Scenic view of Lake Vesuvius in the Wayne National Forest (photo by Michael Frank)

10 Scenic Spots in Ohio to Visit this Fall

Explore vibrant foliage at Wayne National Forest's Lake Vesuvius, tour Ashtabula County's covered bridges and hop aboard the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. 

Lake Vesuvius Wayne National Forest
The rich reds and oranges of autumn paint the shores of Wayne National Forest’s Lake Vesuvius, which can be enjoyed with a hike along the 8.25-mile Vesuvius Lakeshore Trail. Head east from the dam for views that blend rippling water, rocky cliffs and falling leaves. For a longer journey, take the Vesuvius Backpack Tail. This route covers more than 17 miles on difficult terrain and is best for seasoned hikers.

Exterior of Smolen-Gulf Bridge in Ashtabula County (photo by Laura Watilo Blake)
Ashtabula County's Covered Bridges
Fall serves as a spectacular backdrop to explore Ashtabula County’s collection of 19 covered bridges, including the longest and the shortest in the United States.

The arrival of autumn is a perfect time to drive or bike through history while exploring the covered bridges of Ashtabula County, each one a testament to the preservation of the past and a commitment to the future. The county is home to 19 covered bridges, including the longest and shortest in the United States. Twelve of the bridges were built in the mid-1800s and early 1900s, while seven have been newly constructed.

At 613 feet long, the Smolen-Gulf Bridge is the longest covered bridge in the United States. The bridge was constructed in 2008 as part of a conservation effort to preserve the bridges and their history that was started by former county engineer John W. Smolen. Built in 2011, the West Liberty Street Covered Bridge spans just 18 feet, making it the smallest covered bridge in the nation. This bridge is only 12 miles from the Smolen-Gulf Bridge, making it easy to cross both off the list in one trip.

To celebrate the covered bridges and to teach visitors about their history, the Ashtabula Covered Bridge Festival is held at the county fairgrounds each year. (This year’s event is set for Oct. 14 and 15.)

“[The bridges] are more or less a museum in themselves,” Smolen says. “We don’t think of them as museums, but they kind of are. We want to preserve them for the ages.”

Couple walking the Ledges Trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park (photo by Laura Watilo Blake)
Ledges Trail | Cuyahoga Valley National Park
The Ledges area of Ohio’s only national park is one of the stars of fall in northeast Ohio. The views along the 1.8-mile Ledges Trail are among the most spectacular in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and there are geological surprises to discover on the hike up to the overlook that offers a view across the valley. Enormous sandstone rock formations tower along the trail, making for a great afternoon adventure and fun photos.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad in the Fall (photo courtesy of CVSR, by Robert George)
On Track 
These excursion railroad lines offer scenic fall trips.

Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad
Take in the vibrant fall colors of Cuyahoga Valley National Park from the comfort of a vintage rail car. The train’s route has been recently modified, but guests can still enjoy a laid-back, 2-hour excursion. You can also supplement your hike or bike experience with a one-way ticket via the Explorer Program.

Hocking Valley Scenic Railway
This historic railway takes riders on a trip through time along parts of this over 150-year-old southeast Ohio rail route. The railway offers several riding options and experiences including a chance to step aboard a 1920-era steam locomotive, wild encounters with friendly bandits, popular fall-foliage rides and more.

Hot air balloon rider taking photo of another balloon over southwest Ohio (photo courtesy of Gentle Breeze Hot Air Balloon)
Hot Air Balloon Rides

Take in views of southwest Ohio’s fields and forests from the serenity of a hot air balloon by booking a ride with Lebanon’s Gentle Breeze Hot Air Balloon Co. Enjoy a leisurely sunrise or sunset flight during a private or group tour on one of several hot air balloons, including Tiny, an 83-foot-tall giant.

Scenic view of Conkle’s Hollow in Hocking Hills (photo by Jessica Wilschek)
Conkle’s Hollow Rim Trail Hike | Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve
This hike in the Hocking Hills offers some of the region’s most spectacular views, and fall is the best time to visit.

One of the major hiking trails located in the Hocking Hills region, Conkle’s Hollow State Nature Preserve boasts some of the best fall landscapes, and its gorgeous, 2.5-mile Rim Trail gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of this beauty in all its autumn splendor. 

The 87-acre preserve has become a popular Hocking Hills attraction, seeing between 2,000 and 5,000 visitors each weekend during its busiest seasons. The draw is especially strong in October when the leaves reach their radiant gold and crimson coloring.

“The rim trail has so many excellent views,” says Levi Miller, southeast regional manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. “You can see this wonderful valley in full fall colors; it’s fantastic.”

There are waterfalls within the preserve and several of them can be seen from the trails. The preserve has a distinctive tiered cliff system, creating beautiful cascades of water between the rim and the gorge.

The preserve’s ecological conditions make it host to a wide variety of plant species not commonly found in other parts of the state including mountain laurel, eastern hemlock and Canada mayflower. Conkle’s Hollow is hosting a fall foliage event Oct. 14 and 15 where travelers can come and learn more about the preserve and its history. 24858 Big Pine Rd., Rockbridge 43149,


Birdwatching at Great Egret Marsh Preserve | Lakeside Marblehead
Every year, flocks of migrating songbirds and shorebirds pass through Lakeside Marblehead’s Great Egret Marsh Preserve on their fall migration. Lasting at least twice as long as spring migration, this autumnal flight attracts birders hoping to catch a glimpse of birds in the warbler, teal, thrush or tanager families.

The Cascades at Franklin Park in Columbus (photo by Jessica Wilschek)
The Cascades | Franklin Park, Columbus
The oranges of autumn burst over The Cascades at Columbus’ Franklin Park. The small waterfalls and ponds were built in 1991, but restoration work within the past several years brought them back to their original beauty. The Cascades can be found in the southwest corner of the park. They run along Franklin Park South Street and a small portion of Franklin Park West Street.

Scenic view of Dundee Falls in the Beach City Wildlife Area (photo by Nick Hoeller)
Dundee Falls | Beach City Wildlife Area
Located 1 mile south of the village of Beach City, the Beach City Wildlife Area is a public hunting and fishing area. It is also home to Dundee Falls, which is located along the edge of the wildlife area. A popular photo spot in the summer, the falls are particularly beautiful when framed by the colors of fall. They are a 2-mile out-and-back hike from the trailhead located at 8525 Dundee Wilmot Rd. in Dundee.

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