Summer adventures await in these off-the-beaten-path excursions that feed one’s soul, refresh one’s perspective and tone one’s body. Z’Scoop has some recommended Weekend Jaunts (or longer) to some of the best hiking trails through some of America’s great National Parks.
In this week’s issue, Z’Scoop is presenting a look at glorious hiking trails including the River-to-River Trail in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in northeastern Ohio, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area on the boarder of Tennessee and Kentucky, and the almost-urban Kanawha State Forest just minutes from the state capital of Charleston, West Virginia.
River-to-River Trail, Shawnee National Forest, IL
Located in southern Illinois, the Shawnee National Forest’s natural beauty is ideal for all types of outdoor recreation. Nestled between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, the Forest’s landscape features rolling hills, forests, open lands, lakes, creeks and rugged bluffs. The area’s mild weather throughout the year makes a visit during any season enjoyable.
There are many miles of diverse hiking and backpacking trails in the Shawnee National Forest including the 160-mile River-to-River Trail. Take extra precautions during hunting seasons by wearing bright orange clothing. It is a good idea to carry a compass and map. Forest streams do not meet the safety standards for drinking water. We recommend taking your drinking water with you. National Forest ownership is interspersed with privately owned lands. Respect the rights of private landowners by staying on public lands. Hikers should yield to equestrians. Moving off the trail to the downhill side and talking with the rider will help keep from startling their horse.
The River-to-River Trail spans 160 miles from Battery Rock on the Ohio River to Devil’s Backbone Park in Grand Tower on the Mississippi River. The River-to-River Trail passes through some of the most scenic areas in the country with a combination of plains, bayous, bluffs and upland forests. It crosses five of the seven Shawnee National Forest Wildernesses, as well as designated natural areas, Giant City State Park, Crab Orchard Wildlife Refuge, Ferne Clyffe State Park, historic landmarks and Devil’s Backbone Park. Enjoy numerous tranquil settings, such as the sleepy waters of Cedar Lake, vast scenic overlooks or a painted sky at sunset.
The trail passes many wondrous natural features, such as Camel Rock, Battery Rock, the Gap and small, seasonal waterfalls. Peaceful little towns like Alto Pass, Makanda and Rock Creek remind you of how things used to be. Trail visitors will encounter many challenges and experiences from crossing river levee roads, to riding through rugged wilderness terrain, to viewing scenic rock bluffs, to visiting small, quaint towns crossing rippling waters of the rocky creeks.
Ohio River Trailhead is at Battery Rock: from Highway 1 turn east on Lambs Rd. Approximately 1 mile past the point when the road pavement changes to gravel there is a small trailhead parking lot.
The Mississippi River trailhead is located in Devil’s Backbone Park: From Highway 3 turn west towards Grand Tower and follow signs to the park entrance.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Though a short distance from the urban areas of Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park seems worlds away. The park is a refuge for native plants and wildlife, and provides routes of discovery for visitors. The winding Cuyahoga River gives way to deep forests, rolling hills, and open farmlands. Walk or ride the Towpath Trail to follow the historic route of the Ohio & Erie Canal.
Over 125 miles of hiking trails are available for your hiking pleasure in CVNP. These trails range from nearly level to challenging, and pass through various habitats including woodlands, wetlands, and old fields. Some trails require you to cross streams with stepping stones or log bridges, while others, including the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, are nearly level and are accessible to all visitors. Descriptions of some easy family hikes are provided here. A portion of Ohio‘s Buckeye Trail also passes through the park.
Trail maps showing the park’s hiking trails are available at visitor centers or by clicking the maps webpage link here. Several books, leaflets, and maps, including the “Trail Guide Handbook: Cuyahoga Valley National Park, 3rd Edition,” contain helpful information about hiking opportunities and locations in the park. This book is published by the Cuyahoga Valley Trails Council and is available for sale at all CVNP visitor centers.
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, TN & KY
The Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area preserves the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries in northeastern Tennessee and southeastern Kentucky. Encompassing 125,000 acres of the Cumberland Plateau, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area protects the free-flowing Big South Fork of the Cumberland River and its tributaries. The area boasts miles of scenic gorges and sandstone bluffs, is rich with natural and historic features and has been developed to provide visitors with a wide range of outdoor recreational activities including hiking.
Hiking is one of the most popular and rewarding activities within Big South Fork. A large trail system is designed to take you into the heart of the park. Big South Fork has developed a map depicting the trail system, broken into nine detailed maps of all trail uses. If you need something a little more planned out, try the trip itinerary page with some of the most popular routes already mapped out for you.
Within the trail system there are a full range of opportunities available, from a short easy hike along the Big South Fork River to long and strenuous multiple day hikes and backcountry camping. There is even a section of the John Muir National Recreation Trail that passes through the park.
The information presented on the Tennessee hiking trails and the Kentucky hiking trails, only scratches the surface of what is available in Big South Fork. As you plan your hiking adventure in the park, contact the staff at both visitor centers for complete and up-to-date information on these and other trails in the park. In addition, trail maps and guidebooks are available from Eastern National.
In an effort to make the trail system more user friendly for a wide variety of users at Big South Fork, the park has implemented a trailhead and trail marking system.
Kanawha State Forest, Charleston, WV
Located just seven miles south of Charleston, West Virginia, Kanawha State Forest is in close proximity to the heavily populated Kanawha Valley and is a recreational haven. Some of the state’s most popular picnic areas are here, along with significant hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing opportunities. A playground attracts families during the summer season and the fully equipped campground is one of the few in the Charleston area.
Camping at Kanawha State Forest is remote in nature given the proximity to the state’s capitol city. Sites cater to camper units of 26-feet or less, pop-up and tent camping. Campsite reservations are available from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends.
The 9,300-acre forest is noted among naturalists for its diverse wildflower and bird populations. Rich cove forest sites provide nesting habitat for 19 species of wood warblers, a feature which draws birders from as far away as Canada. The forest offers some of West Virginia’s best special hikes in winter, spring and fall.
The hiking trails at Kanawha vary in length and difficulty from the #1 Store Trail of ¼ mile and moderate difficulty, to the Rocky Ridge Trail of 2 miles and moderate to steep sections difficulty. You can review all 14 trails here.
Treat yourself and the whole family or group of friends — go hiking in some of the beautiful National and State Forests. And re-discover the wonder of nature, and the boundless beauty of our protected America all over again!
All books are available at amazon.com Click on title to learn more.
The Backpacker’s Field Manuel
by Rick Curtis
America’s Great Hiking Trails
by Karen Berger and Bart Smith
Lost on the Appalachian Trail
by Kyle S. Rohrig
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