Edge of Appalachia Nature Preserve aerial view

12 Must-Visit Spots in Ohio’s Appalachian Region

Spanning 32 Ohio counties, this part of our state offers experiences that highlight the outdoors, history and culture. Here are 12 destinations to put on your list.

The Edge of Appalachia Nature Preserve, Adams County 
What began in 1959 with the preservation of the 42-acre Lynx Prairie now spans 20,000 acres. Located 75 miles east of Cincinnati in West Union, this Nature Conservancy site is home to more than 100 rare plant and animal species and has 10 miles of hiking trails. (The route to Buzzardroost Rock is a popular trek.) The preserve straddles two of the state’s most interesting landscapes: a rugged, unglaciated Appalachian plateau covered in hardwood forests on the preserve’s eastern side and native prairie grassland that supports rare plant communities on its western side. 274 Waggoner Riffle Rd., West Union 45693, 937/544-2188, nature.org/edgeofappalachia

Ulysses S. Grant Birthplace, Clermont County
This small, white cottage built in 1817 along the Ohio River is the place where Civil War general and 18th U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant was born in 1822. The Point Pleasant home is open seasonally to visitors and offers insight into how Ohio and Grant’s family shaped the future president’s values. Tours of the cottage are available and include the chance to see artifacts such as the Bible used when Grant was sworn in as president of the United States. Make the drive to Georgetown in neighboring Brown County to visit the U.S. Grant Boyhood Home & Schoolhouse. 1551 St. Rte. 232, Moscow 45153, 513/843-7648, ohiohistory.org

Woman teaching at Our House Tavern Museum in Gallia County (photo by Rachael Jirousek)
Our House Tavern Museum, Gallia County
Henry Cushing opened his brick, Federal-style tavern located just steps from the Ohio River with his sister, Elizabeth, in 1819. Cushing referred it as “our house” and invited travelers up for a drink, a meal and a place to stay for the night. Today, the Our House Tavern Museum in Gallipolis looks much as it did when Cushing and his sister operated the place between 1819 and 1860. It tells the story of the business and that of the French 500 — a group of Europeans who arrived in 1790 and settled what was then wilderness. 432 First Ave., Gallipolis 45631, 800/752-2618, ohiohistory.org

Tecumseh! Outdoor Drama, Ross County
For 50 years, the story of Shawnee leader Tecumseh has been told under the open Ohio sky at Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre in Chillicothe. The outdoor drama features thundering cannons, galloping horses and incredible battle sequences as the story of Tecumseh’s efforts to defend his sacred homelands during the late 1700s comes to life. The immersive natural environment, nearly 1,700-capacity seating and expansive outdoor stage offer audience members a theater experience they are sure to remember. In 2023, the production runs six nights a week through Sept. 3. There are no performances on Sundays (except Sept. 3). 5968 Marietta Rd., Chillicothe 45601, 866/775-0700, tecumsehdrama.com

Athens’ Dairy Barn Arts Center exterior (photo by Jim Vickers)
The Dairy Barn Arts CenterAthens County
In the late 1970s, locals Harriet and Ora Anderson led a drive to save a soon-to-be-demolished barn in Athens and convert it into a home base for a local nonprofit arts organization. Today, The Dairy Barn Arts Center hosts exhibitions, events and educational programs. The organization helps promote local artists and artisans, while also showing fine arts and crafts from beyond the region. Every two years, the Dairy Barn Arts Center hosts the Quilt National, a biennial juried competition and exhibition of art quilts. The event, which was founded in 1979, returns in 2023. 8000 Dairy Ln., Athens 45701, 740/592-4981, dairybarn.org

Floodwall Murals, Scioto County
In 1992, a local committee in the city of Portsmouth approached artist Robert Dafford about beautifying the 20-foot-high, gray floodwalls that had protected the community since the flood of 1937. After meeting with local historians to brainstorm subjects to depict on the walls, Dafford spent 10 summers completing the first 60 murals. After finishing those, he created five more, each taking two to three summers. The resulting collection offers beautiful depictions of local history, from the earthen mounds built by people of the Hopewell culture to the Ohio & Erie Canal to famous locals such as Roy Rogers. 342 Second St., Portsmouth 45662, ohiorivertourism.org

