Zaleski South Loop Trail

MODERATE 83 reviews
#1 of 4 trails in

Zaleski South Loop Trail is a 11.3 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Zaleski, Ohio that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

11.3 miles
1528 feet

dogs on leash




nature trips

trail running







wild flowers




old growth


You are walking on a portion of the original road from Marietta to Chillicothe, which also passed through Middletown (today known as Athens). This road, abandoned by 1870, was actively used by early settlers and was also an important hunting ground for Native Americans. BACKPACK TRAIL RULES 1. You may camp only in the designated campground areas shown on the map. 2. A self-registration permit (no fee) is required of all hikers. The permit, which you must fill out prior to entering the trail, is available at the trail parking area 24-hours a day.

2 minutes ago

We were confused about where the trailhead started from the parking lot, but discovered you actually have to walk down the road a short distance and the trailhead starts there. If I had to do it all over again, I would've worn hiking pants instead of hiking shorts because the poison ivy can be pretty dense in some areas where the trail gets pretty narrow. Thankfully, I didn't end up getting any :) This hike definitely got my heart rate up at times. I brought trekking poles which I found to be helpful for both the inclines and declines as parts can be steep up & down. For the most part, the trail was easy to follow, blazes well marked. Using the app was incredibly helpful and we needed to refer to the map a few times when trails conjoined. I'd recommend bringing at least 2 liters of water to start off with and fill up along the way if needed. There is water access at a couple points along the trail, but we ran into several people who were almost out of water and asking us where the next water access was.

21 days ago

The main loop was well-maintained and well-marked for the most part. We didn't lose the trail at all but we did not have a good sense of when we reached some of the lettered points on the trail. There is some varied scenery, such as ridges, wetlands and streams. With the Hope Schoolhouse connector this is a tough trail. Not only do you add about 2 miles, but you immediately add a ton of elevation gain.

22 days ago

Great hiking trail! Be sure to have your Cardio ready to go as a few of the inclines are no joke!

1 month ago

Did this entire trail yesterday. We went counterclockwise. Trail is well marked and plenty of water is available. As others have said the terrain can be steep in places and is probably a little more than a “moderate” hike, especially if you are carrying your backpacking gear. Overall though a nice trail.

2 months ago

I've backpacked Zaleski over the course of a weekend and I've hiked the whole thing in a day. Either way it'll kick your butt. It's got some serious elevation changes and combined with the sheer distance, this could easily be rated "hard." You could argue it's a little boring. There aren't a ton of spectacular views or features, but it's still my go to long distance hike in Ohio. If you love the forest, you'll love this. Especially the peaceful north loop. Camping can be hit and miss because you're limited to three general areas and it's typically pretty busy. Find those quiet times and the solitude can't be beat. I'll never stop coming back here. As others have alluded to, there are a few areas where it's difficult to follow the trail. I still lose it from time to time and I've hiked it at least half a dozen times. Bring your map and pay attention.

8 months ago

I've been to Zaleski twice now. Started at the Hope Schoolhouse and made it to the first campsite, spent the night and left the next day. The trail is pretty steep past the Schoolhouse so be prepared. I think it's a 900-1,000 ft elevation change, great way to start a hike. A couple of downed trees but hey, you are in the forest.
Heather Rodenborg, just because you struggled to get up the first hill (I made it up the first time in 15 min, first time backpacking as well) and because the outhouse was well, an outhouse, doesn't warrant a poor review. Go dig a trench. Anyone who has hiked any trail in the US would expect some downed trees and not a 100% clear and visible path.
The orange blazes are clearly marked throughout the entire trail. It is very easy to follow. I suggest going in early spring / late fall when the foliage isn't so overwhelming. Good supply of cold water spaced out as well. Have to search a bit for good firewood though.

9 months ago

Great bath. But I would rank this path. Hard! due too the terrain near the swamp before and after ariving the aria. The path just goes steap going up and down. It is a workout! the only even surface is at the campgrounds. Trail is a nice dense forest. You can run the whole trail with 2 litters. there is water pumps at 2 campgrounds. no need to carry extra. be ready to get a challenging pack packing hike. no jock.

9 months ago

The ridgetops were beautiful, but the wetlands were tough to get through enjoyably. Some hills were quite challenging. A lot of downed trees crossing the trail. Water supply was great.

