Location: Southeast Ohio
Agency: Ohio Division of Forestry
Primary Attractions: Second-growth forest, steep, rugged hills, wetlands, historic ghost towns/ railroad lines
Miles of trail: 23.5
Entry Fees: None
Operating Hours: Open year-round. 6:00 AM - 11:00 PM. Backpacking area open 24 hours.
Camping: Three large, walk-in campsites along 23 mile loop trail. Registration at kiosk required, but no fee. Must camp within campsite boundaries, clearly marked by signage. All campsites have latrine and potable water from a spigot.
Zaleski State Forest is the second largest in the state of Ohio. Located in a former iron and coal mining area, it is dotted with remnants of former industrial sites and ghost towns. Nestled in some of the most rugged terrain in Ohio, a backpacking trail of 23.5 miles has been provided by the state.
This trail undulates in a large loop, from soggy bottom-lands to high ridges, all passing through thick forest, with occasional open views across valleys. Three campsites have been provided that are walk-in only, each at least 1.5 miles from the road, but those in the know can greatly shorten this distance if they know where to park on some of the gravel tracks that wind through the forest. The state has done a phenomenal job of constructing these sites...each has a latrine and water within 100 yards, and I personally have never seen them not stocked in any time of year.
While Zaleski allows off-trail hiking, camping is only allowed in the designated campsites. The rangers are vigilant, often visiting sites at night to ensure that rules are being followed. Provided you are doing the right thing, they are always pleasant, and love to chat by the fire with campers. Some of the most beautiful areas in the forest, such as hidden waterfalls and caves are accessible only by bushwhacking or exploring off-trail
Note that hunting is also allowed in the area. Use caution when hiking off trail, and ensure you are wearing at least some article of clothing that is hunter orange.