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I've ridden the Ohio to Erie Trail (OTET) three times; first in July of 2013, again in May 2016, and most recently in October of 2019. It is interesting to note the progress that has been made in filling in the on-road gaps in the trail between each ride. However, it is frustrating to witness the glacial pace at which this trail is being completed.
Currently, the largest on-road gaps in the OTET exist between the end of the Sippo Valley Trail in Dalton and the beginning of the Holmes County Trail in Fredericksburg; between Killbuck and Glenmont on the Holmes County Trail, and between the end of the Heart of Ohio Trail southwest of Centerburg and the beginning of the Sandel Legacy Trail in Sunbury. There are a few smaller gaps in the OTET among which include, the bike lane in the Ohio River Trail in Cincinnati, the missing bridge over Little Miami River at the end of the Little Miami Scenic Trail needed to connect to the Lunken Airport Bike Path and a less than 1 mile gap between the Prairie Grass Trail and the Roberts Pass Trail in London.
The Ohio to Erie Trail is a paved trail except for the portion of the Ohio & Erie Towpath Trail that runs through northeast Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley National Park. It is unlikely that the National Park Service will pave this portion of the trail due to the canal's historical significance in developing the Ohio territory and helping to expand our nation from the original 13 colonies.
This trail links the three C's of Ohio -- Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. These are Ohio's 3 largest cities. In between you will encounter a variety of cities and towns; rivers, wetlands, and forests; industrial, commercial, and agricultural areas; and different types of topographies. This variety makes the Ohio to Erie Trail unique when compared to the nation's other long-distance trails.
It is important to understand that the OTET is still a work in progress. While some locations have embraced being a part of the trail, others seem to have completely ignored it. Communities that embrace the trail offer bike friendly establishments whether they be bike shops, hotels, Bnb's, restaurants, or trailheads. There just are not enough of them. The state of Ohio should be looking into promoting such businesses along the trail. One thing that is certainly needed are more official, recognized campsites along the trail. Whereas riders of C&O/GAP Trail, or Missouri's Katy Trail can expect to see a campsite roughly every 8 to 12 miles, the OTET has some areas where such campsites are 60 miles apart. Such distances don't make the trail appealing those that would prefer to camp. It also doesn't give riders much wiggle room in their itineraries to explore around the trail or deal with the unexpected such as a flat tire. Perhaps more campsites and other amenities will become a priority once the trail is fully completed.
My complaints are not intended to be a trashing of this trail but rather constructive criticism designed to help improve this into one of America's great trails. With the Rails to Trails Conservancy designating much of the OTET as part of its route for the Great American Rail-Trail through Ohio, I'm hoping that improvement and completion of the trail will become more of a state priority. If you are considering riding the Ohio to Erie Trail, don't hesitate. It is worth every pedal stroke.
I rode the Prairie Grass Trail on October 4th as part of my southbound trip on the Ohio to Erie Trail (OTET) route. I awoke that morning at the London, Ohio trailhead where I had camped the night before. The city of London and the Friends of Madison County Parks and Trails have done a nice job of making a very friendly cyclists trailhead. There is an information/brochure kiosk in the picnic pavilion, water, electricity, a bathroom, 4 camping sites, and a bucket shower. One word of warning, if you camp here be aware that there are a number of trains that run through town at night and although the trailhead is not right on the tracks, you are close enough to the nearest crossing that if you're a light sleeper, I'm sure you will be awakened several times during the night.
The Prairie Grass Trail is a flat, straight trail that passes through large farms and the towns of South Charleston and Cedarville before arriving in Xenia. The ride between London and Xenia was fine, but slow, I think this was due to the accumulated effect of riding for 5 straight days and a slight but constant headwind. This headwind has been a constant on the Ohio to Erie Trail ever since heading out of Columbus, Ohio and into the farmland of the western middle of the state. (I believe that if you are going to ride the OTET only once, riding northbound might be the best bet as you will normally experience a tailwind between Xenia and Columbus based on the weather patterns of Ohio.
