Wayne National Forest Overview
Tucked into the southeast corner of Ohio, the Wayne National Forest is a slice of classic Americana. The countryside is a blend of forested hillsides and pastureland. The history of the area is interwoven with the present—from ancient Adena Indian mounds in the center of small communities, to covered bridges along rural roads, or the skeletal remains of the great rock iron furnaces. The Wayne lies in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Rugged hills covered with diverse stands of hardwoods, pine, and cedar; lakes, rivers, and streams; springs, rockshelters, and covered bridges, all characterize the Wayne National Forest. Much of the Wayne National Forest was strip mined at the turn of the century, so part of the Forest is in various stages of reclamation and revegetation.
Lake Vesuvius is the recreational mecca for the Wayne National Forest. Vesuvius is a large, 143-acre lake nestled in the wooded hills, encircled by over 25 miles of hiking trails. These trails travel through some of the most striking landscapes that Ohio has to offer with a variety of vegetation, rock outcrops, and many species of wildlife. Woodland songbirds, deer, beaver, and turkey are commonly seen. Soaring above the lakes or perched in shoreline trees you may also see hawks and osprey. Camping, picnicking, or fishing make this a great weekend trip. There are numerous other small lakes and rivers in the area that offer fishing and boat access.
Just a few hours drive from Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus, Akron, Cleveland, Louisville, and Pittsburgh, the Wayne is a true urban forest, valued for the retreat it offers from this harried modern world.
Hike the Wildcat
Wildcat Hollow Trail is a 15-mile trail that traverses upland forest country. This trail offers two options: a 15-mile loop of scenic trail along ridgetops and stream bottoms, and a short five-mile loop for day hikes. Both trails will lead through tall pine forests, open meadows, quiet streams, rock outcroppings, and down old roads overlooking miles of beautiful landscape. White-tailed deer, wild turkeys, forest songbirds and numerous reptiles and amphibians are likely to be seen along its route. Wildflowers are abundant during spring and summer, and autumn colors are vibrant. Bird watchers be sure and bring your binoculars.
You can't discuss hiking in the Wayne without at least mentioning the North Country National Scenic Trail. The NCT threads its way for more than 4,000 miles across the northeast and upper midwest. In Ohio, much of the NCT follows the Buckeye Trail, Ohio's signature state trail. You'll find a 43-mile segment in the Athens ranger district, and a 41-mile segment in the Marietta ranger district.
Bike a Jumpy Trail
The off-road vehicle trails in Wayne National Forest are famous for truly rocking mountain biking. We recommend heading for Monday Creek in the Athens district, and Hanging Rock and Pine Creek in the Ironton. The ORV trails are wider than single-tracks. But what you lose in intimate narrowness you gain in jumps, expertly bermed turns, and long downhills (oh, and uphills, too). Go, get lost in the backwoods, and have a blast.
Wildlife abounds in the Wayne National Forest. A couple of trails are favored by bird and wildlife watchers. The Wildcat Trail, discussed above, is primo in the wildlife department. If you're looking for a shorter hall, the Symmes Creek Trail is a 6-mile trail near Gallipolis that traverses a variety of forest types. Along this trail you'll find scenic overlooks, large rock outcrops, and natural wetlands. Spend a leisurely day in this scenic area watching birds, upland wildlife, and rock dwelling creatures in the rock outcrops. The network of trails around Lake Vesuvius is also tops, especially if you're in the mood for a little osprey watching.
Canoe Little Muskingum River
The Little Muskingum is a tranquil river ideal for a family canoe trip. Campgrounds are located to provide for multiple-day floats and easy access to the river. Fishing is generally very good, with a variety of species such as muskie, large and small-mouth bass, crappie, catfish, and rockbass frequently caught. Four campgrounds, accessible from the Scenic Byway, are on the banks of the Little Muskingum River. A canoe livery, operated by a local businessman, is available for float trips of varying lengths.
Covered Bridges of Ohio
Ohio once had more covered bridges than any other state: over 2000 of 'em. Wayne's Covered Bridge Scenic Byway is a trip back to an era of bonneted bridges, barns painted with Mail Pouch tobacco ads, and a slower-moving, rural America. The route follows the Little Muskingum River. The 35-mile route takes a little over four hours using an audio tape that you pick up from the Marietta ranger station. This is assuming you resist the temptation to stop to take a hike—there are several North Country Trail trailheads along the way.
Camp Oak Hill
Oak Hill is a well-appointed campground, one of two at Lake Vesuvius Recreation Area. This is a family kind of place, with a playground, hot showers, and a wide range of ready activities: hiking, canoeing, fishing. There's even a swimming area and a playground. The maximum capacity is a modest 24 campsites, so you won't have the feeling of camping in a city in the woods.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication