We sometimes get quizzed on trail recommendations and trip planning advice. So we thought an Ohio trail trip primer might prove useful. So, let's get started planning your next Ohio trail trip!
First Things First: Where To?
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy tells us that in Ohio there are currently 90 trails offering 916 completed miles, with still more to come. So, where you wanna ride?
Let's start by narrowing things down a bit. If you're planning on combining a trail trip with another purpose or activity, it can bring the picture into better focus. Planning to visit family, friends, or a particular part of the Buckeye state? Start by locating the area on the Ohio Trails Google map.
This will show you not only the trails in the area, but other bikeways that may be en route. So if you're traveling by car, consider your route across (or into) the state. Are you gonna give some cool trails the "drive by?" Perhaps a slight deviation will allow you to take in a trail or two on your way out or back.
Maybe you're traveling with a hardcore cyclist that wants to log mega-miles, while you're more interested in a fun spin when you reach your final destination. If a major bikeway happens to extend in the direction you're heading, you can drop them off and pick them up further up the road. (Make sure everyone has cell phones!) Depending on how far and fast they ride, you could go shopping, sit down to a nice meal or even take in a movie in the meantime.
Bike & Hike & More!
A similar strategy can be used when adding another activity to your itinerary such as hiking, canoeing, swimming, camping, boating or sight-seeing. Start with your destination such as a nice boating lake, if that's your preferred activity, and check out the trails in the area as well as what's en route.
I'm Only Riding Trails, Where Do I Start?
Start with the type of trail riding that you find most enjoyable. Is it towpath? Is it smooth asphalt where you can spend a couple of days exploring the area? What type of terrain do you prefer and how far do you wish to ride? Answering questions like these will narrow your choices considerably.
Though Ohio bikeways are mostly flat, that doesn't mean you won't encounter elevation changes or some head or cross winds to spice up your ride. But if you prefer some hills, there are exceptions. The Emerald Necklace Trail is a good example.
Once you've pared down your choices, research your options to learn which trails sound more appealing to you.
Wouldn't it be nice to find one source where you could get most of your Ohio trail info? Wait, you're already there! Look through our Regional Trail List (or use the interactive version on the Map page) to find reviews, links, maps and other trail goodies. Also, check the weather forecast for the bikeway before you pull out of your driveway! It's on each of the review pages along with other helpful info.
Take A Virtual Tour Of The Corridor!
Interactive maps are one of the best tools for exploring trail corridors. They allow you to zoom in to find trailheads and other points of interest along bikeway corridors. That's very handy indeed, especially when you want to determine exactly where finished trail sections start and end.
Ohio Bikeways offers the most Ohio trails in this format on the Trails map. This map has a built-in route planner for calculating distances and travel time.
"Use Your Resources Wisely, Grasshopper"
When it comes to reviews, an old post date (or no date) does not equal no useful information, just as a recent date does not guarantee all the info you need.
Reviews are great for identifying trail surfaces, stats and terrain, as well as covering the basics regarding trailheads and parking. Even if a review is stale, it's not likely that these facilities have been bulldozed under since it was written. Reviews may also give you some idea of what to expect on your ride.
But what about construction projects or other problems that may close a trail section? That's something even a recent review may miss. You'll need a different resource to cover those bases.
Some common trail problems are weather related. For example, after heavy rains bikeways along valley floors or other low spots can suffer from flooding. This is most common with towpath sections which are prone to washouts. So what's a good way to avoid closed trail sections? Go straight to the source: the trail overseers. Or seek out a good trail forum for the area. The forums that we're aware of are posted to the Resources page under 'Trail Forums.' Give us a shout if you find a new one that we should add to the list.
We realize that in a perfect world you get everything you need. So, with that in mind, don't be surprised if your call to a trail overseer goes something like this, "Harry's on vacation until next week. He's the one to talk to about all that trail stuff." We're not trying to be negative here, just realistic. So be prepared! We've provided a lot of that trail "stuff" on these pages, just in case Harry has an accident or something...
What About Lodging?
With virtually all of these businesses now online, it's a pretty painless process to get rates and reviews on hotels, motels, campgrounds, park lodges, hostels, etc.
Looking to bed down next to a trail? Check for special rates or packages that may be offered by establishments that cater to cyclists. B & Bs are known for this, but others may be coming on board to get a piece of this expanding market, especially those located in the vicinity of major Ohio trails.
Need A Rental?
For those flying into Ohio to trail ride, good rental bikes are critical. Though a few places may offer vendors who specialize in rentals, local bike shops are a more common resource. Retailers close to trails generally offer rentals as a regular part of their business. Others may not.
When contacting a shop, here's what to ask:
For the shop that doesn't offer rentals, perhaps because they are not in close proximity to a bikeway:
Some Destination Recommendations
Here are some ideas for your next trail trip:
The Little Miami Trail is an obvious choice for combining paved bikeway miles with camping and canoeing, as those facilities are right along the trail! It's probably not the only place in Ohio where you can do all three, but it's the one where you can ride the most continuous trail miles. The Little Miami links to the Lebanon & Simon Kenton Trails and two more bikeways at Xenia Station, the biggest paved trail hub in Ohio.
Thinking of mountain biking and checking out a bikeway? Here's an interesting combo: Consider visitng the awesome single-track at Mohican State Park. They have what's said to be the longest looped single-track in the state, 24.25 miles. When you finish romping through the forest, grab a bite to eat, then roll over to the nearby Richland B & O Trail in Butler, Ohio for a pleasant cool-down ride to finish out your day. If you use the closest Mohican trailhead off Rt. 97, the two trails are only 7 miles apart. We could also mention that hiking trails, camping, fly-fishing and horseback riding are all in the Mohican vicinity as well, but we're a cycling web site, so we won't.
An interesting fat & skinny tire combo can be found along the Emerald Necklace Trail. Here the snake-like twisting, turning paved trail is more suited for leisurely rides on a comfort or mountain bike, while the parallel parkway road is a straighter option that better serves road bikes. But we're not talking about flat rail-trails here, there's climbing on trail and road. Don't venture along too much of the Necklace without a Pathfinder Map (scroll down to text at bottom of page) from Cleveland Metroparks. Following the bikeway through the different reservations can be problematic as the route and its spurs are not well marked.
For those that prefer a good towpath ride, the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath has it all, including a scenic railway that parallels a portion of the trail for about 13 miles and provides return rides for passengers with bikes. Great for a leisurely ride out, when you'd prefer to take the train back to get another perspective on a portion of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Perhaps you're wondering which Ohio bike trail is most popular? Go here to learn more.
The Ultimate Ohio Trail Ride!
If all you want to do is ride and ride some more, try exploring a cross-state bikeway like the Ohio-to-Erie Trail. Though the entire trail will not be completed for some time, approximately 80% of the route is already finished. The Ohio-to-Erie web site has a map showing the entire route (with connecting roads between sections).
This 325-mile or so trek utilizes a number of great trails including most of the Little Miami Scenic Trail and part of the Ohio & Erie Towpath mentioned above.
We hope this primer has answered many of your questions and given you some good suggestions to consider. Obviously there are far more Ohio bikeways than the few we've recommended and therefore, many more options to consider.
Take your time exploring the reviews and following the links on the Regional Trail List page to learn more about what the various trails have to offer. Once you've visited a bikeway or two, send in some comments or updates to let us know about your experience or what's new along the trail!