9 months ago

This was our first trip to Zaleski and will be our last. I'm being generous in giving it two stars. We started from the school house point since the park office stated that the iron furnace lot floods when it rains and rain was in the forecast. Well 30 minutes in and we were ready to quit. There is a pretty steep hill that you have to get up and the trail up it sucks. They should have 1) made it a switchback or 2) put in stairs. The trails aren't maintained and this part has washed out due to the rain. It took us a 5-10 to get up because our feet keep sliding since the incline was so steep. We did the whole loop and there were at least 5 huge downed trees on the trail that you either had to try and climb over, take your pack off and climb under, or try and find a way around. Like I said, the trails aren't maintained so these trees have never been cut and taken off the trail, which makes it hard to follow the trail. In fact, one of the trees that went down was a trail marker tree and you could see around or over the down tree which took us a bit to find the trail. We stayed at camp site 1 and 2. The reason I gave 2 stars is because they do provide water and a toilet. However, none of the toilet were clean or have toilet paper. People had pooped on the seats and not cleaned it up, there was a huge hornet nest on camp site 2's toilet, so be prepared. There were a few great views but not enough to bring me back here. So good luck!

10 months ago

Took us a min to figure out which way to go at the creek bed. Go up, not right. The hills were a good challenge, pack light and even. Camp C was great. There was only one other group this weekend, they beat us to camp and we decided to keep trucking and discovered there are other sites just in the other side of the outhouse, one right off the trail and another further in past that one. Very well spread out, super great trip.

11 months ago

We did the South and Middle loops, and made a stupid mistake heading to the North loop (missed a very obvious marker) and ended up hiking about 4 miles out and back in the wildlife reserve area. Stayed at Camps 2 and 3. Really liked the camps and the water supplies and outhouses at each- good water, really helped lighten the load.

The trails are well marked, except for some of the road crossings. Generally trails were to the left on road crossings. We parked at Hope Schoolhouse and once we exited the woods, before the Furnace, and were trying to find the last stretch to finish, we lost all trail blazes. The maps weren't detailed enough to see where the reentry point was to the trail. It was probably a quarter mile away, off the main road, past the furnace parking area. This was a frustrating thing after 3 days out, when we were tired.

Overall though, nice trails. I'd rate it as moderate/ intermediate. Definitely some butt-kicking hills in places! Some areas were a tad difficult because the foliage is so heavy right now. I would like to go back and do the North loop.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The trail was pretty well marked but very grown over in some spots. Lots of ups and downs, but that made it more fun! We stayed at Camp 1 & Camp 2. Both were very nice, but very open- not ideal for hammocks. The water at the camps is surprisingly good! We went on a hot weekend and still saw quite a few groups. The bugs are horrible so make sure you have a good spray.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

not to bad. camping spots are really open, so hammock camping is based on creativity. trails are well marked and not busy.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Good amount of ups and downs, not too busy overall and well maintained with water spouts make it good for backpacking. Didn't care for the large stone path, rough on the feet but rest is nice. High recommend.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Was a great trip. I can only think of two hills that really took it out of me. The scenery was wonderful but you will want to get a camp site as soon as you can. I was really surprised how fast they fill up.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

This trail is rough. Lot's of elevation changes the whole way through. That doesn't affect the natural beauty of it. Get out there early so you can secure a parking spot and a decent campsite.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Completed 3/4 of the day loop, starting at Y and cutting back through King Hollow Rd back to the Hope Furnace parking lot. The trail is great with the 4.5 mile leg being pretty deserted, the parking lots were full to the brim but only passed 6 people on the trail. That being said there is very little scenery to view and was overall a pretty boring hike. There is a great vista view at about mile 5 going counter-clockwise but the vegetation is so thick you can't really see it. There are many steep uphills with little footholds but this just makes the trail more challenging. Less traveled sections have trees over the trail and it can be quite narrow in places. Make sure you have a newer map before heading out, mine was older without realizing it and had location markers with different letters than what is actually on the ground. Hope Furnace trailhead should be point X not A. This created a lot of confusion on where we were and where water was located. That being said water pumps are clearly marked on the trail and campsites were large and realitively flat. There are 3 within the first 7 miles and are marked C, backpacker camp 1 and 2. Overall an okay 10 mile trip.

Friday, September 16, 2016

I have taken several overnight trips here. There is a new backpacking trail head near the Hope Schoolhouse. A video of my most recent trip, showing the new trail head, can be found on my YouTube channel at the link below.

Here is another video from 2015.

