Wonderful overnight backpack trip for our family. We did the South Loop at Zaleski - 10.9 miles. The hike was great. Lots of ups & downs, a pond & beautiful rock outcroppings. Not supposed to filter the water in the creeks. Thankfully there is pretty tasty water at camp. Cannot camp off of marked areas. 3 camp areas total, camp 1 & 2 are available on the South Loop. Latrine available (bring toilet paper). Campsites fill up quickly & areas will be shared. Not all have fire rings. Camp 2 is very popular since it is the halfway point(ish) on the trail. Camp 1 is only a couple miles into the loop. Great place to stop for lunch. Highly recommend. Our 8 year old did great & we saw lots of families camping. Trails had lots of poison ivy & ticks present. We look forward to coming back & doing the remainder of the trail.
Blazes: The main trail is blazed orange and camp side trails/day hike cutoff is blazed white.
Water is available at 3 backpack camping areas (Points D, I & P)
Parking is available. It is recommended to use the backpacking parking area but we hear that fills up quickly. That is located at the Hope Schoolhouse (27800 Wheelabout Road, McArthur, OH 45651). If you want to skip that first portion of the trail or if parking it not available you can park at the Hope Furnace which is mainly used for day hiking. Both parking lots seemed to fill up fast. The Hope Furnace parking was full by 8:30/9 am on the Saturday we arrived.
I would recommend printing maps & seeing additional information about the area & trails here: https://www.backpackohio.com/trails/zaleski-state-forest-backpack-trail/
Love this forest both for its day hikes and backpacking trails. This would be a great place for a first time backpacking trip. The trails are well maintained and marked. Lots of cool history in this area too. Definitely would recommend for anyone in the area to check out.
Campground Review: With a close friend coming to visit from Spain, I wanted to show her a cool backpacking location in Southeastern Ohio. Zaleski State Forest seemed like a good choice for a new backpacker. There are multiple loops to trek, averaging about 10 miles per loop. Overall the trails are well maintained (minus a few dense areas). There was almost an excessive amount of blazes. Campsites are plentiful along the trails. We stayed at Campsite C. Each site has access to communal well-water and a restroom. Each site usually has a small fire ring and logs to sit on. Overall, the campsites were pretty decent and secluded, but nothing special view wise aside from the typical Ohio forest. I would say pretty overall, but nothing quite outstanding.
Product Review: The Banner & Oak Firebiner is a neat little tool that has some really fun features! Most notable being the fire starter. The Firebiner uses a small spark wheel and replaceable ferro rod to create sparks. The sparks are pretty large for the little tool. I now use my Firebiner to start my MSR stove quickly and with zero plastic waste! I haven’t used it to try to start a straight up fire, but friends have successfully before. Most importantly, the spark wheel is just darn right fun to play with. The device has other little uses like a bottle opener, utility blade, and screwdriver. I absolutely love this device! Only complaint would be that I wish it came in different colors, but who really cares.
Here is a link to check out the Firebiner yourself: https://bannerandoak.com/products/banner-and-oak-firebiner?variant=9696793034788¤cy=USD&gclid=CjwKCAjwnMTqBRAzEiwAEF3ndu9CmerLos5Y1yvjGHJ2L4FG732wg9bMpyPAJRa3m8dxlxffZ6Nt-RoC6LQQAvD_BwE
The trail is diverse and great for beginners and experienced hikers. The campsites have privies, spigots for water, and a lot of different sites for different sized groups. Its a popular trail for a reason!
Zaleski has a few backpacking camp sites in the forest. Be mindful that the first one is rather close and we kept going. The other camp sites are a haul. They do provide a latrine but make sure you bring your own TP. The loop is easy to navigate but the mileage is misleading so prepare to do some extra miles.
I have backpacked the trails here since the 1980s. More recently, I have taken my kids for several treks on the lower loop. Get there early and get to the campsites first, there are decidedly better sites in each camp. The water is good and I have never seen them dry. You will see lots of wildlife, we have seen salamanders, deer, snakes, a wild turkey even wandered into our camp in May 2018. Back in 1988, I saw two rattlesnakes together beside the trail on the northern loop. Moonville Tunnel is close and is a great bookend before or after your hike. I actually like to hike the lower loop backwards, starting on a Thursday. Treat yourself to a post hike meal at the Lake Hope Dining Lodge, Sunday brunch is awesome. Don't worry about stinking from the trail, the outside seating is dog and smelly hiker friendly.
This is located by the hocking hills region of the state. Beautiful winding Ohio roads and landscapes out of this world. Take a day trip to one of the many sites to see in the region or go for a hiking through the Zaleski State Forest. This is and area you must love the outdoors as there isn’t much else to do. There are plenty off of shore fishing spots right off the campgrounds trails. You can dock a boat off lake hope and enjoy a day on the water, or rent a kayak or canoe at the local beach area right down the road. You can enjoy a day playing in the water, eating and ice cream and sun bathing. Please no furry friends at the local beach though. The grounds were very large, plenty of spaces no need for reservation in off season. Also the offer primitive, electric and rv sites and are pet friendly there. We showed up late so the office was closed, they did have a list of sites that were taken on the door for you to pick a spot or find your reservation. When they did open we registered and were all set, they offer bags of ice for sale as well. If you’re looking for firewood there are plenty of private sellers off the back roads normall $5-$10 a small or large bundle, it’s on the honor system so please pay them!! I love this area and campground the best there is around there. We went into the little town of Zaleski which is about 4 small roads with a local bar, very basic bar caned beer and about 5 liquor choices. Cool thing is you can get beers to go back to the site if you’ve run out. We had a good time here and will be back time and time again!
I went backpacking with my brother here last year and it was one of the best camping experiences of my life! We enjoyed four amazing days or hiking, camping and exploring nature.
The trails are well marked and easy to follow. And there are several loop sections so you can easily plan various tips accordingly. There are three main camping areas with established fire rings, bathrooms and water supplies making the stops at the end of the day that much more pleasant.
There are a great deal of interesting rock formations to check out as well as a few good overlook areas. I highly recommend taking the short connector trail on the south loop to cut over to the Moonville Rail Trail. We spent one afternoon hiking over to the Moonville Tunnel and it was one of the coolest parts of our four day trek.
I plan to return to Zaleski many more times in the years to come!
Zaleski State Forest is adjacent to Lake Hope State Park. Off Rt 278 near Zaleski, Oh, true Ohio countryside to enjoy on the way in. Signal is spotty.
Primitive camping, check in before going and bring your good hiking boots. You will get a work out. There is water to enjoy also and a historical drive if you enjoy learning about the stuff our ancestors did for "fun" :)
We drove to the end of the road for the campground there, but there are also some 1 or 2 day backpacking options. The park has beautiful water and forests. The trails criss-cross logging roads a lot but we didn’t see any logging/vehicle traffic. The area is more like a park than a forest since there are so many amenities.