Ohio is a great state to visit if you love nature - the abundance of natural parks dotted throughout the state and in the various counties hold numerous adventures for anyone looking to experience the great outdoors. If you’re a hiker, and are looking for something to do, hiking trails in Ohio are a great place to start, and there are plenty of places to go hiking in Ohio state parks that are along major highways. Hiking Ohio terrain can be difficult at times, especially if you go during the off season or when it’s raining, but the view that is offered by many of the trails is definitely worth braving the weather for. Plenty of Ohio’s state parks feature hiking paths for both new and experienced hikers; there are hiking trails with waterfalls, old architecture, sheer cliffs and stunning lakes. You can see wildlife up close in its natural habitat, or enjoy the scenery as you hike. There are hiking trails for single hikers as well as for families, and some trails even allow you to take your dog.
If you’re looking for some of the best places to go hiking in Ohio, you’ve come to the right place. Outlined below are some of the best hiking spots in Ohio. These hiking trails range from easy to moderate, with varying amounts of traffic throughout the year. For all of these trails, the best time to visit them falls between mid to late August through to mid October, while the trees are turning their bright shades of red and orange. Whether you are planning on tackling central Ohio hiking, or you’re planning on hiking in northeast Ohio, ensure that you’re prepared for whatever hike you decide to go on.
BlackHand Gorge Nature Preserve - Marie Hickey Trail/Oak Knob Trail Loop
This hiking loop is a short, 2.5 mile trek through picturesque woods and bubbling creeks, with plenty to look at while you hike. This trail is looked over by many hikers because of its short length, but make no mistake; this is one of the most beautiful hikes you can go on. Because it’s short, it’s perfect for taking adventurous, high energy kids to blow off some steam. While this would be a perfect place to walk your dog, the Marie Hickey trail is a no-dogs hiking zone, so you’ll need to leave your pooch at home for this one.
This is one of many hiking trails in Ohio with waterfalls, among other natural attractions. Besides the quiet walk, this trail passes through gorgeously tall trees and tranquil woods, over bubbling brooks and winding creeks, making it a very beautiful place to hike during the autumn months. For the low amount of traffic that this trail gets, the trails themselves are very well walked and clear, making this a nice little hike for families, and a perfect warm-up hike for those planning on taking on a longer hiking expedition.
Blackhand Gorge Nature Preserve - Blackhand Trail
Another stunning trail in Blackhand Gorge, the Blackhand trail is the only biking trail in this nature preserve. It is a 4.3 mile walk one way through stunning forests and over gorgeous creeks, making it a healthy exercise for new and experienced hikers. Both ends of the trail feature parking, so in order to get back to your vehicle you will be walking, biking, or inline skating roughly 8.3 miles.
This trail was built upon an old, abandoned rail track, which makes it easy walking in both directions. This trail is great for both kids and adults, and because of its moderate inclines, it makes for a great hiking trail for families as well as single hikers.
Hocking Hills State Park - Old Man’s Cave/Cedar Falls
Old Man’s Cave offers one of the best hiking in Ohio experiences for hiking enthusiasts in the Hocking Hills state park. The picturesque scenery, such as waterfalls, rivers, and forests is accented by the beautiful terrain. Old Man’s Cave and Cedar Falls trails make for a lovely loop that meanders through the gorge. The whole loop is a cool 6 miles long, and winds through the gorge, through caves, and past small and medium sized waterfalls. Some places may be wetter than others, and if you plan on going near the creeks it is important to have good gripping shoes.
This is the most popular trail in Hocking Hills State Park, so expect moderate to high traffic. Because of the forests, the autumn season is a popular time to go since it’s so beautiful.