It's a nice place to go backpacking for a quick overnight trip.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Backpacked 5ish miles in and camped over night and then another 5ish out. The trails are well taken care for the most part. Crossed a lot of water on the way out as we took a different way. If you don't have a map you can end up taking a wrong trial and inadvertently double the length of your trip. The camping area is pretty large but still filled to the brim with others by evening. Good practice trail if your looking to build up to something more. You will get a workout.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

We stayed at camp 2. The trails are well marked, and they had maps at the trail head( we also printed a few off before we arrived, which I recommend doing as there are not a lot ). The trails are pretty well taken care of. We did 14 miles, and were planning on staying a second night until a big thunderstorm came in, I hate wet gear and being cooped up in the tent. The water sources were a very nice feature. The backpack campsites were nice and roomy. I hear they fill up on the weekends. All in all I will definitely be back! There is a lot of cool things to see!

* I lost a pair of grey Gander Mountain zip-off hiking pants there if anyone finds them, message me please!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

did 10 mile loop. the trail is ok. the worst part was the access road part of the trail. it will fatigue your feet fast. we did the loop in one day. we where gonna stay at sight 3 but seem to have heavy traffic. so we just walk back to parking lot. Good thing too because there where alot of hikers just heading in. to busy for my taste. no good scenery.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Awesome, but beware, there was a detour. No signs out, however what was supposed to be a 10 mile loop turned into 17 miles. The detour trail just stopped and we had to make our way out to the road and walk the last mile back.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

I love this backpacking trail. If you are looking for complete solitude I would recommend going on this trail during the week. Boy scouts tend to use this backpacking trail on the weekends a lot in the summer time. Expect the campsites to be filled on summer holidays and crowded, still a fun environment! Just not if you are more of a solitude backpacker, which can be achieved during the week. This is the only trail I feel safe enough to backpack alone without feeling like I have to be of concern for my safety. There are water and latrine stations at each campsite which is nice and water tastes great. Lots of up and down trekking on ridge tops so make sure you have boots that cover the ankle, and don't pack for a tent side camping trip for this trail obv. There is a section you will walk on gravel, do not let this discourage you haha It is probably for less than a mile. You go through pines, hardwoods, come across cool recessed fixtures and caverns, narrow trails to give you a more primitive feel. I live in Columbus so for me this trail is amazing when I want to get away for a day or two and I absolutely hate car side camping, and not to mention it's free haha. The first campsite is a nice trek in so expect at least a half hour -hour trek and prepare yourself. Just something I do is I usually do not hike all my water in since that is weight to carry and there is water at the first camp ! So no need to fill up all your water sources. I have went all seasons by far would say spring and fall are the best times! Summer is awesome but expect fellow neighbors! I have went so many times in the fall and spring and have literally been the only one there ha, it is so nice! Just remember to pack what is necessary, heavy packs could ruin your fun for this trip ! haha

Monday, May 16, 2016

My opinion...Zaleski state forest is an intermediate trail, although it wasn't hard and definitely not easy.
Full of ups and downs, some sections straight up with little footholds, the trails are pretty much narrow.
It's absolutely a beautiful deep dense forest!!
It's doable for beginners, keep in mind hiking 6 miles may not seem like much, hiking 6 miles with 30 lbs strapped to your back is entirely different!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

great trail, but I don't understand how from A to C is less than two miles. It honestly felt like 5 and took three hours to hike.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Great over night hike. We did the south loop and camped at D. Water tasted great and although there were more than 30 backpackers we felt the seclusion. Pack light as there are some pretty good climbs. Don't forget a map.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Great family trail!!!

Friday, April 08, 2016

Perfect trail for a beginner backpacking weekend. Water stops are perfect. Just a little complaint is that the south loop trail drops you off at "P" and doesn't seem to have any more trail markers to bring you back to the parking area. You have to follow the road to the right for a bit. Other than that the trail is well marked and awesome!

Sunday, April 03, 2016

The terrain is quite challenging for being at the outskirts of the Appalachian mountains. great scenery but the designated campsite areas are a drawback. This causes overcrowding and you lose the feel of being isolated when you pick your site. The area is well maintained from fallen bramble and the trail is easily followed.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

We went the last week of January and the weather was perfect: low to mid fifties even at night. The trail was precarious at places due to ice resulting from trampled snow and melting; but that just added to the adventure. In the hollows and on the east sides of the hills there was still snow to trounce through, but on the ridges and on the west slopes it was like hiking in the fall. The views of the lake were beautiful and the ice falls were spectacular. The camp sites were a little wet/muddy; but we found a nice one covered in leaves where the ground was mostly still frozen and it was nice. Overall it was a great first overnight hiking experience and I would definitely recommend it. I'm looking forward to going back and hiking the whole trail in the future.

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