Weekends: Archer's Fork Loop, Ohio

Avoid winter a little longer on this fall hike through an Appalachian region.
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Avoid winter a little longer on this fall hike through an Appalachian region.

From the recesses below a sandstone overhang, I watch rainwater spill through the yellow and red foliage to the leaf-strewn ground. I was only a few hours into this quick, 11-mile overnight when the November skies opened, but, rather kindly, Mother Nature has provided me with this natural refuge. Elsewhere in the Midwest, it’s probably sleeting, if not flurrying. But I’m more than 150 miles from the lake effect in the thick woods of southeast Ohio, where 50°F temperatures and brilliant foliage last into late-fall. The water drops heighten every hue of the most vibrant autumn leaves in the Midwest. And, when the rain lets up, I continue deeper into this Appalachian region—where prime hiking season has just begun. BY RACHEL SAYERS

Turn-by-turn
From Ludlow Catholic Cemetery

(1) Head south on the Natural Bridge Trail, following the yellow blazes southwest along Archer’s Fork to a typically ankle-deep crossing at mile 3.1.
(2) Proceed across Upper Archers Fork Rd. and continue 1.7 miles east on the North Country Trail to a junction with the Archers Fork Connector.
(3) Take the Connector northeast to Jackson Run at mile 5.4.
(4) Stay on the Connector north and then west to Irish Run at mile 9.1.
(5) Cross the shallow stream and travel 2.1 miles to the trailhead (walk across Twp. Rd. 58 at mile 10.2 and pass the Great Cave at mile 11).

Campsite
Jackson Run (mile 5.4)

Situated in the trailside junction of two hollows, this first-come, first-serve campsite has it all: wind protection, water access, a 180-degree view of the river valley, and flat ground (rare on this trek). Bonus: log chairs. If taken, continue to the ridge at mile 6.6 for more flat areas.

Rocks of ages
Sandstone gorges, caves, cliffs, and arches litter Wayne National Forest, providing evidence of a seabed that blanketed the region 260 million years ago. Over time, erosion gave rise to the cool formations on this hike, like the 50-foot-tall caves near miles 3.2 and 11 and 51-foot-long Irish Run Natural Bridge near mile .5.

Sound like a local
PUDs: Short for “Pointless Ups and Downs,” this term (rhymes with “mud”)describes switchbackless paths that travel over—rather than around—hills.
Pawpaw: Ohio’s papaya, this yellow, bean-shaped fruit grows near mile 4 on the trail. Try it raw when it fruits in September.
Hollow: A valley with a running stream.
Run: A slow-moving creek that’s easily crossed (like those on this hike).

DO IT Trailhead 39.522002, -81.180595*; 35 miles southeast of Caldwell on T411 Gear up Buckeye Outdoors in Hebron; vanceoutdoors.comSeason Fall for hardwood foliage (typically the second week of October through the end of November); spring for abundant wildlife; summer for wild berries; winter for ice formations Permit None Custom-centered mapbit.ly/BPmapArchers ($15) Contact (740) 373-9055; fs.usda.gov/wayneTrip datawww.trimbleoutdoors.com/ViewTrip/2751235

*Plug these lat/long coordinates into Google Maps for turn-by-turn driving directions.

Trail Facts

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