The Buckeye State is the nickname given to Ohio due to the buckeye trees that dot the landscape. In turn, the tree gets its name from its nuts. These are shaped in the form and color of a deer’s eye. The tree is common in the state, especially along rivers and streams. Deer are one of the most prevalent animals in the state. You’re sure to spot both along the route of the longest biking trail in Ohio. It begins at the Ohio River and winds its way across the Buckeye state. Let’s take a closer look!
The Ohio to Erie Trail
The longest biking trail in Ohio is the Ohio to Erie Trail at 326 miles. The route crosses the state south to north from the Ohio River in Cincinnati to Lake Erie in Cleveland.
The Ohio to Erie Trail (OTET) is named for the water bodies of its starting and ending points. A unique ritual for riders of the trail is to dip their back tires in the Ohio River. They do this beneath the Roebling Suspension Bridge where the journey begins. At the end of their ride, they dip their front tires in Lake Erie.
The route is primarily off-road and designed for cyclists but open to other forms of non-motorized travel as well. It’s definitely a bucket-list trip, as one of the most spectacular state-spanning trails in the country. Along the ride, you’ll pass through picturesque farmlands, meadows, and nature preserves. It will also bring you through many small towns and through the hearts of the bustling urban centers of Ohio.
History of the Longest Biking Trail in Ohio
The vision of the Ohio to Erie Trail was that it would link existing Ohio trails and develop connecting segments across the state. The route was planned mostly using land that had been occupied by railroads and canals in Ohio’s past. Ed Honton conceived of the project in 1991 and created a non-profit organization dedicated to the trail. The Ohio to Erie Trail Fund continued to see his vision through to its reality after his death in 2005. The historic Bridgeview Bridge, built in 1902 and fully restored, is dedicated to Ed Honton, the trailblazer.
Navigating the Ohio to Erie Trail
Taking off on an unplanned adventure can be exhilarating and full of learning lessons. However, it’s recommended that riders take advantage of the plethora of navigation tools available to them. The Ohio to Erie Trail is a series of many winding connected paths. While some areas are clearly marked, others may be lacking. It can be difficult to decide which direction to head at those sections. It’s best to carefully plan ahead, especially for the urban centers of Cincinnati, Columbus, Akron, and Cleveland. Navigation through these dense urban centers can be especially tricky with quick turns and unexpected changes in the route.
The longest biking trail in Ohio is designed to be completed from South to North. You can ride the opposite way, but be aware that you may fight headwinds if you travel southbound. An interactive online map and trail guides are available on the trail’s website. Trail guides are available to purchase that are oriented for travel northbound or southbound. Well-prepared riders will want to bring along a printed guide, downloaded RidewithGPS files and have the interactive map handy on their device.
The Ohio to ErieTrail Route
Southern Region: Cincinnati to Xenia, 69.2 miles
A tire dip in the Ohio River in Cincinnati signifies the start of a long cycling adventure across the state. You’ll meander along the Ohio River Trail and take up a portion of the Lunken Airport Bike Path before journeying along the Little Miami Scenic Trail. This famed rail trail extends over 50 miles and brings you to Xenia Station.
South Central Region: Xenia to Columbus, 58.1 miles
This section of the trail takes off from Xenia Station and follows along the Prairie Grass Trail. This 29-mile section will guide you through iconic Ohio farm country and touch upon several small towns along the way.
You’ll reach the town of London and then continue through farmland and wetlands as you ride the Roberts Pass Trail, which gives way to the Camp Chase trail. The Camp Chase trail passes over I-270 and leads into the Hilltop neighborhood. From here, you’ll ride over a beautiful bridge above the Scioto River along the Scioto Greenway Trail, which winds right into downtown Columbus.
North Central Region: Columbus to Killbuck, 82.3 miles
From Columbus’ city center, you’ll take the Downtown Connector Trail along the I-670 bikeway. You’ll meet up with the Alum Creek Greenway Trail, which will take you to the town of Westerville.
The Genoa Trail will be up next on your route, a 4-mile paved trail winding through scenic landscapes and residential neighborhoods. Hoover Scenic Trail will then offer unparalleled views of the Hoover Reservoir. This will lead to the Galena Brick trail, a short path named for the town’s 1890s Galena Shale Tile and Brick Company.
Next are a couple of small on-road sections to navigate in the city of Sunbury before connecting to the Meredith State Road Trail, which then becomes the Heart of Ohio trail. The Heart of Ohio Trail takes cyclists through many small towns, including the village of Centerburg, marking the geographic center of the state.
The Downtown Connector Trail then runs through Mount Vernon before linking to the Kokosing Gap trail. You’ll cross through Danville and cross Ohio’s second-longest covered bridge, the Bridge of Dreams, along the Mohican Valley Trail. The Holmes County Trail will pass through Killbuck, marking the end of the third leg of the trail.
Northern Region: Killbuck to Cleveland, 114.2 miles
Holmes County is the seat of one of the largest Amish communities in North America. The Holmes County Trail follows along an Amish buggy path, so bicycles and buggies may ride side-by-side for some time. This trail leads to Fredericksburg, where you will transition to 17 miles of on-roading on the way to Dalton.
At Dalton, you’ll pick up the Sippo Valley Trail and travel to Massillon. The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail stretches more than 80 miles. It will guide you to the village of Canal Fulton, travel through the bustling city of Akron, and through the rich wonders of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. A series of short connectors and bikeways end up at Lake Erie in Cleveland. Here, you can dip a front tire in at the bank and celebrate completing the longest biking trail in Ohio!
How Long Does it Take to Ride?
The ride can be completed at any pace. You can ride it all at one go or in sections over the course of months or even years. A typical pace might be an average of 35 miles a day. At this rate, you’d complete the journey in roughly 9 days. If you plan to take the route all at once, there are many places to stay or camp along the way. Take a look at the camping directory and the lodging directory to plan your nights.
If you complete the entire trail end-to-end in a single trip be sure to sign up as a member of the 326 club! You will enter your information and post a picture to be included among others who have done the same.
What Type of Bike Can I Ride?
The trail is almost entirely hard surface, made up of asphalt and concrete. There are sections of crushed limestone as well, including parts of the Sippo Valley Trail and the O&E Canalway Towpath. Road, hybrid, touring, and e-bikes are all suitable choices for this route. Tire sizes of 28 mm or larger will make for the most successful ride.
Conditions of the Trail
In winter, the trail becomes a path for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. During other times of the year, the route may be subject to partial closures. This can result from planned construction projects or unexpected flooding, erosion, or other environmental situations. Long-term projects are usually reflected on the interactive map found on the trail website. Be sure to check out the trail alerts page for detailed information about the latest closures.
Wildlife on the Longest Biking Trail in Ohio
White-tail deer are the state mammal of Ohio, and you’re sure to see plenty grazing along the route. Eastern gray squirrels and raccoons are other common creatures you’re likely to encounter. They’re sure to steal your snacks if you leave them unattended. Be aware of food storage, especially if you’ll be camping along the route. Enjoy the song of robins, blue jays, and mourning doves as you pedal along. Keep an eye out for beavers, bullfrogs, and other river dwellers along riparian corridors.
Bicycling can bring you into a state of harmony with the natural world as you travel at a rate that’s aligned with your surroundings. So have fun exploring, and be sure to respect the territories you traverse along your way.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Nastco
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