There are almost no turns in this 29 mile trail. There are a couple of dips and small undulations along this bikeway -- hardly enough to be called hills, but a bit of a departure from ultra flat rail-trails. The trail surface is asphalt which is in good shape. There is little in the way of tree cover as you ride through many farms.
South Charleston and Cedarville are much smaller towns than London and Xenia. South Charleston features a large grain elevator and at this time of year there were many grain cars on the rail sidings waiting to be filled. There is a short 1.1 mile on-road "detour" around the grain elevators and the movement of grain cars around that facility. South Charleston, has a nice trailhead that features bathrooms, parking, plenty of bike racks to chain up your bike(s) a picnic table or two, and a few train cabooses to remind you that you are riding a rail trail. You come into Cedarville on the south side of town. You pass by the Community Park, where it certainly looks like you might be able to camp there, but it is not something I have seen mentioned in any post or information about the town. As you reach South Main Street, you will see Hearthstone Inn & Suites which displays banners that they are bike friendly. The reviews I've seen for the place are positive. As with many of the towns along this western midsection of Ohio, the tree cover seems to thicken as you enter these towns. Xenia was not different. The trail comes to an end at Hill and Detroit Streets (Rt. 68) in Xenia. From here a widened sidewalk guides you through 2 crosswalks before you reach trail again on the edge of the Xenia Station grounds. When you reach Xenia Station a sign lets you know you are nearing the largest intersection of paved bikeways in the state of Ohio. In my opinion Xenia Station is also one of the prettiest old rail stations along any rail trail in the state of Ohio. The Prairie Grass Trail is very nice trail.
I rode the Roberts Pass Trail as part of my southbound trip on the Ohio to Erie Trail Route in early October. This 6.5 mile trail runs along the same active/semi-active rail line as the Camp Chase Trail before it. The rail lines seems to be much more active during harvest time than during other parts of the year. I guess all that corn and soybeans have to be transported somewhere from the numerous grain elevators you see as you ride along this trail. This trail is arrow straight, I don't remember making a turn at all after starting on this trail. The trail surface is asphalt and it appeared to have been seal-coated some time before I rode the trail. This is a nice trail but there is not a lot to see along its length other than a swamp/wetlands area near Matco Services on Maple Street.
The Camp Chase Trail runs along an active/semi-active rail line. For the most part the trail is straight as an arrow. The trail itself does tend to flip-flop sides of the tracks several times as it heads southwest toward London, Ohio. It undulates beside the tracks sometimes running above and sometimes below the track level. The asphalt trail surface is in good shape and is fairly wide. When I reached Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, I had to turn onto Darby Creek Drive and ride up to the park entrance and ride the park's roadway to reach the trail once again. This was disappointing because I knew that construction had started on completing the trail through the park, but unfortunately, it was not yet completed when I rode through at the start of October. For those bikers doing a northbound Ohio to Erie Trail ride this construction will eliminate a steep climb on the park's roadway coming up from the banks of Darby Creek. The new trail looks to diminish the slope of that climb.
The Camp Chase Trail is a nice trail, but I want to note two things. First, as you ride out of the North Hilltop neighborhood where this trail starts, the area surrounding the trail will open up. You will not be riding through a tunnel of trees any longer. You will definitely need sunscreen on sunny days. In addition, in all likelihood you will have to face a headwind, particularly if you are riding westbound on this trail. After leaving the Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park you are surrounded by farmland almost the entire way until you reach London, Ohio. There is very little in the way to stop the wind coming at you. If you are traveling west on this trail keep that in mind. Secondly, make sure you have an adequate supply of water if traveling between Columbus and London. Towns and commercial areas are not nearly as close together as they are in Columbus. It was 95 degrees the day I rode from Columbus to London. Anytime I approached a small town or commercial area I double checked the levels of my water bottles and filled them up if I was at or below half of the 3 bottles total capacity. You probably don't need to be as vigilant as that on cooler days, but on really hot days I think it would be prudent.
