Historic Pottersburg Bridge in Union County (photo courtesy of Union County Convention & Visitors Bureau)

4 Ohio Scenic Byways to Drive This Summer

Our state has 27 designated scenic routes that are perfect for summer road trips. These four across Ohio offer a glimpse into history and opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Big Darby Plains Scenic Byway 

Travelers along the 27-mile main route of this scenic byway that runs through Milford Center, Unionville Center and Plain City, can enjoy the serenity of Big Darby Creek as it flows through Union County to the Scioto River. Along the way, travelers will see six covered bridges, including the Bigelow, Culbertson and Buck Run bridges.

“There are some modern bridges built in the 2000s and some historic bridges built in the 1800s,” says Corrie Bott, Union County Tourism’s welcome center and design manager. “The man who built the historic bridges was from Marysville, and he built bridges all over the state.”

Get out of the car and stretch your legs at the historic Pottersburg Bridge, a scenic footbridge that leads to a 3.5-mile walking trail with views of the central Ohio countryside. From June through October, the Pottersburg Bridge hosts Dine on a Covered Bridge. These five lunch or dinner events feature live music and locally sourced food as part of the experience.

Wind your way into Milford Center, once the Union County seat and now home to a replica of the first county courthouse. In the village of Plain City, the Plain City Clock Tower stands as one of the last two public timepieces of its kind crafted by renowned 19th-century clockmaker Seth Thomas. Stop along the route for a look at the Old Indian Trail historic marker. The area is home to trails blazed by Shawnee leader Tecumseh and were later used as part of the route of the Pony Express.  

Longhorn cow at Dickinson Cattle Co. in Barnesville (photo courtesy of Belmont County Tourism)
Drovers’ Trail Scenic Byway 

Southeast Ohio heritage runs deep on this 37-mile route through Belmont County. Named for the days when drovers would bring their livestock to market along the path, the byway follows state Routes 800 and 147 from Bellaire to Hendrysburg while also connecting with the Historic National Road and Ohio River Scenic Byways.

Start the journey in Bellaire with a walk by and across part of the top of the Great Stone Viaduct, an impressive structure that offers views of the Ohio River. Also in town is the Unofficial Lego Museum, home to a vast collection of creations built using the timeless toy block. The National Imperial Glass Museum features pieces of fine glassware from the now-defunct Imperial Glass Co., which was based in Bellaire.

Along the way, a handful of Ohio’s well-known quilt barns dot the landscape, including a handful of Scott Hagan Ohio Bicentennial Quilt Barns. Stop and spend some time in nature at Barkcamp State Park in Belmont. Go for a hike through this scenic corner of Appalachia, take a dip in Belmont Lake or bring the family for a night of camping.

Step into the past in downtown Barnesville at the Belmont County Victorian Mansion Museum, a 26-room home that shares what life was like for those who lived here in the 19th century. Antique hunters will enjoy the Barnesville Antique Mall with its three floors of secondhand treasures.

Get a feel for the cowboy lifestyle at the Dickinson Cattle Co.’s Texas longhorn ranch, and then head over to Hendrysburg, the hometown of William Boyd — the actor who brought classic Western hero Hopalong Cassidy to life. 

Boat on Charles Mill Lake (photo courtesy of Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District)
Johnny Appleseed Historic Byway 

In Richland and Ashland counties, travelers can follow the journey of John Chapman — better known as Johnny Appleseed — who spent time in the area during the early 19th century. Spanning 30 miles of state Routes 39, 430 and 603, the byway connects Mansfield, Loudonville and Mifflin, while celebrating Ohio heritage (and apples) at stops like the Johnny Appleseed Forest in Mansfield and Mallory’s Apple Cider in Loudonville.

“A lot of different states claim [Johnny Appleseed] as their own, but I think Ohio in this particular area has the most documented,” says Louis Andres, committee chairman for the Johnny Appleseed Historic Byway. 

Malabar Farm State Park off state Route 39 in Lucas offers sunset views from the top of Mount Jeez, as well as the opportunity to tour the home of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Louis Bromfield and dine at Malabar Farm Restaurant. After dinner, tuck in for the night at the Maple Syrup Cabin, a cozy 1940s structure outfitted with modern amenities.

Nearly 12 miles north, on state Route 603, Charles Mill Lake Park offers camping along the water. Pontoon boaters, kayakers and fisherman alike enjoy the calm waters of this 1,350-surface-acre lake that is part of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District. The park has nearly 500 campsites available, from primitive spots to RV hookups, and plenty of onshore recreation to enjoy, including disc golf, a swimming pool and a bocce ball court.

Just up the road in Mifflin, stop at Chuy’s Tacos and Margaritas (formerly the Mifflin Inn) for a cold drink and street tacos to cap off the day.   

Monument to the Battle of Fallen Timbers at Fort Miamis in Maumee (photo courtesy of National Park Service)
Maumee Valley Scenic Byway

Running northeast of Defiance through Perrysburg and Maumee up to the southern edge of Toledo, the Maumee Valley Scenic Byway covers nearly 90 miles on state Route 424/295 (also known as old U.S. Highway 24) and state Route 65, following the path of the Maumee River and telling the story of the region’s history and its role during the War of 1812.

“The old U.S. 24 that follows the river is now a casual, enjoyable, leisurely drive along a very scenic route,” says Maura Johnson, chairperson of the Maumee Valley Scenic Byway Committee. “The Maumee River formed the natural boundary for what was the frontier of the Northwest Territory.”

Begin in Defiance at Independence Dam State Park, which offers views of the Maumee River and opportunities for on-the-water recreation, such as boating, water-skiing, canoeing and kayaking. Along the north shore, travelers can hike 3 miles through history on the Miami & Erie Canal Towpath.

The driving route continues into Grand Rapids, a classic Ohio canal town that offers canal boat rides, restaurants, shops and more. Continue to Fort Meigs in Perrysburg to view a reconstruction of the American army’s fortification against British troops during the War of 1812. Visitors can tour the fort and grounds April 1 through Oct. 31 and visit an on-site museum year-round.

Cross over the river to visit the site of Fort Miamis, which also played a role during the war. This historic site is home to remnants of the fort as well as a monument to the Battle of Fallen Timbers.

For more information on driving Ohio’s scenic byways, visit ohiobyways.com.