Tar Hollow State Forest – Logan Trail
County: Ross, Hocking, Vinton
Nearest town: Adelphi/Laurelville
Total distance: 8.9-mile north loop, 8.4-mile south loop with optional 1.0-mile out-and-back side trail to Camp Dulen
Hiking time: Approximately 4 to 6 hours for each loop, or 2 days for overnight
Trail conditions: Well established and blazed (except through recent timber harvests), some sections of trail have been bulldozed
Water: Available seasonally in Tar Hollow State Park; numerous streams throughout forest
Highlights: Seclusion, spring wildflowers and morel mushrooms, Brush Ridge Fire Tower
Contact info: Tar Hollow State Forest, phone: 740-663-2538; Tar Hollow State Park, 16396 Tar Hollow Road, Laurelville, Ohio 43135, phone: 740-887-4818
Getting there: Take State Route 327 south from Adelphi, Ohio for 7.5 miles to the park entrance on the right side of the road. The parking lot for the trailhead is located about 1.3 miles inside the park on the left, below Pine Lake. If starting or camping at the Brush Ridge Fire Tower, continue past Pine Lake and follow signs to the fire tower, which is located on Forest Road 3.
Trailhead coordinates: Pine Lake Dam – 39.3842°N, 82.7476°W (WGS84); UTM 17 349474E, 4360652N (NAD27)
Tar Hollow State Forest is Ohio’s third largest state forest, encompassing just over 16,000 acres where Ross, Hocking and Vinton counties meet. It is the closest backpacking destination to the Columbus area. Like many other state forests, a state park lies in the middle of it. Tar Hollow State Park is not as developed as some of Ohio’s other state parks, but does offer camping, picnic shelters, a 15-acre lake for fishing and swimming and a general store. Often overlooked by vacationers in favor of the nearby popular Hocking Hills, Tar Hollow State Park and Forest are a real treat for those seeking a destination small in crowds and big on nature.
The region’s name is derived from pine tar extracted by hill folks from native pine trees and processed into ointments, elixirs and lubricants for wagon wheels and farm equipment. In the 1930s, residents of the Tar Hollow region were relocated to more fertile lands in the surrounding countryside under a program called the Ross-Hocking Land Utilization Project. This Roosevelt New Deal program allowed for the government purchase of Tar Hollow’s worked over and denuded hills for conservation and recreation opportunities. In the same decade, the Civilian Conservation Corps created Pine Lake, planted trees and constructed many miles of roads.
Tar Hollow’s wooded ridges rise from the fertile and flatter glaciated plateau, literally a distance of two miles north of the forest’s northern boundary. The obvious demarcation in the landscape indicates where the glaciers ended their southerly advance. A few of Tar Hollow’s highest points reach elevations 500 feet higher than the farms to the north of the glacial boundary, but on average, elevation relief in the forest is in the 300 to 400-foot range. Brush Ridge forms the picturesque spine of the northern section of the forest and is traversed by a forest road with several scenic picnic locations and a refurbished fire tower along the way.
Oak and hickory trees dominate the dry, sandy ridgetops of the area, while sycamore, willow, maple and even buckeye trees reside in stream valleys. The forest not only supports a variety of impressive hardwoods but also contains a myriad of fern, moss, mushroom and wildflower species. The forest is a popular hunting ground for the prized morel mushroom in April. Tar Hollow’s undisturbed forests harbor a wide variety of reptiles and amphibians, game birds, songbirds and mammals. The timber rattlesnake is holding its own in the forest. Bobcats are known to frequent the area and wild boars have been spotted as well.
In April 2010, a 355-acre forest fire burned a scenic section of forest along a popular section of the Logan Trail’s north loop between Pine Lake and the Brush Ridge Fire Tower. Fuel for the fire came mostly from leaf and branch litter lying on the ground. Most ground and low level vegetation was completely burned, but is already beginning to reestablish the area. Trees suffered burned and blackened trunks, with a few not surviving the intense flames. Effects of the fire will be noticeable for years to come.
The Logan Trail, named for the famous Chief Logan of the Mingo Indian Tribe, is laid out in a distorted figure eight pattern with its north and south loops meeting at the Brush Ridge Fire Tower, plus a short side trail to a backpack camp for Boy Scouts named Camp Dulen. Two main points for starting a hike on the Logan Trail include what is considered the main trailhead beginning at the parking lot below the dam at Pine Lake in the state park or the Brush Ridge Fire Tower on Forest Road 3. The point you decide to start your hike from will depend on whether or not you are day hiking, which loop you are hiking and where you are camping.
The Logan Trail was originally designed and constructed in 1965 by Boy Scout Troop 195 in Columbus, Ohio, and is still maintained by them today. The trail is divided into several named sections. It is not always obvious when you cross a boundary from one section to the next, and, quite frankly, it is irrelevant as the trail is continuous and characteristically unchanged from one section to the next. The Buckeye Trail intersects the Logan Trail and even runs coincident with it for a short distance between the fire tower and Pine Lake.
The Logan Trail stays almost entirely under the canopy of the forest. The trail visits sections of forest ranging from freshly harvested to mature growth. Many large oak, beech and tuliptree are passed along the way; pitch and shortleaf pine are encountered on drier ridgetops. The size of the forest and comparatively little use away from the state park means solitude is easy to find. Hike the trail during the week in the off-season and you will find out what it feels like to have 16,000 acres all to yourself.
The complete trail report, trail notes and trail map for the Logan Trail is available as a 9-page downloadable eTrailsOhio PDF file for $5.95. There are many places to make a wrong turn on this trail. We tell you where to be careful. BUY IT NOW.