I rode the Scioto Greenway Trail as part of my southbound cross-state ride on the Ohio to Erie Trail route during early October. I rode this trail from The North Bank Park Pavilion to the Hilltop Connector Spur (Trail?) where I connected with McKinley Avenue. The Scioto Greenway Trail is similar to the Alum Creek Trail in the fact that it follows the banks of the river it is named for. In my opinion, the Scioto Greenway is not as nice a trail as the Alum Creek Trail. It is not as tree covered as the Alum Creek Trail, but you don't see as much of the river because of the heavy brush between the trail and the river. The trail also tends to rise and fall more than the Alum Creek Trail. It's definitely a bit like a kiddie roller coaster you might find at an amusement park. Riding away from downtown you don't get to see much of the city skyline, either. When I rode the OTET route back in 2013 you were routed from the Olentangy River Trail to the Scioto River Greenway and headed east until you reached Broad Street and then rode out to Battelle Darby Creek Metropark where you would pick up the Camp Chase Trail. Going this way gave you spectacular views of the downtown Columbus skyline and the Scioto River as the brush is better maintained along the river downtown. However, the current route is far safer because it takes you off a busy thoroughfare and the Camp Chase Trail has been extended toward the Scioto Trail. There is a just a short 0.6 mile on-road connection between the trails.
In all fairness to the Scioto Greenway Trail, I probably will need to return and ride the entire length of this trail, especially along the lower part of the river, to see if riding the entire length of the trail would change my feelings about this trail. When looking at the trail map, you can see that the trail in the areas of Uptown, German Village and Brewery Districts run through metroparks. I'm sure that means that the trail in these areas is much more scenic.
I rode this trail as part of a southbound ride on the Ohio to Erie Trail route in early October. I turned off of the Alum Creek Greenway Trail before passing under I-670 and rode the Downtown Connector Trail through downtown Columbus. This was once called the I-670 Downtown Connector, or the I-670 Trail in case you have older maps. The Downtown Connector is just that; a trail that connects the Alum Creek Trail to Downtown Columbus and eventually to the Scioto Greenway Trail. About half of its length runs along I-670 West, the rest of it is mostly a glorified sidewalk into downtown Columbus, Ohio. It does get interesting when it passes through Columbus’s Arena District where there are lots of restaurants, stores, and bars. The Arena District gets very crowded with pedestrians during lunchtime hours on sunny days when the weather is nice and fairly warm. Expect to go slow in the Arena District due to the crowds and be prepared to stop for the safety of others.
I rode this trail in early October as part of a southbound ride from Cleveland to Cincinnati on the Ohio to Erie Trail route. The Alum Creek Trail is an absolutely beautiful trail that follows and crosses Alum Creek numerous times on architecturally interesting bridges. It is a well shaded trail, that I truly appreciated on a day when the temperatures rose to the mid-90's. I bet that it is even more spectacular when the leaves on the trees hit their peak Fall color. I'm not one to stealth camp, but the woods along the trail were certainly thick enough that you probably would have no problem finding a place to make camp without anyone finding you if you didn't want them to. I rode from Schrock Road in Westerville to the Downtown Connector Trail that runs along I-670. The Alum Creek Greenway Trail does continue further along the Alum Creek south of I-670.
The Alum Creek Trail is now the preferred route through Columbus on the Ohio to Erie Trail. However, it is further east than the older OTET routes through Columbus that I have ridden in the past. It seems that previous OTET routes cut more southwest through Columbus where the Alum Creek Greenway travels almost due south much further east than those previous OTET routes. If you are looking for an alternative route through Columbus consider combining the Westerville B&W, Schrock Road bike lanes, and the Olentangy Trail. I think you'd get through Columbus faster using this alternative route.
Note that this trail goes one long block further into London now: It ends at Walnut st instead of Maple. Might not seem like much, but it really helps as riding 665 at the Maple intersection was kind of hazardous!
