15 Best Hikes In Ohio For You To Discover

Are you looking for the best hikes in Ohio?

There are many beautiful places to hike in Ohio, from Hocking Hills State Park to Cuyahoga Valley National Park to Mill Creek Park.

These hikes have a lot of stunning things to see, including cascading waterfalls, mysterious caves, and glorious greenery.

Born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, I know a lot about my home state – including hiking in Ohio.

Here I am giving you the 15 best hikes in Ohio to discover that will inspire you and  I know you will enjoy.

Best hikes ohio

15 Best Hikes in Ohio For You To Discover

Old Man’s Cave, Hocking Hills State Park

Difficulty: Easy to moderate, depending on the trail

Length: 0.6 miles to 6 miles, depending on the trail

Just about any list of the best hiking in Ohio will include the hike to Old Man’s Cave in Hocking Hills State Park. After all, it’s one of the best things to do in Ohio as a whole!

Old Man’s Cave, named after the hermit Richard Rowe who lived there in 1796, is one of the main highlights of the state park.

Between this bit of history, the sandstone cave itself, and an accompanying waterfall, Old Man’s Cave is one of the most popular hikes in Hocking Hills.

There are a few different hikes that include Old Man’s Cave. The simplest is an easy half-mile hike that simply goes to the cave and back.

As an alternative, there is a longer, moderate-level six-mile hike that takes you past Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, and Ash Cave.

Best hikes ohio

Conkle’s Hollow, Hocking Hills State Park

Difficulty: Easy to difficult, depending on the trail

Length: 1.1 miles to 2.5 miles, depending on the trail

Old Man’s Cave isn’t the only trail in Hocking Hills State Park worth the effort. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few wonderful Hocking Hills trails, including Conkle’s Hollow.

Conkle’s Hollow is a rocky gorge that provides hikers with stunning views of the trees below. In the fall when the leaves change color, this Ohio hike is particularly beautiful.

The length and difficulty of the trail to reach Conkle’s Hollow depend on the trail that you choose.

The lower trail is just over a mile long and is both wheelchair- and stroller-accessible. The rim trail, on the other hand, is a difficult 2.5-mile hike.

Best hikes ohio

East Gorge Trail, Mill Creek Park

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 2 miles

The East Gorge Trail is an Ohio hidden gem in Youngstown, Ohio. This hike is in Mill Creek Park and it takes brave adventurers across a bridge, through a gorge, beside a stream, and finally in front of a small manmade waterfall.

Depending on how you reach the start of the East Gorge Trail, you may get a glimpse of the historic Lanterman’s Mill, which is also in Mill Creek Park.

Best hikes ohio

Ash Cave, One of the Best Hocking Hills Trails

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 0.5 miles

Another one of the best hikes in Ohio is the hike to Ash Cave. Also situated in Hocking Hills State Park.

Ash Cave is one of the most easily accessible Ohio hiking trails. With a paved path that is only half a mile long, it is perfect for families with young children.

At the end of the half-mile trail, you’ll reach Ash Cave. This massive sandstone cave is often accompanied by a waterfall during the rainiest seasons or by frozen icicles in the winter.

In other words, you can hike to Ash Cave multiple times, and it could look completely different each time!

Best hikes ohio

East Cohasset Hike and Bike Trail, Mill Creek Park

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 1.5 miles

Like the East Gorge Trail, the East Cohasset Hike and Bike Trail is also in Mill Creek Park in Youngstown. This completely paved trail is one of the easiest and best hikes in Ohio.

This trail is so well-paved that it’s not just hikers who use it. Rather, bikers, runners, skateboarders, and cross-country skiers all make use of this wonderful path.

Due to its well-maintained nature, the East Cohasset Hike and Bike Trail is also one of the busiest hikes on this list.

Cantwell Cliffs Loop, Hocking Hills State Park

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 1.8 miles

Hocking Hills State Park has so many scenic trails for hiking. It is home to many of the best hikes in Ohio, so it’s no surprise that a fourth one has made it onto this list.

Cantwell Cliffs Loop takes hikers through gorges, into caves, and near waterfalls! In other words, it showcases many of the best natural features that Hocking Hills has to offer, all on one trail!

Do know that there is a shorter, easier alternative to the Cantwell Cliffs Loop, known as the Cantwell Cliffs Short Loop, which is only a mile long.

Since so many of the best hikes in Ohio are in Hocking Hills, consider spending multiple days in the area to tackle all of the hikes that you want to do.

After all, there are tons of great Ohio cabins and Ohio VRBOs nearby to choose from!

