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Take the wrong turn in Ohio and a short hike can turn into a very long trip. Many paths intersect with the 1,250-mile Buckeye Trail, which circumnavigates the state and forms the longest loop trail in the country. One of the best wild sections is the 25-mile stretch in Hocking Hills State Park, which includes the Grandma Gatewood Trail and just about every kind of landscape the state has to offer: forests, rolling hills, caves, waterfalls, and lazy streams.
Contact: Buckeye Trail Association, (800) 881-3062 (inside Ohio); www.buckeyetrail.org.
Shawnee State Forest
You don’t have to travel to Tennessee to visit the Smokies-Ohio boasts the less-traveled “Little Smokies.” Hike Shawnee’s Backpack Trail to enjoy all the fog-fringed views, and don’t miss the deep, dark woods of the 8,000-acre Shawnee Wilderness. A series of loops provides options for hikes up to 55 miles, with eight walk-in campsites.
Contact: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, (740) 858-6685; www.hcs.ohio-state.edu/odnr/forests/forests.htm.
Zaleski State Forest
You can go loopy in this park. Trails wind through the 26,313-acre forest like dropped kite string, beginning with the Zaleski Trail, which skirts relics of mining history on its way through short, steep sections and shady pine groves. Combine this long loop with connecting routes to fashion backpacking trips of from 10 to 23 miles.
Contact: Zaleski State Forest, (740) 596-5781;