Near the trailhead for the Zaleski State Forest Backpack Trail stands the Hope Furnace, a hulking reminder of a time when Ohio’s forests were prized as fuel for smelting iron ore. The Zaleski is a journey through Buckeye history, as well as a stiff weekend workout. The discerning eye can discover remains of long-deserted mining towns, pioneer cemeteries, and Native American ceremonial mounds. There’s even a brakeman’s ghost said to haunt the local Moonville graveyard. But in the end, the real draw is the forest of second-growth maple, hickory, and oak that dips and rolls across Zaleski State Forest’s 27,000-plus acres. The era of iron has come and gone, and the woodlands have reclaimed what was rightfully theirs.
LENGHT: 23.5 miles.
RATING: Moderate to difficult. Elevation changes of up to 500 feet are common. There are limited water sources so pack it in.
WHERE: The southern trailhead is about 90 minutes southeast of Columbus. Take I-33 south to Nelsonville, then OH 278 south for about 15 miles toward Lake Hope. The trailhead parking lot is across from the Hope Furnace historic site.
MAPS: A comprehensive map is available at the state forest address below.
CONTACT: Zaleski State Forest, Zaleski, OH 45698; (740) 596-5781.