Backpacking in Ohio: TOP 5 Multi-Day Trails

Backpacking in Ohio: A scenic Ohio field during sunset

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Backpacking in Ohio offers surprising diversity for outdoor enthusiasts, from the rolling hills and forests of Hocking Hills to the Lake Erie coastline, including popular destinations like Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

And that’s what this post is all about – backpacking in Ohio. We’ll provide tips to help you prepare for backpacking in this varied state as well as showcase the TOP 5 multi-day trails in Ohio.

Interested? Let’s get started.

Key Tips for Backpacking in Ohio

  • What to expect: Ohio offers nice hiking and backpacking for beginners close to major cities, with gently rolling wooded trails and abundant water sources to filter from. Just be prepared for wet weather.
  • Essential gear: Pack good rain gear, waterproof shoes, and a water filter to deal with Ohio’s rainy weather and lots of water around. Also, bring clothes you can layer and an emergency blanket because temperatures can change.
  • Wildlife: In Ohio, watch out for critters like venomous snakes (copperheads, cottonmouths, and timber rattlesnakes) in remote wooded areas. Stay alert for spiders such as black widows and brown recluse spiders. Disease-carrying ticks, especially blacklegged ticks, can spread Lyme disease or Anaplasmosis.
  • Wild camping: You can camp in many Ohio state forests, parks, and wildlife areas, but rules vary. Check and get permits, follow guidelines like camping in designated areas, limiting group sizes, and practicing Leave No Trace. Popular spots include Zaleski State Forest, Shawnee State Forest, and Hocking Hills, but always check rules beforehand, especially during hunting season closures.
  • Best time to go are spring, early summer, or fall. Spring offers mild temperatures and blooming flowers, while late summer can be crowded and hot. Fall has cool weather and beautiful colors, but water sources may be low. Late fall to winter is cold and wet, with possible snow.

Top 5 Backpacking Trails in Ohio

Explore Ohio’s best backpacking trails, suitable for all skill levels:

1. Burr Oak Reservoir Lakeview Trail

The evening sun peeks through passing clouds, casting rays of light over a lush late spring landscape at Burr Oak State Park

Heath Cajandig, CC BY 2.0, via flickr

Length: 21.2 mi / 34.1 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 1715 ft / 522.7 m
Location: Burr Oak State Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 4000 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The Buckeye Trail is a popular 21-mile loop near Glouster, Ohio, offering a moderately challenging 8-hour hike best done April through October. It’s great for backpacking, birding, camping, and enjoying solitude on this well-maintained trail with clear signage and beautiful lake views. You can camp across the lake to split the hike almost in half. Be prepared with enough water, food, and bug protection.

2. Archers Fork Trail

A lush green forest in Wayne National Forest peeks through the clouds on an overcast day

Wayne National Forest, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Length: 14 mi / 22.5 km
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 2014 ft / 613.9 m
Location: Wayne National Forest
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 2700 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

The challenging 14-mile loop near New Matamoras is great for backpacking, camping, and hiking March-October. Highlights are the awe-inspiring Natural Bridge, Cave, and giant rock outcroppings along the well-marked trail with yellow diamonds. Watch for trip hazards like leaves and roots. Campsites available after an initial climb. Gorgeous scenery with solitude on quieter days. Moderately difficult with manageable switchbacks.

3. Buckeye Trail: Bedford Section

Green trees line the riverbank under sunny skies along the Greenway Corridor by Chair Factory Falls in Painesville, Ohio on an August day

Length: 73.3 mi / 118 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 5029 ft / 1533 m
Location: Mentor
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 14 300 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Backpackers and hikers will enjoy the moderately challenging 73-mile trek from Brecksville to Headlands Beach State Park, ideal from March through October. Following the Towpath Trail through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, it then winds through various Cleveland Metropark and Lake Metropark reservations. Some road walking is required, but nice footpaths through forests and meadows offer great scenery too. Highlights include spotting nesting eagles at Mentor Marsh, scenic overlooks of Cleveland, and finishing at the lake. While well-marked, be prepared for potential wet and muddy conditions.

4. Buckeye Trail: Pemberville Section

A scenic trail winds through the forested mountainside bathed in sunlight along The Buckeye Trail on a pleasant sunny day

Josh*m, CC BY 2.0, via flickr

Length: 57.5 mi / 92.5 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation Gain: 498 ft / 151.8 m
Location: Clyde
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 10 800 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

For a pleasant Midwestern adventure, try the moderately challenging 58-mile hike from Waterville to Clyde, best from March-October. It passes through farm country on rural roads and streams. Charming villages like Pemberville and Woodville lead to the North Coast Inland Trail into Fremont, with a stop at Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. The trail ends in Clyde after flat yet scenic terrain, but watch for deep drainage ditches. This relatively secluded hike showcases classic rural Americana, ideal for lazy summer or crisp autumn days.

