Nestled in the foothills of Appalachian Mountains, Athens County is known for being one of the best hiking spots in all of Ohio. Even when it’s cold outside, you’ll warm up quickly when you hit the trails. Experienced hikers love heading out in the winter because the trails are less crowded and there’s no shortage of beautiful scenery. The snow-covered hills and frozen waterfalls are gorgeous!
So, grab your boots and zip up your coat! We’re sharing five of the best places to hike this winter in Athens.
- Strouds Run State Park. There are more than a dozen trails at Strouds Run, covering 40 miles. Several overlook Dow Lake. One of the best trails at Strouds is Vista Point Trail – this moderately-difficult 1.5-mile trail has a great view of the lake.
- The Ridges. For the best view in Athens, head to The Ridges, the site of the former Athens Lunatic Asylum, which looms atop a hill overlooking the Ohio University campus and the Hocking River. The easy-terrain trails perfect for an afternoon hike. A short, about one-mile hike on a well-maintained trail will take you to the famous Radar Hill; the highest point in Athens. Or, stroll among the cemeteries on the 1.3-mile Ridges Cemetery Nature Walk.
- Zaleski State Forest. The second largest forest in Ohio, Zaleski State Forest has some of the best backpacking routes in the state. The main trail is 23.5 miles long, or spend a day of trekking on the shorter 10-mile trail. You’ll be hiking with history along part of the original road from Marietta to Chillicothe.
- Wayne National Forest. There are more than 300 miles of trails in Wayne National Forest, with options for all skill levels. A favorite of locals and experienced backpackers is the Wildcat Hollow Hiking Trail, with 15-mile or 5-mile loop options. The trail winds through tall pine trees, open meadows, rock outcroppings and beautiful meadows.
- Gifford State Forest. One of the best-kept secrets in Athens County is Ohio’s smallest forest: Gifford State Forest. With several miles of hiking trails, you’ll likely spot deer and rabbits during a walk in the woods.
Before you hit the trails, prep for an experience to remember! Nelsonville’s Rocky Outdoor Gear has boots, clothing and all the gear you’ll need.
When your feet get tired, head to Uptown Athens to refuel. Warm up with a Milkyway Espresso from Brennen’s Coffee Café & Deli, grab a seasonal brew at Jackie O’s or indulge in comfort food at the iconic Court Street Diner.
Do you have any favorite hikes in Athens County? Tell us! And be sure to tag your favorite winter hike photos with #AthensOhio on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We may feature it on our sites. See you on the trails!