Best hikes ohio

Bridgeway Trail and Steel Mill Trail, Black River Reservation, Northeast Ohio

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 9.7 Miles

The Bridgeway Trail and Steel Mill Trail, are a package deal. You can’t reach the Steel Mill Trail without tackling the Bridgeway Trail first.

Both of these paths are found in the Black River Reservation, which is just half an hour outside of Cleveland!

Read more  How to Go on a Skaftafell Glacier Hike in 2022 (Tips + Best Tour!)

This pair of trails is a fantastic way to just enjoy the little things that nature has to offer.

Listen to the flowing sounds of the river, peer into the water from a bridge from above, stop to smell the wildflowers, and watch a small waterfall cascade down.

Despite its length, both of these trails are completely paved. They are both quite popular and very heavily used. 

Cedar Falls Hiking Trail, Hocking Hills State Park

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 0.6 miles

Cedar Falls Hiking Trail is a short, yet sweet Ohio hike in Hocking Hills. There’s minimal elevation gain, so you simply spend your time following Queer Creek until you reach Cedar Falls.

The reason this trail is rated as moderate is that it does require a few creek crossings.

Plus, a few past hikers have noted that this path is a bit more difficult to follow than the rest of the trails in Hocking Hills.

To have your best chance of seeing the waterfall, try to tackle this trail after a bit of rain.

These spectacular Hocking Hills Cabins are perfect if you will be in southeast Ohio for a few days hiking.

Best hikes ohio

Lucky Stone Loop Trail in the Chapin Forest Reservation, Northeast Ohio

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 1.5 miles

If you’re looking for an amazing Ohio hike near Cleveland, Lucky Stone Loop Trail is a great option.

Situated in the Chapin Forest Reservation in northeast Ohio, Lucky Stone Loop Trail awards hikers with a quick break from city life and a bit of fresh air.

When you reach the end of the trail, you’ll be able to see wonderful views of the Cleveland skyline and Lake Erie.

If you would like to continue enjoying the nature in the area, Chapin Forest Reservation is filled with other trails for you to explore.

Brandywine Gorge Trail, One of the Best Hikes in Ohio for Waterfalls

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 1.3 miles

Without a doubt, one of the best hikes in Ohio is Brandywine Gorge Trail, simply because it features the tallest waterfall in Ohio.

Situated in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the Brandywine Gorge Trail leads to the 65-foot Brandywine Falls. This wide, powerful waterfall cascades down a beautiful black wall and into a stunning olive pool.

During your hike to the waterfall, admire the many varieties of trees. In the fall, these different tree types allow for a beautiful array of fall colors to bloom.

If you plan to stick around the national park, here are 10 things to do in Cuyahoga Valley National Park you should check out!

Best hikes ohio

Peninsula Trail, Lake Hope, Zaleski State Forest

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 2.4 miles

Lake Hope State Park is surrounded by the Zaleski State Forest.

The Peninsula Trail at Lake Hope gives hikers the chance to explore the beauty of both the lake and the forest alike.

Essentially, this hiking trail takes hikers on the shores of Lake Hope before looping back through the forest to reach the parking lot.

So while the blue lake waters are the highlight, you also get a glimpse of the forest’s trees as well.

Best hikes ohio

Zaleski South Loop Trail, Zaleski State Forest

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 12.4 miles

Zaleski South Loop Trail is by far the longest hike on this list.

While it might seem too long for your liking at first, the effort is well worth it, because you’ll get to explore Zaleski State Forest, the second largest forest in Ohio.

Along the way, you’ll see the historic Hope Furnace, the entrance to the Moonville tunnel, and maybe even a beaver or two!

This trail is rated as moderate because it requires a couple of stream crossings.

Do note that there are many different paths that cross through the Zaleski State Forest.

So be careful that you know the twists and turns of your trail before heading out, or else you may find yourself on a 20-mile hike instead!

Depending on the time of year you visit, you’ve got yourself one of the best places to see fall foliage in Ohio.

Best hikes ohio

Redwing Loop, Cincinnati Nature Preserve

Difficulty: Moderate

Length: 4 miles

If you’re hoping to do a hike within the city of Cincinnati, your best bet is to head to the Cincinnati Nature Preserve. The Redwing Loop Trail is the longest hiking trail in this nature preserve.

This hiking trail is the perfect way to take a break from the urban city life of Cincinnati.

Simply walk and enjoy all the greenery you could ask for. Who knows? You might even find a few wild blackberries to munch on.

HIking here would make the perfect Ohio day trip!

