Metro Park Backpack Trails
Short for metropolitan parks, metro parks are public parks owned by municipalities or other local government agencies. Most major cities in Ohio, and even many counties, own public parks. Currently, only two metro parks in Ohio offer backpacking.
State Park Backpack Trails
More than 1000 miles of trails are found in Ohio’s 74 state parks, but only 78 miles are designated for backpacking in three parks. The comparatively small number of backpack trail miles doesn’t mean there is an effort to keep dirty, smelly backpackers away from the less pungent throngs of families recreating in our parks, but has to do with the availability of large chunks of state park lands available for such use. Two of the three state park backpack trails: Caesar Creek and East Fork, are located in southwestern Ohio and provide the closest backpacking opportunities to the Cincinnati area than the state’s other trails. These trails traverse less hilly, less wild lands than those in located in unglaciated hill country. Camping and campfires in Ohio’s state park are restricted to designated areas. Leashed pets are permitted on trails.
State Forest Backpack Trails
The state forest system officially began in 1916 with the purchase of 1500 acres of ravaged lands in southern Ohio. Today, managed by the ODNR Division of Forestry, the system includes 20 state forests covering more than 185,000 acres. All but Maumee State Forest are locate in unglaciated hill country. Unlike state parks, recreation is not the primary focus of Ohio’s state forests. The forests are managed under a multi-use concept with additional emphasis given to timber management, rural economic health, research, wildlife habitat and conservation. As a result, you are likely to see signs of these other uses along state forest trails, with the most visible being timber harvesting. Like state parks, camping and campfires are restricted to designated areas. Leashed pets are permitted on trails.
Wayne National Forest Backpack Trails
Wayne National Forest is located in three management units–Athens, Ironton, Marietta–across twelve southern and southeastern Ohio counties. Although the boundaries enclose 834,000 acres, most of the land within those boundaries is in private ownership. Congress passed legislation for the creation of WNF in 1934, and in 1935 the first land acquisition occurred. Today, more than 240,00 acres of land are in the Wayne’s ownership spread about in a patchwork pattern within its boundaries. Much like state forests, the nucleus of WNF’s management concept is multi-use, but you won’t see as many signs of harvested timber from the trails in WNF. Camping and campfires are permitted anywhere on WNF lands, except developed areas. Leashed pets are permitted on trails. There are over 300 miles of trails in WNF, many are open to horses, off-road vehicles and mountain bikes, all are open to hiking. Only WNF trails restricted to foot traffic and traditionally used by backpackers are highlighted on this site.