Hocking Hills State Park - Conkle’s Hollow Rim Trail
While other trails in the Hocking Hills State Park claim to have some of the most beautiful scenery, no trail in Ohio beats Conkle’s Hollow Rim, a steep and perilous climb for one of the most breathtaking sights few hikers have the opportunity to see. Conkle’s Hollow Rim trail is one of the most dangerous hiking trails in Hocking Hills; the 2.5 trek is narrow, going over high cliffs and unstable terrain. For this reason, caution is highly recommended while hiking this trail - children and dogs are not suitable for bringing on this trail simply because it is dangerous all through the seasons.
However, once up on the cliffs, Conkle’s Hollow Rim offers a full sight over the gorge of Hocking Hills. It is especially popular in autumn, where the trees are in full display of their colors.
Glen Helen Nature Preserve - The Glen Helen Loop Trail
The Glen Helen Nature Preserve is a popular hiking hot spot, known for its numerous hiking trails throughout the park. The best one by far is the Glen Helen Loop Trail, a moderate hiking trail measuring at about 2.7 miles in total. It’s best when hiked in the early autumn seasons, but can be hiked throughout the year. It crosses waterfalls and creeks, making for perfectly picturesque postcard photos to take home as souvenirs. Dogs are allowed on this trail, but they must be kept on a leash at all times, and waste must be picked up and properly disposed of.
Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park - Nelson Ledges Trails
For those hikers looking for the hiking trails northeast Ohio has to offer, then the Nelson Kennedy State Park is the way to go. The Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park features few trails, but each of those trails are equally wonderful for hiking. The Nelson Ledges Trail is a short, 1.8 mile hike that offers gorgeous scenery all throughout. A small lake is the highlight of this run, as well as a short, bubbling waterfall found partway through the hike. This particular trail is classed as a moderate hiking experience, but hikers of all skill levels can thoroughly enjoy this hike. It is most popular from late August to early October, so expect higher traffic numbers during this time.
Oak Openings Metro Park - Mallard Lake Loop/Ridge Trail
The Oak Openings Metro State Park is well known for the Mallard Lake Loop - a gorgeous trail around Mallard Lake that features some of the most beautiful natural flora in Ohio. Mallard Lake is aptly named, as you can occasionally see Mallard ducks swimming through the pristine waters. The loop itself, besides being stunningly gorgeous, is also very easy to hike and incredibly accessible. It is an excellent bird watching hot spot through the late summer and early autumn as various birds fly to their winter homes.
If the Mallard Lake Loop is not enough, then the 2.5 mile Ridge Trail should offer some challenge. It’s a pretty rigorous climb uphill, but the payoff is more than worth it; the scenery from the higher elevation is positively stunning, and because of the light traffic, there is more than enough room to enjoy the new vantage point. The only downside is that dogs are not allowed on the trail, and it is not wheelchair accessible.
Highbanks Metro Park - Highbanks Metro Park Trail Loop
If you’re planning on hiking Columbus, Ohio, then be sure to check out the Highbanks Metro Park, and look at walking the Metro Park Loop. This trail is an easy walk through the beauty that is central Ohio. It’s a great trail to allow your kids to see pieces of history, and to get up close with nature. This is a relatively short central Ohio hiking trail, but can be combined with other trails (such as the Coyote Run Trail and the Scenic River Trail) to make your hike last longer.
Features of this hike include bubbling creeks and a small lake, but the real beauty lies in the forests that surround these trails. Dogs are allowed in the Highbanks Metro Park, but they must be leashed and you should clean up after them. For hiking near Columbus, Ohio, there’s really no better place to get started than Highbanks Metro Park.
Hike in Ohio
The above listed hiking trails in Ohio are great for both new and experienced hikers. These are easily the best hiking trails in Ohio for a number of reasons: many are family friendly and may also be wheelchair accessible, ensuring that everyone can have fun on the trail. The easy trails and gentle slopes are great for families with kids who want the great outdoors, and the hiking trails with steeper inclines are ideal for hikers looking for a little challenge. While most of the above listed hiking trails are short, many of them can be combined with other trails in the parks for a longer or shorter hiking experience.