Blackhand Gorge Trail


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Blackhand Gorge Trail Facts

States: Ohio
Counties: Licking
Length: 4.26 miles
Trail end points: Gratiot Rd. SE and Claypool Rd. (Toboso) and Brushy Fork Rd. SE just east of Brownsville Rd. SE
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6121504

Blackhand Gorge Trail Description

The Blackhand Gorge Trail, the only bike path in the Ohio nature preserve system, features some of the best scenery in the state. Perhaps this is to be expected from a trail that passes through a gorge and sandstone formation carved by the Licking River millennia ago, but that fails to lessen the impact of the stunning surroundings. Cyclists, hikers and other trail users will be treated to views of the adjacent river and pools of spring water all while trekking through dense woodlands that provide year-round shade.

Because the trail was built on a former rail corridor, any uphill and downhill grades are gentle. Evidence of the railroad history of the area is obvious as you pass through huge pieces of blasted rock. The Quarry Rim Trail and Chestnut Trail, two hiking-only trails that branch off from the Blackhand Gorge Trail, offer additional opportunities for trail users to explore the beautiful and historic nature preserve.

Parking and Trail Access

Parking is available at both ends of the Blackhand Gorge Trail. The larger eastern trailhead, which contains a latrine, is accessible via State Route 16 in Newark. Take the highway east and then turn right on SR 146/Nashport Road. Take the first right on Toboso Road and look for a sign for Blackhand Gorge on the right.

To reach the smaller western trailhead, turn right on Brownsville Road SE from eastbound SR 16. Just after you cross the Licking River, turn left on Brushy Fork Road SE. The parking area is on the left.

Blackhand Gorge Trail Reviews

Short but sweeeet.

A very well maintained trail with lots of beautiful sites as it follows the licking river. Unfortunately, it is rather short. Would be really killer if it could tie into another trail system.

lovely path

We rode this trail with our 10 and 8 year olds. We all enjoyed it. Very scenic and not too crowded. Loved that the trail has bike racks near the hiking paths. Next time we will try a small hike in addition to the ride.


Wide enough to ride side-by-side with my son on our recumbents in most areas. Evidence of a lot of expensive repair work along the river through an eroded area. Trail is tree, cliff and river lined - beautiful even in January. Would be nice for biking or walking. Was disappointed when we returned to the parking lot - I wanted to keep going! :-)

Poorly maintained

Western half of trail not open, blocked by fencing/signage. Eastern half had several cracks/bumps. Not worth the trip.


Beautiful trail that is well maintained. The trail is closed around 3 miles. We think there may be erosion causing the trail to be unsafe. The view of the cliff and river are great.

Beautiful trail that is well maintained. The trail is closed around 3 miles. We think there may be erosion causing the trail to be unsafe. The view of the cliff and river are great.



A great find! A mostly flat paved trail. Special surprise of a ride-across creek crossing.

A great find! A mostly flat paved trail. Special surprise of a ride-across creek crossing.

Outstanding trail with spectacular rock formations and railway cut from 1851

Only if Hocking Hills park would have bike trails then this wouldn't be my favorite trail in mid-Ohio. I love riding through the rock cliffs and even use the picture of the 1851 railway cut on my iPhone home screen. Easy trail, and it would be better if the state could snag some of those infrastructure dollars for shoring up the weak parts and resurfacing. Easy walk from the east Terminus to the larger cliffs as it's only about 1/2 mile from the parking lot. The river, and cliffs on the north side are also very scenic with kayakers floating down the river in the summer...

This is a Trail That is Worth the Drive

I did an out-and back ride on this trail for a distance of 8.5 miles. The trail runs through the Licking River's Blackhand Gorge east of Newark, Ohio. For the most part, this rail trail runs about 20 to 30 feet above the river's surface through the gorge. On the western part of the trail you drop off of the original rail bed and dip down and through a tributary creek called Brushy Fork before returning back to the rail bed and crossing over a bridge spanning Claylick Creek at the western end of the trail at Brownsville Road SE.

The trail is paved and the surface is in good shape. Stay on the trail as the steep banks of the Licking River in the gorge could make getting back out nearly impossible. The trail is very scenic with the river, rock formations, the nearby trails, and in autumn the spectacular fall colors. Keep an eye out for the flora and fauna as some of it can't be found elsewhere in the state of Ohio.

