Home to Ohio's most cherished backpacking destination, Zaleski State Forest in Southeastern Ohio is a magnificent landscape within the foothills of the Appalachian Plateau and a must-visit destination for any backcountry enthusiast passing through the Buckeye State.

Zaleski State Forest has three major loops for different lengths of backpacking adventures: the south loop is a 10.5 mile trip, the western loop is 8.7 miles, and the northern loop is a 17 mile trek, all starting from the Zaleski Backpacking Trail parking lot on SR 278, across from the Hope Iron Furnace. If the small parking lot at the Hope Furnace is full (as it is on just about any weekend that has decent weather in warmer months), there is another trailhead to the south at the Hope Schoolhouse, which will add an additional 4 miles roundtrip to any loop you choose. For a truly long distance adventure, complete all three loops for a total of 28.8 miles from the Hope Schoolhouse parking lot.

A true Appalachian foothill classic, Zaleski is complete with rolling hills, high forested ridgelines, rock overhangs and cliffs, and small lakes and bogs filled with muskrats and beaver dams. The backpacking trail takes you through the entire region, displaying both the vast natural side of the state forest, as well as the impacts mankind has made on the region over time: old family cemeteries, Adena burial mounds, and remnants of pioneer roads are present throughout the park, as well as other neat geographic monuments and memorials.

Zaleski State Forest is managed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Forestry, who maintains a website devoted to the trail, including a downloadable brochure and trail map (link below). A required self-registration permit is available at either trailhead, free of charge.

And once you're finished with exploring Zaleski, head east 20 minutes to Athens, OH to grab a pint of Chomolungma Brown Ale from Jackie O's Brewery!

Pack List

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RT Distance 28.8 Miles
Elevation Gain 4500 Feet
Activities Camping, Running, Backpacking, Hiking
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Trail Type Loop
Dog Friendly
Family Friendly


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