers or developing new Silverlight gear.

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