Best hikes ohio

Shoreline Trail, One of the Best Hikes in Ohio for Beach Lovers

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 2.7 miles

The shoreline trail at Lake Erie Bluffs is definitely one of the best hikes in Ohio, despite the fact that it is quite different from most of the other hikes on this list.

First of all, since this trail is on the shores of Lake Erie, the majority of this shoreline trail is on or near the beach.

Second of all, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll see some eagles enjoying the fresh air along with you! There’s no other hike in Ohio quite like it!

Spending time near the beach would make the perfect weekend getaway!

Best hikes ohio

Ledges Trail, One of the Best Hikes in Ohio for Views

Difficulty: Easy

Length: 1.8 miles

Ledges Trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park is another one of the trails that is consistently considered one of the best hikes in Ohio.

This relatively easy hike takes hikers through the Sandstone Cliffs known as the Ritchie Ledges.

There are even some historic petroglyphs carved into the stones, which is something found on very few Ohio hikes. And there is the bat-filled Ice Box Cave that you can peek into as well.

While all of these features are great stops along the way, the real payoff is at the end of the hike.

There, you’ll reach a breathtaking cliff overlook and an iconic stone staircase.

Best hikes ohio

Packing List For Hiking In Ohio

If you will be traveling, either by plane or by car to Ohio, here are some tips on how to pack lightly.

concealed travel pouch may be one of the most important items you bring along when hiking in  Ohio. It is always important to protect your personal information. Identity thieves are everywhere.

This unisex RFID blocking concealed travel pouch is lightweight and comes in several colors. It has lots of organization to give you peace of mind. You can place it under your hiking clothes next to your body to carry your ID safely.

If you have a pouch already that does not come with the RFID protection, as I do, these RFID sleeves are the perfect solution.

Read more  Piestewa Peak Hike – The Complete Guide Up Summit Trail

This configuration comes with enough credit card sleeves that the entire family would be protected. They are slim too, so they will easily fit into your pouch or wallet. 

If you are planning on taking a lot of pictures with your phone you will definitely want to consider an external charging battery. This Anker high-speed phone charging battery is the exact one I carry with me on all of my trips.

It can be used on a variety of phones, not just an iPhone like I have. And wow is it fast!

I like that it holds its charging capabilities for several uses so I do not have to worry about it while out and about, and if I forget to recharge it at night, it will still be good to go the next day.

My daughter gifted me with this FugeTek selfie stick and tripod setup for my birthday. I absolutely love it! It is made of lightweight aluminum and so easy to use.

It has Bluetooth connectivity and is a breeze to use for taking selfies with all those nature shots while taking one of the best hikes in Ohio.

Hydration is so important when hiking. You want to remain hydrated throughout your hike to support your immune system which in turn will be stronger to fight off any germs you will encounter during your travels. 

You will want to bring your own refillable water bottle with you. 

I never leave home on a trip without my Bobble filtration bottle. The 18.5-ounce size is perfect for hiking and it fits nicely in the pocket of a backpack.

When filled with water, it is not too heavy to carry. And the charcoal filter ensures fresh clean water whenever you fill the Bobble.

Perhaps you are traveling a long distance and packing space is a premium in your suitcase, or in your car. Then this set of collapsible silicone foldable water bottles would work well for you. Would not take up much space at all. 

You will want a backpack or daypack with you to store snacks, your water bottle, phone, extra clothes, etc.. when hiking This foldable water-resistant backpack would be great

It is very affordable and is available in many color options for you to choose from. The fact that it folds down into a zippered pouch will make it easy to pack.

Here I have listed 15 of the best hikes in Ohio that I feel are worth your effort to explore and discover.

I hope you feel inspired to tackle one of these amazing hiking trails in Ohio.

Please leave a comment in the section below if you do hike one of these trails, or any other trails in Ohio. How was it??

— Update: 23-03-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Where to Go Hiking in Ohio: Hike Your Home State Series from the website slightnorth.com for the keyword best hikes ohio.

This post contains affiliate links.

There’s no need to go abroad when you can find adventure in your own backyard! Get inspired to #HikeYourHomeState with guides to 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! 

Best hikes ohio

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. 

Read more  Seven Falls Hike in Colorado Springs

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. 

Best hikes ohio

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. 

Thunderbunny 50k 

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. 

Best hikes ohio

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.

Best hikes ohio

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.

Best hikes ohio

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. 

There are more than 70 Indian burial sites in Ohio, but two of the most popular are the Serpent Mound Historical Site and the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. 

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. 

Best hikes ohio

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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Best hikes ohio


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About the Author: Tung Chi