17 Adventurous Hikes in Ohio for All Levels of Experience
By Rachael Hilderbrand
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Updated June 24, 2021
No matter the season, the Buckeye State is full of amazing and picturesque hikes and places to explore. While there aren’t many towering mountains or steep elevation hikes, Ohio is a unique state for hiking: from waterfront views at Lake Erie to walks along the Ohio River, there are gorgeous forests, rock formations, and scenic views throughout the state. From snowy winter scenes to beautiful spring flowers, summer swim spots to stop at and gorgeous fall foliage; Ohio offers scenic hiking for all. Whether you’re visiting one of the three C cities (Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati) or somewhere in-between, check out our list of the best hikes in Ohio to plan your next outdoor adventure!
As one of the longest and most famous trails in the state, one of the best areas for hiking in Ohio is the Buckeye Trail: a 1,440-mile loop across the entire state of Ohio. While some people hike end-to-end, most people hop and and off in different parts around the state. Starting in the northeast, the trail goes through Cleveland, Akron, West Virginia, Hocking Hills, Cincinnati, Dayton, and finally heads north nearly to Toledo, where the trail finally crosses back to Cleveland.
The Buckeye Trail has sections that are rated easy, moderate, and difficult. It’s fairly easy to follow with blue markers and goes through a variety of Ohio’s quaint small towns. You can pick a stretch to hike or do a multi-day hike, camping along the way and stopping over in Ohio’s small towns along the way. Our favorite part of the trail is the section that runs through Hocking Hills as it connects with so many other great hikes in Ohio.
As one of the most family-friendly hikes in Hocking Hills, Conkles Hollow Gorge features beautiful views of the rocky landscape and nearby waterfalls. If you want to extend your hike. Conkles Hollow Gorge is a beautiful and serene place to visit after snowfall or during the fall with all of Ohio’s gorgeous foliage. While visiting Conkles Hollow you can also explore the Conkles Hollow East and West Rim Trail loop!
Known to many as one of the best easy hikes in Ohio, this trail is located in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Along the way, you’ll pass by a beautiful waterfall, a pond, and several rows of gorgeous pines. Well-maintained and easy to follow, the trail is accessible all year long and is perfect for bird watching or even a trail run.
Horseshoe Falls – Caesar State Park, Waynesville, Ohio
Trail Length: 1.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 88ft
This beautiful out and back trail is located in Caesar State Park near Waynesville, Ohio. The trail is perfect for all skill levels and follows along a beautiful creek, lake, and as the name suggests a small waterfall. It’s a perfect hike for young children as well.
Want to visit a trail that nearly transports you outside of Ohio? The Nelson’s Ledges hike offers great views of rock formations and ledges and passes a beautiful waterfall. Along the way, you’ll also pass through beautiful forested areas between the ledges and caves. The trail can be somewhat rugged along its ledges and through the caves, so be especially careful when hiking in wet conditions or when the trail is muddy. Because of its unique cliff views, some hikers have commented that it’s hard to believe that it’s actually in Ohio! We recommend this trail in the fall to take in all the beautiful foliage around these ledges and cliffs.
Dripping Rock & Overlook Trail is located right in the heart of Columbus. This trail, which is located in Highbanks Metro Park, will transport you from traffic and buildings to beautiful forests, meadows, and creeks. It’s a beautiful, picturesque escape that you can explore even if you don’t want to go too far out of the city to find nature.
There’s no better way to get a scenic view of both the city and Lake Erie than along Cleveland’s Lakefront Nature Preserve. This park and trail offers a great option for all levels of hikers to explore some green space and nature, admire the lake, and the city at the same time. This trail is one of the best in Ohio because it offers an escape from the busy city life in Cleveland without having to go far. Take in the beautiful teals colors of Lake Erie in the summer and the greenery all around you.
There’s a reason Hocking Hills is one of Ohio’s most popular places for weekend trips – it’s got some of the best hiking in the state. While visiting Hocking Hills, tackle the 12.3-mile loop to visit Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, and Ash Cave. This loop is known as one of the best hikes in Ohio, passing by gorgeous rock formations, beautiful waterfalls, quaint bridges, and spooky tunnels. With over 1,000 feet in elevation gain, the trail will definitely get your blood pumping.
The trail can also be shortened to just visit around one of the three locations, Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, or Ash Cave, or a combination of two locations. This hike is our absolute favorite hike in Ohio, and we recommend spending a whole weekend in Hocking Hills to experience the area’s unique scenery.
Make sure to visit this beautiful hike in Cuyahoga Valley National Park that takes hikers through 2.6 miles of trails through absolutely magnificent rock formations, caves, and gorgeous wild flowers in the spring. Enjoy a peaceful forest and walk through vertical rock ledges and gorges on this moderately difficult trail. You can add this trail to your list the next time you’re looking for a place to explore outside of Cleveland in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
For a beautiful loop trail just south of Cleveland and not quite in Pennsylvania, we recommend Lanterman’s Mill Trail in Youngstown, Ohio in Mill Creek Metro parts. This trail follows along a lake and also passes an old flour mill from the 1840s, giving the trail its name. The mill and lake offer some scenic photo stops along this moderate loop, but watch out for tricky staircases and tight areas along the rock formations near the mill.
