Fall is the perfect time to take a hike and enjoy nature. Whether you’re looking for a short half-mile stroll through the woods or a 30-mile, week-long getaway, Athens has plenty of trail options to get you into the woods and away from the textbooks. Take a break and explore these six places to hike in and around Athens:
Despite the ghost stories told about The Ridges, the area surrounding the historical buildings is undoubtedly gorgeous. The trail is a 2.9 mile loop, traveling near the buildings of The Ridges, Radar Hill and Dairy Barn Arts Center. Two more hikes near campus are very popular among Ohio University students; Bong Hill and Witches Hill. They both sit on the opposite side of US-33 and are shorter than half a mile. Both trails end with stunning views of campus and Witches Hill even provides bouldering opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
Hockhocking Adena Bikeway
If you’d rather take a walk on a paved path outside rather than the woods, the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway is for you. The bikeway boasts a 21 miles point-to-point walk, and 42 miles if you’re looking for a round-trip. The trail starts in Nelsonville, travels through Hocking College, around The Plains and campus, and then ends near East State Street. Grab your walking shoes or your bike and take a day trip exploring the sights of Athens County and the Hocking River.
Sells Park, Avon Place, has access to several connecting and intertwining trails. From the park, you have access to the Rockhouse, Athens, Paw Paw (sic), Cucumbertree, White Ash and Finger Rock trails. Some notable loops and combination of trails include the 1.7 miles loop with the Rockhouse, Paw Paw and Athens trails; 3.3 mile loop featuring the Rockhouse, White Ash and Athens trails; 3.9 mile loop using the Rockhouse and Athens trail; and the 6 mile loop with the Trace and Finger Rock trail.
Strouds Run State Park, 11661 State Park Road, is a quick drive from campus. The park boasts a peaceful lake and stunning natural features. From the northwest side of the lake, you can access the 2.4 mile out-and-back White Pine and Vista Point trails, featuring some historical pinpoints and an overlooking view of the lake. A little further south, you can jump on the loop with the Hickory Multi-use Trail, the Amoretto Trail and the Lakeview Trail for a trip around Dow Lake that’s just under 10 miles. Grab your bathing suit and a picnic basket, because these trails have several picnic benches, rope swings and swimming holes if you need to take a breather on your hike. If you’re willing to explore, there are several shorter trails that can take you anywhere from Dow Lake to Scatter Ridge road.
Zaleski State Forest
Take a quick 30 minute drive east to Zaleski State Forest, Ohio 278, and you’re in the second largest state forest in the system—one that boasts a 28.8 mile backpacking trail. If you’re looking to take several days away from people and campus life, this one’s for you. The trail offers three campsites and several water stations for rehydration. If living in the woods for several days isn’t for you, there are three separate loops you can take for quick day hikes: The south loop at 9.3 miles, the west loop at 8.7 miles and the north loop at 7 miles. If these aren’t short enough for you, there’s a quick 1.2 miles out-and-back trail that takes you to the abandoned Moonville Tunnel.
Burr Oak State Park
Burr Oak State Park, 10220 Burr Oak Lodge Road, has 10 different trails ranging from half a mile to 7.5 miles. There’s a 7 mile backpack and bridle trail going from the northern tip of the lake to the horsemens area, a 3.5 mile Lakeview trail that continues on from the backpack trail and takes you to the dam, and a 3.9 miles Blue trail that takes you past a pioneer burial site and to the Burr Oak Lodge. If you were to combine short trips on several trails, you could make a loop around Burr Oak in 23 miles, but there are several short trails for any ability level.