It's probably considered an extension of the Roberts Pass Trail, but is relevant for folk traveling N on this trail too: To pick up the Roberts Pass trail, you now turn left at Walnut instead of Maple rd. This is one block east of Main st (Only stop light if using express option.)
It's hard to beat an urban trail like this one. I started in northern Westerville and rode the Galena trail south to the Big Walnut trail to get to the Alum Creek trail. Unfortunately there was construction along Polaris Parkway that forced me to use some surface streets and sidewalks to do this. Be aware that most maps read Alum Creek trail in Westerville, but these are really just sidewalks with traffic lights for crossing major intersections. I used a sidewalk to enter the Senior Center grounds a avoid a grade crossing by biking below a bridge.
Although water sources are shown on the map, I could not find them on this, my first ride on the Alum Creek trail.
The many graceful bridges made the ride rewarding. The contrast between urban riding and country riding was also dramatic. Connecting to the Blacklick Creek trail was very obvious. I rode on to the northern end of the Blacklick Creek and then back to Westerville. I found water at the Westerville fire department. The citizens of Columbus can feel proud and fortunate to have this gem. The very friendly riders I met along my journey really made a positive impression.
Be aware that there is a potentially dangerous dip in the center of the trail about a mile south of East Main St. on a downhill when headed south.
Beautiful trail that traverses Alum Creek via multiple, cool bridges. If you’re starting at the north end of the trail, plenty of parking at the Westerville Sports Complex/soccer fields. Very low gradient as you ride with the current of the creek southbound. Trail is in great shape/completely paved. Utilizes several boardwalks which are very slippery when wet. Roughly 15 miles in(if you start at the northern end), you can hop off of the trail and visit the Franklin Park Conservatory. Immediately before that, you can crossover the Broad St bridge or the ped bridge to the Old Bag of Nails pub, which has a wooden deck overlooking the creek. At least 50% of trail is shaded
Rode the trail from West State Street Park to Nelsonville, and back, about 14 miles each way. To reach the trail, follow W. State St. straight through the park, all the way to the end where it loops around the last baseball diamond. There is parking along the diamond loop. The trail is along the outer edge of the loop.
Riding the trail towards Nelsonville, the trail initially has a short downhill section (moderate) and then levels out quickly. The whole way out, I kept feeling like I was riding ever so slightly downhill, but the ride back felt just as easy. I wonder if the overall grade of the trail might be close to neutral, with sections that offer mild gradients periodically.
This section of trail is generally tree covered, providing nice shade. The portion through Athens itself, for the short portion I tried, seemed more open and exposed.
The trail does have some areas of root ridges, but they generally seemed to come it small clusters, and then be fine for a while. The trail otherwise seemed very smooth. There are periodic points when the trail must cross a road. Do follow the signs to stop/yield, but most crossings were easy. Mile markers are painted on the trail pavement, and while the numbers are not large, they are part of a stripe across the width of the trail, making them more pronounced.
I didn't really see any restroom facilities at West State Street Park, which seems odd for its size. Later, I found that if you follow the trail towards Athens for at most a quarter mile, after you go through the small parking lot and cross the street, there is a small red and white building on the trail that had signs noting it has water and restrooms available dawn to dusk (did not go in to verify). There also were port-o-potties along the trail by the road crossing at the Eclipse Company Store (mile 7), the Beaumont trailhead (mile 11), and in the Hocking College parking lot by the historical village (mile 16.5). The northern end of the trail runs between the Hocking College building and its parking lot. If you really had to, you could probably quickly run into one of the college buildings to find a restroom. The trail through Hocking College, by the historical village, also had a water fountain/bottle fill station, and a picnic pavilion to take a break. The signage at Nelsonville indicated restroom and water, but I didn't go into town to verify.
There are several points along the trail to park. They appear well illustrated on the trail's official pamphlet map (http://athensohio.com/wheretoplay/hockhocking-adena-bikeway-2/).
This trail overall just felt like a really nice ride. Very glad I tried it.
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