Fall Road Trip on U.S. Route 33
This 145-mile portion between Logan County and Athens offers a visit to a historic mill and a drive through a stretch of Wayne National Forest.
U.S. Route 33 covers 709 miles on its northeast-to-southwest route from northern Indiana to Richmond, Virginia. More than 230 of those miles pass through Ohio, treating travelers to both big-city sights and small-town charms. The 145-mile portion between the Logan County community of Lakeview and the college town of Athens offers plenty of both, from the chance to see interesting animals at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to the opportunity to take in miles of brilliant fall foliage as the route passes through a stretch of Wayne National Forest.
Indian Lake State Park
Indian Lake was once billed as “The Midwest’s Million-Dollar Playground” and the 5,100-surface-acre lake still draws plenty of summertime visitors, but the fun doesn’t stop once Labor Day arrives. The state park has two easy walking trails — one through brushy habitat and one with great lake views — and the annual Fall Festival (set for Sept. 24 through 26) brings food, arts and crafts vendors and entertainment. 13156 St. Rte. 235, Lakeview 43331, 937/843-2717, ohiodnr.gov
Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
Make a 5-mile detour from U.S. 33 when you reach Dublin to visit this central Ohio destination that is home to 10,000 animals. Travel around the world in a day, getting a glimpse of far-away lands. The change of leaves brings Boo at the Zoo, an opportunity for those 13 and younger to dress up and explore the zoo grounds during a family-friendly event that runs on October weekends. 4850 Powell Rd., Powell 43065, 614/645-3400, columbuszoo.org
The first grist mill built here fell into the gorge in 1822. The one that stands today, just 5 miles from U.S. 33, was constructed around 1824 and operated until 1905 before it sat vacant and broken for a century. Today, the restored mill, which is operated by the Fairfield County Park District, offers tours on the weekends. The mill and covered bridge are especially scenic in autumn. 1429 Rockmill Place Rd. NW, Lancaster 43130, 740/681-7249, fairfieldcountyparks.com
Wayne National Forest
Wayne National Forest is made up of three units across 12 Ohio counties, blanketing southeast Ohio in a patchwork of fall color each autumn. The Wayne National Forest Welcome Center is located along U.S. 33 in Athens County. There, travelers can stop in and learn more about the forest, as well as the recreation options available, whether they’re looking to hit the trails for a full-on backpacking experience or an afternoon hike. 13700 U.S. 33, Nelsonville 45764, 740/753-0101, fs.usda.gov/wayne
As the home of Ohio University, the college town of Athens comes to life when students return in the fall, and the great mix of restaurants that focus on local and seasonal ingredients make it a foodie must. Head to Casa Nueva for fresh Mexican fare or grab a hot dog at O’Betty’s Red Hot. Craft beer fans flock to Jackie O’s pub as well as Little Fish Brewing Co., just 2 miles west of downtown. athensohio.com