Wayne National Forest – Symmes Creek & Morgan Sisters Trails
Nearest town: Rio Grande
Total distance: 12.5 miles for a continuous hike of both trails; multiple options exist for shorter hikes
Hiking time: 1.5 hours to 2 days
Trail conditions: Overgrown in summer, rutted along sections used by illegal ATV use
Blazes: Symmes Creek Trail: white diamond with orange dot, Morgan Sisters Trail: white diamond with yellow dot, connector trails: white diamond with red dot
Water: None provided along trail. Water must be carried, cached or treated.
Highlights: Large timber in a remote section of Wayne National Forest, large rock outcroppings along Symmes Creek, abundant wildlife
Contact info: Wayne National Forest – Ironton Ranger District, phone: 740-534-6500
Internet: Wayne National Forest
Getting there: There are three designated parking areas providing access to the two trails. To access the trail system via the Symmes Creek Trail, travel south on State Route 325 from US 35 for 4.6 miles to Wolf Run Road and turn right. Follow Wolf Run Road for 2.5 miles to where it makes a T with Symmes Creek Road. Turn right, and follow the road for 0.5 mile to a short gravel drive on the right, which leads to a parking area large enough for several vehicles. A second smaller parking area is located 1.5 miles ahead (west) on the same road. There is room for only two vehicles at that location.
To begin a hike via the Morgan Sisters Trail, travel south on State Route 325 from US 35 for 7 miles to State Route 141. Turn right onto SR 141 and travel 3 miles to State Route 233, which takes off to the right. Travel approximately 3.2 miles on SR 233 and make a right turn onto Pumpkintown Road. In 0.9 mile, turn right onto Forest Road 615 and follow it until it ends at Kenton Lake, a distance of 0.3 mile. FR 615 is fairly steep and can be very muddy and rutted in wet weather.
Trailhead coordinates: Symmes Creek Road eastern trailhead – 38.8158°N, 82.4454°W (WGS84); UTM 17 374497E 4297113N (NAD27)
The two connected loop trails creating the Symmes Creek & Morgan Sisters trail system straddle Symmes Creek on the north and south in a remote corner of Wayne National Forest in far southeastern Ohio. Over the millennia, Symmes Creek has made some impressive cuts into the sandstone bedrock in the vicinity of the Symmes Creek Trail. Walking the trail along the creek’s floodplain will take you past many of the natural monoliths created by water and time. South of the creek, along the Morgan Sisters Trail, the focus turns to the native hardwood forests, some thought to be virgin, but most likely just second- or old-growth. About half of the Morgan Sisters Trail traverses this old forest, which has garnered status as a WNF Special Area. As you may have guessed, the Morgan Sisters Trail is named for a pair of sisters named Morgan, who lived for years nearby.
The landscape in this part of southeastern Ohio is very rural. Along these trails you can still identify the fading remains of old homesteads and fields, and even an old schoolhouse, reminders of past uses of the land. A sparse human population in these moderate hills adds to the remote feeling of the region. Abundant are populations of deer and turkey. The hammering sounds of the pileated woodpecker are commonly heard, as are the calls of the great horned owl. The regions lightly traveled roads–and unfortunately the foot trails–are popular with ATV riders in warmer months. Mushroom hunters also frequent these woods in the spring. Symmes Creek is area’s largest drainage feature and also its lowest point at 640 above sea level. Above the creek’s narrows, hilltops struggle to reach the 900-foot contour. One highpoint along the Morgan Sisters Trail manages to reach 960 feet.
The Symmes Creek & Morgan Sisters Trails are two of Wayne National Forest’s newest trails. These trails are separate loops lying on both sides of Symmes Creek and linked by a short connector trail. The Morgan Sisters Trail actually contains three connected loops of its own: Schoolhouse Loop, Ridge Loop & Coal Branch Loop, allowing for many trip options of varying distance. For purposes of this trail report, both trails are treated as one continuous hike, traveling first the short Symmes Creek Trail and then the outer perimeter of all three loops making up the Morgan Sisters Trail. Mileage stated in this report is continuous from start to finish and not broken down by trail or loop. Starting from the easternmost parking area for the Symmes Creek Trail on Symmes Creek Road, the total distance for an overnight trip following our route is 12.5 miles.
Although both trails are described in one continuous fashion for benefit of the overnight hiker, they are not uniformly marked in the field. The forest service chose to mark these trails differently. The Symmes Creek Trail is marked by white diamonds with an orange dot, even though a few dots appear red. The Morgan Sisters Trail, with its three loops, is marked by a white diamond with a yellow dot; however, you will see an unexplainable section of blue dots around the 4.0-mile mark. Connector trails, of which there are two, are marked with a white diamond and a red dot. Essentially, if you follow the trail marked by white diamonds you will be safe; there are no other marked trails in the area. All trails are adequately marked (with only a couple exceptions) and intersections are posted with signs, aiding in your navigation through the many loops of this trail system.
The complete trail report, trail notes and trail maps for the Symmes Creek & Morgan Sisters Trails is available as a 7-page downloadable eTrailsOhio PDF file for $4.95. We are the only ones to cover these trails from start to finish with the backpacker in mind. BUY IT NOW.