5. Shawnee Backpacking Trail South Loop

Vibrant fall foliage in radiant yellows, oranges, and reds surround the landscape of Shawnee State Park in the peak of autumn

Alvin Feng, CC BY 2.0, via flickr

Length: 21.2 mi / 34.1 km
Type: Point to point
Difficulty: Hard
Elevation Gain: 3628 ft / 1106 m
Location: Shawnee State Park
Estimated Hiking Calorie Burn: 5200 calories
More Details: See on AllTrails

Experienced and very fit adventurers will relish this challenging 21-mile trail near Friendship, best tackled April through October. Be prepared for overgrown brush, downed trees, and stream crossings without bridges along the steep, rugged terrain with few views. Campsites are sparse but offer solitude. Changing weather, ticks, and lack of access for help are additional challenges. Highlights include the lovely Camp 6 by the water and rare old growth pine/spruce areas. Overall, it provides an intense, secluded backpacking experience.

Annual Weather Averages

Ohio witnesses a varied climate characterized by four distinct seasons:

  • Spring (March to May): Spring in Ohio is characterized by mild temperatures and blooming vegetation. Daytime temperatures typically range from 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C), although it can still be chilly in March.
  • Summer (June to August): Summers are warm and humid in Ohio. Daytime temperatures often range from 70°F to 90°F (21°C to 32°C), with occasional heatwaves pushing temperatures higher. Nights are generally mild, but humidity can make it feel warmer.
  • Fall (September to November): Fall is a popular time for backpacking in Ohio due to cooler temperatures and vibrant foliage. Daytime temperatures range from 50°F to 70°F (10°C to 21°C), but it can get cooler as you move into November.
  • Winter (December to February): Winters in Ohio can be cold, with daytime temperatures ranging from 20°F to 40°F (-7°C to 4°C). Snowfall is common, especially in January and February. Nighttime temperatures can drop below freezing.

Before choosing your gear and hitting the trail, check Ohio’s (Columbus) annual weather averages:

High °F374152647381848376655241
Low °F242634445462666457463728
Rain/Snow (D*)7791012121198777
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.
D* – Days of rain or snow.

Alternative Backpacking Destinations

Not sure if Ohio is right for you?

Don’t forget to check out our backpacking guides for Indiana and Michigan.


Is it allowed to have a campfire while backpacking in Ohio?

You can have campfires in designated backcountry campsites in many Ohio public lands, but check the rules for each place before your trip. Usually, fires must be in established fire rings or pits, and there might be total fire bans during dry conditions.

What are some safety tips for backpacking in Ohio?

When backpacking in Ohio, be ready for lots of rain and muddy trails by bringing good wet weather gear, waterproof shoes, and trekking poles for stability. Plan your route ahead, use a GPS or maps, and know how to navigate in dense forests to avoid getting lost. Follow camping rules and store food safely to reduce the chance of encounters with black bears in some places. Be cautious of snakes near water and bushes—stay on trails and avoid reaching into openings. Check for ticks every day and be aware of the signs of Lyme disease if bitten. If hiking alone, share your trip plans and schedule check-ins with someone.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while backpacking in Ohio?

If you run into wildlife in Ohio, it’s best to stay back and not bother them. Give space to bigger animals like deer or coyotes. If you see black bears or bobcats, back away slowly. Try to avoid snakes, but if you come across one, stay calm, be still, and carefully move around it. Never feed or get close to wild animals. Follow food storage rules at campsites. If an animal seems aggressive, make noise and look big. Also, know how to deal with common critters like ticks and mosquitoes.

How to prepare for backpacking in Ohio?

Choose lightweight backpacking gear like a tent, sleeping bag, and backpack designed for multi-day trips. Bring essentials like a map, compass, first aid kit, and water purification supplies. Pack layers of clothing for changing weather and broken-in hiking boots. Get necessary permits and review leave no trace ethics. Study maps to plan a route exploring forests, rivers, or hills. Ensure adequate fitness for carrying a heavy pack over varied terrain. Pack enough food that is lightweight, nutritious and easy to prepare on a camp stove. Find water sources for refilling along the route. Charge electronics like a flashlight and phone before going and bring a power bank to charge when possible on the trail. Enjoy immersing yourself in nature while backpacking responsibly.

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Why you should trust us

At Hikinglite, we're all about helping you hit the trails with lightweight and ultralight outdoor gear that won't weigh you down. Our crew of content creators? Real outdoor enthusiasts who've logged countless miles on the trails.

Leading the pack is our editor-in-chief, Alex Jardine – an ultralight evangelist who's hiked over 10,000 trail miles across the globe. He's basically a walking outdoor encyclopedia. This dude loves testing out the latest and greatest products, so you can trust his recommendations are always well-informed and reliable.

We treat all our suggestions like advice from close trail buddies. No fluff, just real insights from folks who live and breathe the outdoor life.

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