One of our favorite trails in the Cleveland area – the Ohio & Erie Canal trail runs parallel to the Erie Canal for 80 miles from the outskirts of Cleveland and to Zoar via Cuyahoga Valley National Park. You can go for a stroll, bike ride, or run along different parts of this 80-mile trail.
Stamford House to Brandywine Falls Trail – Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Trail Length: 3.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 554 feet
One of the best places for hiking in Ohio, this 3.9 mile trail is one of the most popular and scenic hikes in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The trail’s main landmark is the beautiful Brandywine Falls. This trail connects to the Brandywine Gorge Trail, adding another mile onto your hike. With scenic boardwalks and trails that lead to breathtaking waterfalls, the Brandywine Falls and Brandywine Gorge trail is a quintessential Ohio hiking trail that’s perfect for hikers of all levels. Note that this trail does get very crowded, so be sure to go early or on weekdays to avoid the crowds.
Jacob’s Ladder and Christmas Rocks Trail is a 4-mile loop that is a fantastic trail to hike when visiting Christmas Rocks Nature Park. Along the way, the trail passes an adorable covered bridge and rock formations. Well maintained with beautiful summit views, this trail we recommend visiting during the fall when the leaves are changing colors.
Archers Fork Trail is an absolutely beautiful hike located near Hocking Hills State Park. The trail is a nearly 13-mile loop that pases a number of towering rock formations, a natural bridge, and a cave. If you want even more adventures, it’s worth checking out more of Wayne National Forest when visiting the area.
Hemlock Gorge Loop – Mohican State Park
Trail Length: 11.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 1247 feet
With lovely views of Mohican State Park, the Hemlock Gorge Loop is a great hike to check out between Cleveland and Columbus. This moderate to difficult trail traverses a number of hills and passes a covered bridge. One of our favorite things about this trail and the Mohican State Park area are the tree house cabins you can stay in for multi-day hiking.
Glen Helen, Little Miami & Clifton Gorge – Glen Helen Nature Preserve
Trail Length: 11.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 977 feet
The Glen Helen, Little Miami, and Clifton Gorge trail is an 11-mile loop located near Yellowspring, Ohio in the Glen Helen Nature Preserve. The trail passes a stunning waterfall and offers picturesque views of the Little Miami River, cliffs, and rock formations. Be careful on some of the hilly inclines after rain, as the rocks can get slippery. The trail is mostly shaded and is a great hike for all seasons.
Twin Valley Trail – Germantown Metropark
Trail Length: 26.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 2148 feet
The Twin Valley trail is one of the most popular difficult hikes in Ohio. This 26+ mile trail connects Germantown Metropark and Twin Creek Metropark. You can choose to hike the entire trail between the two parks or shorten it to the trails within one park. The trail offers a wonderful view over the valley area and a significant elevation gain for Ohio, which will definitely get your heart pumping!
What to Pack
Breathable hiking clothes – For warmer hikes, you’ll want to wear a sweat-wicking shirt and breathable pants, like these Patagonia hiking shorts for men and women. For cold-weather hikes, we recommend dressing in layers, including merino wool baselayers for men and women, a down puffer jacket for men and women, and a Northface waterproof outer shell for men and women (a must for hiking in Seattle). And don’t forget a pair of the best women’s and men’s hiking socks!
Trekking poles – You won’t need these for every single hike, but we suggest throwing them in your car just in case. We recommend the Black Diamond Trail Ergo cork trekking poles, which are lightweight, easy to transport, and durable.
Water bottle – Having water available at all times is a huge must. To limit disposable plastic, we recommend bringing your own refillable water bottle. We’re obsessed with Hydro Flask water bottles because they keep water cold for hours.
Sunscreen and bug spray – Sweatproof sunscreen and DEET bug spray can help you avoid sunburn and bug bites, two of hiking’s most annoying after-effects. Our favorite kind of sunscreen is Sun Bum, as it is free of harsh chemicals and safe for marine life, including coral reefs.
A brimmed hat or cap – The sun can be brutal in open hikes, so always pack a brimmed hat or capfor day hikes in the sunshine.
Emergency blanket and first aid kit – We’d strongly recommend bringing a first aid kit and a lightweight emergency blanket on every hike. Why? Because the unfathomable can happen, and it’s always best to play it safe.
Durable day pack – A durable day pack is the perfect spot to stash all your hiking gear. While any backpack will do, we recommend the Osprey Tempest 20 or the Talon 22 day packs because they’re comfortable and breathable for long hikes. For more information, check out our best day packs for any terrain guide.
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