The only drawback to this trail is that its shorter length leaves you wanting more. However, the rail right of way upon which the trail is built does cross and continue west Brownsville Rd SE. Perhaps efforts should be made to try to convert the rest of this rail line into a trail that stretches into Newark, Ohio which is already a hub for several other rail trails.

Outstanding trail with spectacular rock formations and railway cut from 1851

This is a fantastic trail, but with a bit of washout that has been repaired, although not resurfaced. Another smaller section appears to be eroding and crews have fenced it off for safety leaving only half the trail surface usable at that point.

There is ample parking at the east end, and there are several spaces available at the west terminus. The only restrooms are at the east end.

Plenty views of the river, and striking views of Blackhand rock on the north side of Licking river where a large retaining wall may have been installed back in the day.

Easy Scenic Trail

It is almost a straight trail. It is next to the river. It is covered by trees on both sides. The river can be seen in between. The trail can be done at any time of the day. There is not much change in elevation.

took on the gorge

Not a bad trail, too short if you want a serious ride. Nice Scenery and overall a very mellow ride.

Very scenic and peaceful trail.

Very scenic and peaceful trail.

Trail was closed 0.6 miles from west trail head. 20190316

The State of Ohio put a chain link fence across trail and a criminal traspassing beyond this point sign. We went back to car and drove overto the east trail head and walked in 2.5 miles and turned around. bill n tina.

Perfect for biking & hiking.

Definitely worth the 1-hour I drove to reach this trail. It's 8.52 miles round-trip, so I rode it twice on a recumbent trike & enjoyed it just as much the 2nd round. Depending on your bike, you might opt to walk it across the damaged section, which is ~100-yards long. There are numerous trails not open to bikes, but the scenery they offer is amazing. All trails are mostly shaded. Dogs are allowed on the paved trail but must be on a leash. Most of the unpaved trails I saw posted signs forbidding bikes & dogs. More info may be available on the website.

Great Beginner/Kid Friendly Trail

Very gradual elevations both directions, great scenery, well kept trail. Highly recommend.

First ride for us this year

Being our first bike outing for this year, we just wanted a nice, shorter trail. It was a beautiful trip. The scenery was beautiful. The trail was nice except for a little rough part where temporary repairs had been made, but still was perfectly fine. The only rough part we encountered was the decline and the incline by the creek. Either flooding or run-off left quite a bit of mud that caused thick tracks which could be difficult to maneuver if not careful. That being said, it is a very nice biking trail.

Beautiful scenery for Ohio

I rode through in early October while the leaves were changing. Some sections had a lot of leaves on the trail, but I think that is to be expected. Riding along the river is nice, but the section through the cut rock face is really nice, especially for central Ohio. I understand that there is a walking path to a tunnel or cave or something, but i just rode through on my bike. Will have to stop and check it out next time. The whole trail was open. There was limited parking and no facilities on the western end.

Now open all the way

I live in the area, the damaged portion of the trail has had a temporary fix. The section is unpaved, and marked as unstable, but it is now open all the way from Brownsville road to Toboso. I have been through it several times, and the section is rough, signs suggest you walk your bike through there, but easily passable and it's only about 0.1 mile. So glad to have one of my favorite running trails back!

Nice.. but short.

We did this trail in September while in the area. Wouldn't make a special trip though.

The trail is closed 2.5 miles in from the parking lot. So we could only do a 5 mile round trip.

Trail follows the Licking River. There is a neat rock gorge you bike through. You can see remains of the old Canal along the river.

A lot to see in it's short length!

Would be nice if it were longer. Refer to the trail website to see if and when they open the closed section.

The trail is nicely paved. Asphalt in very good condition... it appears to be about a year old.

In a nutshell, if you are in the area and have your bikes, worth the ride!

Mike and Vicki.....Northwestern PA

Trail of all trails

I was lucky enough to have a family member take me to the Blackhand Gorge Trail. I was amazed at the breath taking beauty all around. The most beautiful trail I have seen and ridden in Ohio so far. I was also very impressed by the history of the entire area. I plan on riding the trail many more times in the future and bringing more family and friends along. I had a tough time keeping my bicycle on the path as I was to busy admiring the gorgeous scenery. OUTSTANDING!!!

