Shawnee Backpacking loop

Why go there?  Shawnee State Forest lies on the northern edge of the foothills of the Appalachians, a beautifully forested hilly region.  It is known to many as “The Little Smokies of Ohio.”  The trail forms a 40-mile loop which can be split into two shorter loops of either 23 (north loop) or 27.5 miles (south loop).

Hike highlights:

  • This is just about as “southern” as the North Country Trail gets – many southern tree species are found within this Appalachian foothill environment
  • Great loop hike with abundant camping
  • Spectacular views
  • Loop passes near the 8,000-acre Shawnee Wilderness Area and through the Backcountry Management Area

Flora / fauna of the area:  A variety of vegetation grows in the rugged unglaciated hills of Shawnee State Forest. Several species of oaks and hickories, sassafras and native pitch and shortleaf pines populate the ridges. Midslope areas support oaks and hickories as well as soft and hard maple, basswood, yellow poplar, buckeye, blackgum, white ash, red elm, hackberry, and aspen. Sweetgum, beech, black cherry, black walnut, sycamore, birch, and butternut can also be found in bottomland areas and coves.

Geology of the area: The area features unglaciated hills, which are made up of pancake layers of sedimentary rock that have been sculpted by erosion over thousands of years.

Land ownership:  Shawnee State Forest

Directions to and GPS Coordinates for trailheads:

  • Trailhead and registration station:  From Portsmouth, OH head west on Route 52 for approximately 5 miles.
    Turn north on State Route 125 and drive (along Turkey Creek) another few miles until you arrive in the state forest. Continue past Roosevelt
    Lake on the campground on your left. At the north end of Turkey Creek
    Lake, turn left onto the road to the lodge. Immediately on your right, you will see the trailhead parking and registration booth.  GPS Coordinates:  N 38.7413° & W 83.1972°.

General route description:  Park at the trailhead and sign in at the registration booth (a self-issued permit is required).  Maps should be available at the registration booth or can be obtained online.
If you plan to do the loop clockwise, then the trailhead is located on the other side of State
Route 125. In this case, the distance from the trailhead to Camp 1 is
6.2 miles, and this is a good distance to do if you arrive in the middle of the
day. If you plan to do the loop counterclockwise, then the trailhead
can be located by heading across the bridge at the northeastern side of the lake. In
this case, the distance from the trailhead to Camp 7 is 4.5 miles.
Campsites are located 3-6 miles apart, and those who are in good shape should be able
to easily make it through two campsites in a day (Camp 1 to Camp 3 for

Trail map: Ohio DNR trail brochure map or Buckeye Trail Association map

Camping information: There are 7 campsites along the trail, all but one (Camp 6) of which have water available nearby in reservoirs. There is
no fee required for backcountry camping.  More developed lodging is available within Shawnee State Park.

For more info:

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