With the hope that fall color was peaking and given the unseasonably warm November weather in the 70’s, I took a drive down to Tar Hollow State Park for a new hike that I have not done before. It ended up being a great experience of fall color, weather and enjoying a new trail.
Over the last few years I have become more interested in heading out for a day to a park and doing a long hike (10 or so miles). I wanted to do at least one this fall given the fall folliage an being off of work at the time being. Eyeing November 1st given the combination of the weather outlook (76 degrees!) and timing of leaf color change (a little late this year), I was considering my old standby of the Zaleski Backpack Trail, but something reminded me of Tar Hollow and I figured it would be a perfect time to expereience a new trail.
I have read about the Logan Backpack Trail before, a 21-mile double-loop that was created 50+ years ago by the Boy Scouts, but have never attempted any of it. I guess it is because it doesn’t fit my desires of a backpacking experience (hiking to a location away from amenities/signs of civilization to camp). Additionally, given the length of the sections of the trails (8+ miles), it is a little long for a walk with the wife. Finally, with Hocking Hills so close, that is always more of a draw.
As soon as I started to drive through the Appalachian foothills and seeing the color on the hills, I knew it was going to be a pretty hike. It took a little bit of driving around the park to get my bearings and figure out where I needed to park to connect with the trail (just below the Pine Lake dam), and I was on the trail around 10am. The park was nearly empty on this November Tuesday, with only a couple campers at the edge of one of the camping areas. Additionally, I didn’t see anyone during the 10 miles of hiking until two people were leaving the parking lot when I returned to my car.
The trail was almost completely leaf covered, and given that it isn’t a highly used trail, would have made it a bit difficult to follow at times if it were not for the prominent and frequent red blazes on the trees.
The trail is obviously much less maintained than other more popular trails in southeastern Ohio, with some narrow paths above washes and quite a bit of downfall covering the trail.
Given these conditions, a casual hiker might find the trail to be a nuisance, but it didn’t bother me. There was only one time coming out of a wash where the trail took a right turn instead of what looked like a path straight ahead that I veered off the trail. It didn’t take me long to realize the trail wasn’t obvious and that I stopped seeing the omnipresent red blazes.
Overall, I was very happy with the trail. I didn’t think I was going to get too much elevation change, but there were four different ridges to climb that resulted in almost 1,400′ accumulated elevation gain, so that was pretty good. I really enjoyed the forest, although there were only a couple “vistas” where you could see over to another ridge. I liken the scenery to be similar to Zaleski, with less variety than what Zaleski offers. There were a couple road crossings, but nothing that made you feel like you were too close to civilization.
There is a fire tower about 1.5 miles from the end of the hike. However, a climb to the top was not too rewarding since the neighboring trees have grown so much to limit longer-reaching views. I was able to look due west and see the hills of Great Seal State Park, maybe 10 miles as the crow flies. Also next to the fire tower is the only area backpackers can camp (Boy Scouts have their own camp location). Being that it is next to the road, and only 1.5 miles from your car, it is not something that is appealing to me. I guess you could drop your pack off, and then day hike the two loops, if desired.
And the leaves. Beautiful. I sure hit it at the opportune time, for it was probably the best fall hike I have ever experienced. What made it great was the combination of oranges and reds along with the yellows (which we typically get the most). Based on what we have been observing the last couple weeks, it also provided the highest concentration of color related to fallen or green leaves, so I have to believe I hit it very near peak for the area.
The colors also seemed to be the best the closer you got to the top of the ridges. After the hike, I took a drive along the park roads along the ridges, and it felt like I was filming a car commercial on a tree-lined lane. Just beautiful.
The 10-mile hike took four hours, and overall, a very enjoyable experience. I will definitely want to come back and try the hike in a different season, as well as do the South Loop. Additionally, Tar Hollow seemed like a pretty neat park, with a really nice road network and numerous different places to car camp.
Check out the following links if you want to see more pictures of the leaves or get the detailed GPS track of the hike.