Campus Martius Museum interior (photo by Stephanie Park)
Campus Martius Museum, Washington County
The Ohio Company arrived along the confluence of the Muskingum and Ohio rivers in 1788 and spent the next three years building a stockade for protection on the site where this museum stands today. Highlights here include the home of Marietta founder Rufus Putnam, which can be seen via a special tour, as well as the original Ohio Company Land Office, which is located on the grounds. Exhibits showcase a variety of artifacts from the era that offer insight into the realities of life for those who lived in the Northwest Territory’s first permanent settlement. 601 Second St., Marietta 45750, 740/373-3750, mariettamuseums.org

The Butler Institute of American Art, Mahoning County
This museum in Youngstown was completed in 1919 and made possible by Joseph G. Butler Jr., a businessman and philanthropist who helped fund the institution’s construction. More than a century later, it continues to serve its intended purpose of showcasing American artists, with works on display here including Albert Bierstadt’s 1869 painting “The Oregon Trail” and Winslow Homer’s 1872 painting “Snap the Whip,” the first work that Butler purchased, years after originally seeing it in Philadelphia in 1876. Today, the museum’s collection spans more than 22,000 works. 524 Wick Ave., Youngstown 44502, 330/743-1107, butlerart.com

Aerial view of Salt Fork State Park in Cambridge
Salt Fork State ParkGuernsey County
When the Salt Fork Reservoir was built in the 1960s, it created a nearly 3,000-surface-acre body of water. Two marinas now operate on the lake at Salt Fork State Park, and there are campgrounds and cabins as well as the option to book one of the guest rooms at Salt Fork Lodge. Visitors can enjoy a variety of hiking trails — mostly shorter family-friendly nature trails that make for a fun afternoon of exploring. For those who want to cover more miles, a portion of the Buckeye Trail passes through the park. 14755 Cadiz Rd., Lore City 43755, 740/439-3521, ohiodnr.gov

Roscoe Village, Coshocton County
Located along the route of the Ohio & Erie Canal in Coshocton, this inviting street of shops, gardens and establishments helps tell the story of how canal travel shaped Ohio. Visitors can take in living history demonstrations by costumed interpreters and browse the shops located in the village. For those who want the full canal-era experience, the Monticello III offers authentic 45-minute canal boat rides on a restored 1-mile stretch of the waterway. Round out your visit by stopping in at Coshocton Supply Co. to browse a selection of exclusively Coshocton County-made goods. 600 N. Whitewoman St., Coshocton 43812, 740/622-7644, roscoevillage.com

McConnelsville’s Big Muskie's Bucket (photo by Jim Vickers)
Big Muskie’s BucketMorgan County
Big Muskie was the largest dragline ever made and for years it harvested southeast Ohio coal for American Electric Power. Standing 240 feet tall and costing $25 million to build, the machine could take a scoop of earth, lift it 30 stories in the air and deposit it the equivalent of two city blocks away. In 1991, Big Muskie was decommissioned by AEP but its bucket lives on as a tribute to the area’s coalminers. Stop by Miner’s Memorial Park in McConnelsville to step inside Big Muskie’s bucket, get your photo taken and learn about this one-of-a-kind machine. 4470 St. Rte. 78, McConnelsville 43756  

Ernest Warther Museum & GardensTuscarawas County
The former Dover home of Ernest “Mooney” Warther is now the site of a museum that showcases the master carver’s intricate works that trace the history of the steam locomotive. Each of Warther’s trains are made from thousands of individual hand-carved pieces. The museum displays Warther’s one-of-a-kind collection of locomotives alongside other pieces, including a model steel mill and the carver’s famous Plier Tree. Displayed at the 1933-34 World’s Fair in Chicago, the Plier Tree features 511 sets of interlocking pliers cut from a single block of wood. 331 Karl Ave., Dover 44622, 330/505-6003, thewarthermuseum.com