Wayne National Forest – Vesuvius Backpack Trail
Nearest town: Ironton
Total distance: 16.2 miles; using the 8-mile Lakeshore Trail, alternate trips of varying distance can be created
Hiking time: 2 days
Trail conditions: Well established, but seasonally overgrown is sections
Blazes: Backpack Trail: white diamond with yellow dot, Lakeshore Trail: white diamond with blue dot
Water: None along trail. Water must be carried, cached or treated.
Highlights: Scenic lakeshore walking, interesting rock formations, diverse flora
Contact info: Wayne National Forest – Ironton Ranger District, phone: 740-534-6500
Internet: Wayne National Forest
Getting there: Overnight parking is only permitted at the boat dock, which is adjacent to the trailhead. From State Route 93 and US Route 52 in Ironton, take SR 93 north for 6.25 miles and make a right turn onto County Road 29. After 0.8 mile on CR 29, turn left onto Forest Road 1955 and follow it for nearly 0.5 mile to the boat dock parking area on the right. A large sign at the intersection of CR 29 and FR 1955 will direct you. Day hikers have the option of parking below the Lake Vesuvius dam, a short distance past the boat dock turnoff on CR 29.
Trailhead coordinates: 38.6098°N, 82.6344°W (WGS84); UTM 17 357675E 4274539N (NAD27)
Lake Vesuvius is located in far southern Ohio in the Ironton Management Unit of Wayne National Forest, about 7 miles north of the Ohio River. The narrows of Storms Creek provide the site for this long, winding lake, which was created in 1939. The lake, with its developed beach and boat dock, along with nearby developed campgrounds, picnic areas and trails are part of the Vesuvius Recreation Complex, WNF’s premier developed site. Rugged hills and rock cliffs create a scenic backdrop for this historical and scenic area.
Like the Zaleski area, The Vesuvius Region was also part of the historic six-county Hanging Rock Iron Region. The massive stone stack of the Vesuvius Furnace—named for the Italian volcano—sits quietly near the base of the dam and is one of only a few remaining tangible reminders of the days when southern Ohio was at the forefront of the nation’s iron industry. In its glory days, which began in 1833, the furnace employed 100 men and produced 8 to 12 tons of iron daily. The furnace’s appetite for charcoal was satisfied by cutting 350 acres of timber annually. In fact, all 46 iron furnaces in the Hanging Rock Region consumed trees at nearly the same rate.
In time, the Hanging Rock iron seams became depleted and new iron discoveries were developed around Lake Superior. The last charcoal furnace closed in 1916—Vesuvius Furnace in 1906–and as laborers drifted west, the regions abused and scarred lands were largely abandoned. In the 1930s, a large Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) camp was established near the now silent furnace. The manpower provided by the CCC crews constructed the lake and surrounding recreational complex.
The forests of Vesuvius consist of typical Ohio mixed hardwoods, dominated by oaks. Hemlocks are present in cooler, rocky ravines. The hills in this part of WNF attain an average relief of 250 to 300 feet. The Kimble Lookout Tower used to stand on a highpoint, some 400 feet in elevation above the lake, at the far eastern end of the backpack trail, but has since been dismantled.
A visit to the Lake Vesuvius area of Wayne National Forest is a must-do for any Ohio outdoor enthusiast. The scenic beauty and historical significance of the region combine to create a wonderful getaway. Whether you spend most of your time in the backcountry or utilize some of the overnight and day-use improvements around the lake, you will find the facilities in a well maintained condition. In an era of shrinking federal budgets, forest service staff assigned to Vesuvius should be commended for their ongoing efforts to provide Ohioans with a quality outdoor experience.
The 16.2-mile Vesuvius Backpack Trail is an easy to follow trail with two distinct halves: upper and lower. The halves almost create loops because the trail nearly comes together in the middle, just north of the lake in the valley of Storms Creek. In fact, the trail is separated from itself by only 300 feet at the narrowest point. Using horse trails crisscrossing the valley just north of the lake as a connector, a loop hike can be easily created. Other trip variations can be created using the Lakeshore Trail, which also connects with the backpack trail just north of the lake. These options are discussed below.
The lower half of the backpack trail loops around the lake, mainly staying above the lake at or near ridgetop level; the only exception being some lakeside walking at the beginning and end of the trail. This half of the backpack trail is characterized by mostly easy walking on wide trails. An occasional glimpse of the lake can be captured in non-foliage seasons from a few vantage points away from the lakeshore north of the lake. In several stretches, the trail follows a consistent contour in order to swing around and over the heads of many rocky ravines. At other locations, the trail travels below modest clifflines.
The upper half of the backpack trail is characterized by slightly more tedious hiking. The trail’s climbs and falls are larger and occur more often. The trail does not follow as many old roads and is more narrow. The farther you head east towards the site of the old Kimble Lookout Tower, expect trail conditions to be their worst, passable but overgrown. Not all is bad along the upper section, though. There are nice sections of ridge walking with open vistas in winter, along with several wonderful pine plantations near Aldridge Hollow, in Kanady Hollow and in the valley near the Paddle Creek Horse Trailhead.
The complete trail report, trail notes and trail maps for the Vesuvius Backpack Trail is available as a 7-page downloadable eTrailsOhio PDF file for $5.95. No longer is it hard to find good information about the Vesuvius Backpack Trail. BUY IT NOW.