Hiking Wayne National Forest

Let me start by saying, I will never trust my brother to plan a backpacking trip without looking it over  EVER AGAIN! At points during this hike I legit imagined an evacuation helicopter being flown in to save me. But in the end, it really was a great trip and it felt really great to finish.

Wayne National Forest is located in southern Ohio, near Marietta. It is a part of the Appalachian foothills and has over 300 miles of trails to hike or mountain bike. They have a lot of options for different skill levels and length of hikes, from day trips to weekend backpacking trips. The park is absolutely beautiful!! The majority of Ohio is pretty flat, but once you get into the Southeast side the elevation changes can get pretty big making for slightly more difficult hiking.

Now back to our trip! I went with my dad (side note: my dad is a super bad ass and is in better shape than I am!), my brother Chad, and my husband (at the time he was my  boyfriend) Jon in May 2012. They have gone on a few backpacking trips together before but this was my first time joining. I was super excited and went out to buy all my gear. I got a pack with a water bladder, new water bottles, a sleeping pad (which I definitely recommend!!), hiking shoes, and hiking pants. Luckily my dad used this as an excuse to get new stuff and let me use a few of his old things like his sleeping bag, pots for cooking, and a couple other odds and ends. The trail we hiked only had a couple water access points that we could use so we had to carry the majority of our water. I was very adamant about carrying all of my own things and when all was packed, my pack was about 25 pounds.

Group photo right before we started


We hiked two trails, totaling 17.9 miles over two days.  When I first heard that, I thought it didn’t sound too bad, but I was wrong. I just recently looked up the information for these trails and they are both listed as difficult on every site I found them…good to know now! The morning of our trip, we woke up super early to make the 3 hour drive. We wanted to get an early start because we had a long way to hike before we reached camp! We parked our truck at the trail head and started our trek. The first trail we hiked was the Scenic River trail. This section of trail is 4.2 miles long with an elevation variance of 830 feet. We started out at 600 ft above sea level and within a quarter mile, we were at 950 ft above sea level. We got to the top of that first ridge and my brother just looked back at me and smirked while I muttered under my breath how much I hated him at that very moment. This was the first moment I knew I was in trouble. Mind you, I am 5’4″ tall with very short legs and all three guys are between 5’11” and 6′ so their strides are like 2 of mine!

After that first ascent, the next couple miles were fairly tame. We saw a couple lizards and snakes, but what I really wanted to see was a mountain lion!! Spoiler alert: that didn’t happen 🙁 I really like to look around while hiking and this trail was absolutely beautiful. At certain points you could see through the trees, down to the Ohio river. At the four mile marker we stopped on the river bank to have lunch! This was before I started eating paleo and lunch consisted of ramen noodles (EEK!).

The second trail we hiked was the Archers Fork trail. This trail is 13.7 miles with an elevation change of 2,178 ft. 

We hiked the trail in the opposite direction of what the above map states.  We had planned to stop and camp at the 9 mile point as that would take us to about halfway, but since we hiked the initial 4 miles so quickly we decided to continue on to the camp at the 12 mile mark to make the next day easier. We all ended up regretting this. The first part of this trail had a pretty decent level of elevation changes and switch backs, but nothing too crazy. Until we got about 2.5 miles in. Over the next 5 miles, we ascended 450 feet to the ridge and all the way back down to the bottom 2 TIMES!!!!! With a lot of ups and downs in between. I started dreading the downhills because I knew I would have to climb back up. But after we passed the 9 mile camp, we had no choice but to keep moving until we got to the next.  At one point the incline was so steep that I had to lean forward while walking because the weight of my pack would have pulled me backwards down the hill, seeing as how it was 1/5 of my weight. Needless to say this did not make breathing easy and I had to stop a couple times because I was keeled over wheezing! Not my finest moment haha!

When we got close to the 12 mile point and we all got excited to start looking for camp! We looked for the next mile and never found it. We were all pretty exhausted at that point so we looked for the closest flat spot and set up camp at around the 13 mile mark. 

Usually we would make a fire, cook dinner and hang out for a little but we were all so exhausted that we cooked our dinners with our stoves and went to bed before it was fully dark out and without making a fire. I didn’t get much sleep that night because I was nervous about black bears (I’m a big baby apparently lol). When we woke up that morning, Jon said “every time I woke up last night you were awake”…

Speaking of waking up, we woke up to the beautiful sound of buzzing. We had camped right by a bee hive!!!! We didn’t know the night before because bees sleep in their hive at night and they were already chilling by the time we got there apparently. So we had to pack up camp pretty quickly and move out.

The hike on the second say was much more relaxed. We only had about 5 miles left to go so we were able to take our time and I was super happy about that! And the best part was that we saved all the good scenery for last. Since we weren’t in a huge hurry we got to stop and look at some pretty cool stuff! There were a couple natural bridges, an underwater cave and a regular cave. We also came across a clean stream so we were able to use our water purifiers to get some fresh, cold water. By the end I was super glad to be done, but also super proud and glad that I had finished. BUT I have never been so happy to see Jon’s truck in my life!!! I also gained a black big toenail from stubbing my toe so much…

My dad checking out one of the caves.
The guys on the natural bridge.
Natural bridge
Underwater cave…so cool!
The guys looking sooooo excited! Left to right: my dad, my                                       brother Chad, and my hubby Jon
Filtering water. It was so cold and fresh!

We love hiking new trails so please comment below with your favorite spots!!

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