Man biking on Marietta’s mountain bike trails (photo by Ryan Smith)

4 Outdoor Adventures in Appalachian Ohio

From camping that the entire family can enjoy to a hike featuring one of the best views in the state, Ohio’s Appalachia region lets you choose your own adventure.

Mountain Biking and Kayaking with Marietta Adventure Co.

Geeking out over outdoor adventure gear is part of the experience at Marietta Adventure Co. The full-service mountain bike and kayak shop owned by Ryan Smith is a gateway to getting outside and offers everything you need to get out onto the trail or the water.

While the spot carries bikes and kayaks for purchase (it has brands such as GT, Cannondale and Perception), rentals are a big part of what Smith wanted to offer when he opened Marietta Adventure Co. in 2011.

“I hoped through offering rentals that it would take away some of the excuses that stop people from going out,” he says.

The store rents single and tandem kayaks, as well as watercraft more suited to anglers. (Just make sure you’ve got your own pickup truck, trailer or roof rack for transporting the kayaks.) Bike rentals include casual rides, sturdy mountain bikes and pedal-assist e-bikes. The staff at Marietta Adventure Co. will make sure you’re appropriately prepared and fit the bikes and kayaks to you, but they’re also knowledgeable about where to go once you’re geared up.

Marietta itself features 30 miles of mountain bike trails in its city limits, and it’s situated at the confluence of two popular waterways for kayaking: the Ohio and Muskingum rivers.

“I wanted to provide the information of where people could access local rivers, what to expect when they were out there and help facilitate that experience,” Smith says.

219-B Second St., Marietta 45750, 740/538-0801,

Man at Buzzardroost Rock at the Edge of Appalachia overlook in West Union (photo by David Ike)
Day Hiking in the Edge of Appalachia Preserve System

The Nature Conservancy is a global organization that protects and preserves everything from oceans and African wildlife to Caribbean islands and European rivers. But its roots trace back to Ohio’s Appalachia region. One of the group’s first preserves was Lynx Prairie, which is now part of the Edge of Appalachia Preserve System, more than 20,000 acres of nature nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in Adams County.

“It’s a very unique part of Ohio,” says Martin McAllister, community engagement specialist for the Edge of Appalachia Preserve System. “This is where three different physiographic regions all come together. You get things that are like the Appalachian Mountains, you get some that are indicative of the glaciated portion of the state, and then you get some flora that are more common south of us.” 

One of the system’s must-do hikes is the Buzzardroost Rock Trail, a 4.4-mile excursion with a stunning highlight at its midway point. Towering 300 feet above the surrounding valley, Buzzardroost Rock is a limestone outcropping that provides views of the forests, prairies and other landscapes that make up the preserve.

“As you walk out of the ridge and approach the promontory, it narrows and narrows, and finally, you’re standing on this large rock overlooking lower Ohio Brush Creek Valley,” says McAllister. “The view is tremendous.”

But with five trails and 27 miles of hiking, the Edge offers more to see, including one of McAllister’s favorites: the 3-mile round-trip Helen C. Black Trail at Cedar Falls Preserve. 

“It takes you through a nice, healthy forest,” he says. “And then the destination is a nice waterfall in a gorge.”

4274 Waggoner Riffle Rd., West Union 45693, 937/544-2880,

Natural bridge along Archer Trail in Wayne National Forest (photo by Kyle Brooks, U.S. Forest Service)
Overnight Hiking in Wayne National Forest

Ohio loves a good comeback story, and Wayne National Forest is a 244,000-acre one set in the Appalachian foothills of southeast Ohio. The original forests here were cleared out starting in the 1800s and remained that way for years. 

“This whole area was pretty much ravaged,” says Chad Wilberger, forest recreation program manager at Wayne National Forest.

Hiking through the forest’s approximately 470 miles of trails today, casual observers might not realize that Wayne is a “landscape in healing,” as many in the forest service refer to it. Conservation and reforestation efforts that were started in the early 20th century continue to grow.

Those efforts have resulted in Wayne National Forest becoming a popular spot for overnight backcountry hikers and campers who want to rough their way through thick forests, rocky outcroppings like those found in the Hocking Hills, stream crossings and waterfalls. One of the most popular hikes, Archer’s Fork Trail, is a nearly 12-mile loop that meanders through dense forests and rocky features such as the Great Cave and Irish Run Natural Bridge, a 50-foot-long sandstone span connecting two ridges.

“It’s one of my favorite hikes in the Wayne,” Wilberger says. “It goes through the mature forest and along the side slope of a ridge.”

Like many trails in the forest, Archer’s Fork connects to others, such as the North Country, Ohio View and Scenic River & Greenwood trails, giving backpackers the chance to spend several days hiking. Wilberger advises hikers to bring their own water, as most of the water from streams and lakes is not potable because of the damage done to the land more than 100 years ago, and to take care when making and dismantling a campfire.

“And make sure you dispose of your waste properly,” he cautions. “There is wildlife out there — deer, turkeys, but also the occasional bear and bobcat.”

For more information about Wayne National Forest, visit

Family camping at Atwood Lake Park (photo courtesy of Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District)
Family Camping at Atwood Lake Park

Pleasing everyone is rarely easy, but Atwood Lake Park’s overnight and recreational options make camping here with the entire family a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure experience.

With 2,500 acres of forest and a roughly 1,500-acre lake, the laid-back park straddles Tuscarawas and Carroll counties and features more than 500 campsites, including those with hookups for recreational vehicles, and 10 cabins that can accommodate a family of six.

“Because we’re a smaller horsepower lake, we tend to draw more families and older guests,” says park manager John Lewis. “Our campsites are spacious, so you can do yard games — cornhole, hillbilly golf — those types of things.”

But there’s a lot of fun to be had away from your campsite as well. Hikers and bikers will find more than 6 miles of trails, including some that are paved. (Don’t miss the nearly 60-foot-tall observation tower on the Hawk Ridge Trail.)

There are two public boat launches and a marina that rents pontoon boats, fishing boats, kayaks and paddleboards. Anglers can fish for largemouth bass, bluegill, crappies and channel catfish, and there’s also a beach for relaxing.

The recently upgraded camp store is stocked with food and supplies. It is run by Kathy’s Cookies, Candies & Catering, which offers catering for large groups, and the park regularly hosts events such as music performances, family movie nights and more.

“You really can just make the trip whatever you want,” Lewis says. “It’s just a laid-back-type community here.”

9500 Lakeview Rd., Mineral City 44656, 330/343-6780,