Burr Oak State Park Backpack Trail
County: Athens, Morgan
Nearest town: Glouster
Total distance: 21.2-mile loop or 23.2 for Burr Oak Cove camping option
Hiking time: 2 to 3 days
Trail conditions: Well established and well blazed
Water: Available seasonally from April 1st to November 1st at campgrounds, April 15th to October 15th at boat docks
Highlights: Lakeside hiking, beautiful lake vistas, easy for beginning backpackers
Contact info: Burr Oak State Park, 10220 Burr Oak Lodge Road, Glouster, Ohio 45732, phone: 740-767-3570
Getting there: State Routes 13 and 78 are coincident through Glouster for nearly one mile. From the split of SR 13 and SR 78 just north of Glouster, drive east on SR 78 for 4.0 miles to the park entrance and turn left. In a short distance where the road forks you’ll reach an old ranger station building and parking for the trailhead. As of this writing the old ranger station building is vacant but may be used as a gift shop in the future. The trail can be accessed at numerous other points in the park; however, the park has designated this location as the official trailhead.
Trailhead coordinates: 39.5290°N, 82.0265°W (WGS84); UTM 17 411765E 4375771N (NAD27)
The Burr Oak Backpack Trail circumnavigates the 664-acre Burr Oak Lake–the main attraction of Burr Oak State Park—created in 1950 when the Tom Jenkins Dam was constructed to control flooding on Sunday Creek. Rising up at water’s edge, wooded hills provide a pleasant backdrop to this picturesque park, which sits in stark contrast to an earlier 50-year period of tumultuous coal, oil and iron ore extraction, which ended in the 1920s and took a heavy toll on the landscape in the Sunday Creek and nearby Monday Creek watersheds. Although forests now cover many of the scars left behind by the mining boom, many of the local towns still exist, covered not by trees, but by shadows of boarded up buildings and memories of a more prosperous time. In recent years, the region has seen a push to restore some life to these “Little Cities of the Black Diamond” by developing the area’s rich mining history as an attraction for tourists and a base for local artisans.
The forests of the Burr Oak region consist mainly of oak, hickory and beech trees. The namesake bur oaks, though largely wiped out due to logging, still reside in much smaller number on these hills. Elevation relief in these foothills struggles to reach 300 feet, averaging more in the range of 200 to 250 feet. State Route 78, also known as the “Rim of the World” highway, follows a higher spine of hills just to the east of the park heading in the direction of McConnelsville in Morgan County. Highpoints along the Rim highway top out at over 1100 feet, or 400 feet above the lake, and offer some of the areas best vistas.
The lake and its fishing, along with many other improvements including a beautiful timber-framed lodge, cottages, developed campgrounds and picnicking, make Burr Oak a popular destination for many non-backpacking Ohioans. Fall colors are spectacular here, displaying a palette of deep reds, brilliant yellows and burnt oranges.
A trip on the winding loop of the Burr Oak Backpack Trail is a scenic journey up, over and along the wooded hills and ridges that define the shape of the lake’s shoreline. For the majority of the trip, the trail is not far from water’s edge. Some stretches of the trail are near lake level, but most are anywhere from a few feet to over 100 feet in elevation above the lake. Ascents are generally short and mild with only a few exceptions, making this a nice trip for beginners. Timing is key to taking the most advantage of the regions beauty and solitude. A late fall through early spring hike opens up many spectacular views of the lake and surrounding hills from numerous highpoints along the route. An off-season or midweek trip will surely limit you encounters with other people and greaten your chances of spotting wildlife, like deer and beaver.
Because the trail lies almost entirely within the confines of Burr Oak State Park, the exception being a segment near the USACE maintained Tom Jenkins Dam, expect to visit many state park improvements along the way in the form of boat docks, campgrounds and more. Most of these improvements are separated by sections of wooded trail many miles in length. In fact, you may find the spacing of these improvements convenient and use them for planned rest stops or water refueling stations (seasonal). You will most likely use at least at one of them in order to camp, as state park rules dictate. More on camping below.
The main backpack trail is blazed with yellow, and for nearly half the distance along the south and east side of the lake, is blazed with blue as well, indicating a shared route with the Buckeye Trail. The North Country Trail and the American Discovery Trail follow the same route the Buckeye Trail follows through the park. A few shorter state park trails and a horse trail or two also share the main path for short distances, so expect to see blazes of other colors as well, mainly white and red. Some sections of the Backpack Trail are named, probably for the benefit of park visitors and day hikers. You’ll see these names on some signage.
The complete trail report, trail notes and trail map for the Burr Oak State Park Backpack Trail is available as a 7-page downloadable eTrailsOhio PDF file for $4.95. There isn’t a lot of info available about this trail UNTIL NOW!! BUY IT NOW.