Located in the Appalachian foothills near the banks of the Ohio River, 1,095-acre Shawnee State Park is nestled in the 63,000-acre Shawnee State Forest. Once the hunting grounds of the Shawnee Indians, the region is one of the most picturesque in the state, featuring erosion-carved valleys and wooded hills The rugged beauty of the area has earned it the nickname "The Little Smokies"
The map from the government does not correspond well with the actual signs on the earth! No where on their backpacking map does it mention an East Loop. But there are signs about the East Loop along the "Day Hike" trail. Their map also does not show this loop. It appears the signs on the trails are referring this loop as the "West Loop".
Despite the description of Shawnee State Park as a 5.6 mile trail, it is far longer in reality. Depending on the configuration that you choose, you can either do one of the 20+ mile North or South loops, or a combined 45+ total loop. Additionally, the elevation change is significant (suggested by many to be the toughest terrain in Ohio) - over 5000 feet on the North loop alone.
My party completed the North loop over three days this past weekend. We had a great time - the placement of potable water stations and latrines near each campsite was a major luxury. The orange-blazed main trail is easy to follow, but be careful of the cutoff trail that bisects the North and South loop. The maps on the Shawnee park site, at the trailhead, and those at various sites (backpackohio.com, etc) are flat wrong - the day hike loop has been significantly rerouted recently, which added great confusion and mileage to that leg of our trip. We are contacting the park office about this omission, and hopefully they will update their maps soon. If anyone has any specific interest in this trail, I can provide much greater detail on how to stay on track. Just give me a shout.
I'm from this area so I should like this trail more than I do, it's a nice hike kind of challenging if you were a beginner or only do short hikes. The real drawback to this trail is there isn't a whole lot to see with the exception of an overlook that's rather nice. It's totally worth it don't get me wrong, it can be a bit challenging at time because it has a lot of up and down hills. Pro tip-travel light
This hike was interesting to say the least. Myself and two buddies hiked this trail last Fall and started late to do some night hiking which was pretty sweet. It doesn't take long to figure out this trail is intense though. All three of us are in good shape, but some of the climbs on this hike are ridiculous. There were sections where we would hike uphill for a solid 40 minute to finally get to the top and see absolutely nothing; then sure enough the trail was start to decline again then straight back up. This is how the entire trail is laid out so if you're okay with getting a good workout in, but not really having the opportunity to see anything then this trail might be for you. Definitely make sure to get water at each of the filling stations though!
I did a nine-mile portion of this trail yesterday ad I must say, despite how often I hike and how in shape I thought I was, this trail kicked my butt. It was all super-steep hills the entire way. I was disappointed that even with all the work I did to get high into the hills, there were very few overlooks and not much scenery. Overall, this trail would be very boring if it weren't for the physical challenge if presents. I would recommend it for those trying to train for something, but not for someone just looking for a fun, pretty hike.
Hiked the north loop yesterday all in one day and am in bed recovering today. I am used to putting in big miles but when they built this trail they had in mind to challenge the hiker as much as possible. Down one hill and start the next three hundred foot climb. There are three designated camps along this section, camp 1 on top a ridge and two and three along creeks. I would have enjoyed staying at camp 2 the most camp three is much the same along a creek but a busy road is only a hundred yards away. In my opinion there needs to be switchbacks cut into some of the hills, I pulled something in my knee coming down a very steep section right above camp 2. Be sure to have some creek shoes for the multiple stream crossings