Nearly a straight shot up Route 32, Athens, OH is a great weekend destination filled with plenty of open-air adventures. Situated within rolling Appalachian hills around two and a half hours east of Downtown Cincinnati, you can hike, bike, and otherwise explore Ohio’s only national forest, nearby state parks and state forests, wildlife areas, nature preserves, and a variety of trails.
Start with Ridges Loop Trail, a nearly three-mile easy/moderate loop through rolling fields and lovely forests. The trail takes you to the former Athens Lunatic Asylum where striking, 150-year-old buildings loom atop a hill overlooking the Hocking River. Be sure to stroll over to the graveyard, where the remains of patients lay under headstones marked only with a number. For those looking for more challenging hikes, nearby Wayne National Forest offers 450 miles of trails scattered over 240,000 acres.
The Hockhocking Adena Bikeway stretches 21 miles along the Hocking River, past the Ohio University campus and through serene woodlands as it runs from Athens to Nelsonville. The trail includes a craft beer bike trail, Brewed on the Bikeway, which takes you to several craft breweries and a cider house. The trails from Sells Park to Strounds Run offer 22 miles of trails for mountain biking (or hiking) and Strounds Run State Park offers 15 mountain bike trails.
Get Your Motor Runnin’
Developed by veteran motorcyclists and sports car drivers, Athens offers up the Windy 9. This curated collection of nine riding/driving routes range in distance from 64 to 132 miles and all conveniently begin and end in Athens.
Skate, Paddle, Trot, & Fly
There are also other opportunities to get outside during your visit. Athens Skate Park is 17,000 square feet and features various rails and bowls with a large tabletop and dome. Strouds Run State Park has boat and canoe rentals, as well as hiking, camping, and bridle trails. Smoke Rise Guest Ranch is a western-style guest ranch that offers guided and unguided horseback rides, as well as cattle drives and other ranch activities. There are also three companies nearby that offer ziplines, canopy tours, and high ropes courses.
Of course, you’ll need to fuel up for your outdoor adventures. Jackie O’s Brewery is a local icon that offers a wide variety of beers on tap and delicious food. Fluff Bakery is a must-stop breakfast joint, known for fresh-baked pastries, cookies, and bagels (and perhaps the best biscuits and gravy I’ve ever tasted). On Saturday mornings, swing by the Athens Farmers Market, where more than 70 local vendors offer produce, jams and honeys, maple syrup, eggs, cheese, baked goods, salsas, and much more.
The Caboose at Dutch Creek Retreat is a renovated Chessie System caboose located on the property of Dutch Creek Winery. It’s a small yet well-appointed space and such a unique experience that you can’t help but have fun with it. An added benefit is it offers the option to walk or bike to the winery itself to enjoy a variety of local mead and fruit wines.
One last note about safety as it pertains to COVID-19: the entire town does a truly remarkable job with coronavirus protocols. Restaurants take exceptional measures to ensure client safety, masks were virtually everywhere, and everyone seemed to be dedicated to social distancing.
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Take a look through the gallery above to see all the outdoor action. Athens County Ohio’s travel site also has additional info for visitors.