Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Backpacking at Zaleski State Forest

Hey guys! I finally have some time to write up a little post. I've been really busy lately with schoolwork, but with Spring Break I've been able to catch a slight break.

Anyway, on February 21-23, I went on a "Winter Backpacking Skills" backpacking trip through Ohio University's Outdoor Pursuits. They put on many trips throughout the semester which are open to anyone (but they're normally a bit cheaper for OU students). This backpacking trip was supposed to teach us "winter backpacking skills," but the weather had other ideas in mind. Saturday we were hiking in short sleeved shirts and shorts; hardly winter at all! Regardless, it was a great trip and here's some photos and a little info on it.

A total of seven of us (two trip leaders and five trip-goers) did the bottom half of the 23 mile backpacking trail at Zaleski State Forest in Vinton County. We did a total of about ten miles. We hiked two miles Friday afternoon to the first campsite, four miles on Saturday to the next campsite, then Sunday we did two miles on a connecting trail that led us back to the first campsite, where we then backtracked the two miles to the parking lot.

The trail was mostly on top of tall Allegheny ridge tops. There were a couple of beautiful vistas, like this one. This was the view on a small rock outcrop next to a small 50 foot cliff or so, and the location of a little snack break on Saturday.

But the trail was not all on ridge tops. Eventually we went down a hill into the bottomlands. Due to the recent snow melt, every water source was swollen, including this tiny creek. As it emptied into a small lake it formed a sort of flooded delta, and as a result the trail sort of disappeared. Eventually we found it once more and navigated our way through the water.

This is an old railway, the Moonville Railroad. Many of you have probably heard of the infamous Moonville Tunnel. Well this is the same line. The actual tunnel is only a couple miles away from this point. But this particular location along the abandoned railroad is the site of an old mining town called Ingham Station. According to the site Waymarking, "At it's peak around 1900, Ingham Station had a store, railroad depot, a mine, schoolhouse, over a dozen residences, and was inhabited by several families." The town was abandoned around 1920 or so, but the backpacking trail now goes right through the remnants.

The Zaleski Backpacking Trail offers many cool points of interest if you're a history geek, like me. On top of ghost towns, the trail follows the Hopewell-Chillicothe-Marietta Road for some of the way. The Hopewell-Chillicothe-Marrietta Road was an ancient Native American footpath that led from earthworks near present day Marietta to the famous Hopewell earthworks near present day Chillicothe. When European settlers came to the area, they followed the footpath too, turning it into a road for stagecoaches and the pioneers. Anyway, part of the backpacking trail runs along this ancient road. The trail also passes a doughnut-shaped earthwork and other historical points of interest.

This was my campsite for the second night. The days might have been warm, but the nights were cold. It was perfect weather for a warm mummy-style sleeping bag. It was definitely a great experience, and I will be going backpacking again for sure.


  1. Is Zaleski usually busy/crowded this time of year? I'm planning on going down the first weekend in April but I prefer to backpack areas that are more solitary. If this isn't the place to go, is there another option in the area?

    1. Zaleski is one of the only backpacking trails in Ohio, and is by far the most popular option. As a result, it's also the busiest backpacking trail in Ohio. There are two loops with a total of 23 miles, so while there might be other people at the designated campsite with you at night, everyone spreads out during the day while hiking. Don't choose this trail if you want total isolation because you will pass people and you will most likely camp with other people. The camp sites are pretty large though, so you're not clustered together unless there's a lot of people.

      If you're thinking about going somewhere else, nearby Tar Hollow offers a 21 mile backpacking trail. Burr Oak is a bit farther away, but offers an 18 mile backpacking trail. Other options include Wayne National Forest and Shawnee State Forest, which both offer backpacking options and backcountry campsites. Hope that helped!