Beautiful Blackhand Gorge

We parked at the park entrance and rode our bike along the three miles of trail that are open. There are clear signs saying that the trail is closed at mile 3, so it is just a six mile round trip. But the trail is beautiful with the Licking river on one side and the Blackhand sandstone on the other. There are also hiking trails to take since the bike trail is so short. A great family trail.

Partialy closed according to Ohio Dept. Nat. Resources web site...

NOTE: About a mile of the Blackhand Gorge bike trail, including the west parking lot located on Brushy Fork Road, has been closed. The remaining three miles of bike trail remains accessible via the Toboso Road parking lot. Visitors are asked to refrain from crossing the orange fencing at the 3 mile mark as the area is unsafe for both foot and bike traffic. We are working to assess the damage and determine how to repair the affected area. 3/25/14

Resurfaced and Ready to "Rock"

Now that the path has been recently resurfaced, it is time to make the trip to visit Blackhand Gorge. It's more than a place to ride, there's so much to see and so much history to learn. Education and exercise, what's not to love.

I picked up a copy of Black Hand Gorge: A Journey Through Time to learn about the area's rich history. The author's name is Keirns.

Great new blacktop

This has just been resurfaced which is great, a very beautiful trail, for me it's just the right length.

Closed until Oct 11th 2013

Drove all the way out to the trail head from Columbus to find out that it's closed for maintenance until October 11th. Just wanted to pass it on to others.

lots of beautiful scenery!

Too bad the trail was just 4.26 miles. The ride was a bit bumpy. It appear that mother nature is taking over. Roots from trees are indeed taking over and coming out from the asphalt so not really recommended for road bikes unless you want to try and avoid those roots that are coming out. There were lots of shades and majority of the time I was riding and the creek was on the side. If you were not paying attention, you may just fall over and land on the creek unfortunately, it has lots of rock bottom so not really good if it happens. Overall, I love the ride, I just wish it was a longer trail.

How would this be for hiking?

I joined RTT so I could find trails to hike with my dog. Would this are work?

dentists love it.

Lost every filling in my head... Wear an NFL approved mouth guard if you ride this trail.

Short but very nice.

I will add my pictures later... This is a test to see if I can post.

Very Nice

Very nice trail for a beginner like me. It is flat and short, and the scenery is beautiful. I enjoyed this trail as a new bicycler.

Mother Nature's Finest

Enjoyed this trail this morning with my beloved canine and I must say it was a beautiful walk thru an amazing setting. At this time in October the trees were in their full glory floating leaves around us like walking in a snow globe of color. The sound of the water below us coursing over the rocks was relaxing while the lush green moss and wild ferns growing from the cliff formations provided us with a morning coolness. It were as if we were walking through a magical storybook of nature. Couldn't think of a better way to enjoy a beautiful fall day in Ohio.


I enjoy all aspects of the gorge... the history, the beauty, the hiking, the biking, the river. It's so much fun to go there, been going since I was very young.

Recently I discovered a book about the area that details the history of BHG. Took it with me on my last hike. Was able to use the photos in the book to look at the park in yesteryear and current form.

It's called Black Hand Gorge a Journey Through Time... you can get it from the publisher at

A "Must Ride" For Nature Lovers!

We enjoy finding "new" trails to ride, and had never been to BG before, so we loaded up the bikes and drove about 90 minutes to get there. This is mid-October, so the drive (mostly secondary roads) was beautiful, especially from Newark eastward. We arrived to a nearly full parking lot, not surprising as temps that day went into the 80's. The park is easy to find, with ample parking spots. We parked in the main East lot. As we rode to the West end of the trail, that parking lot was empty. On busy days, may be better to ride it "backwards". We decided to ride it straight through to the West end, and then on the way back, stop to hike the trails along the way. The scenery is indeed beautiful the whole 4.3 miles, but the Eastern half is especially so. The Licking river is immediately on your right, and steep rock cliffs and hills to your left, with a mature tree canopy most of the way. While there are numerous places where the trail has heaved due to tree roots, I would not consider it hazardous. My 7 year old son actually loved the bumps, and tried to hit every one! I only recall one spot where the roots may cause a problem, IF you were going too fast. But the whole point of this trail is low and slow, to enjoy the scenery. If you're looking for a speedy ride, this is not for you. On our return trip, we stopped at all the hiking trails along the way. All were fairly easy treks through the woods, with minimal elevation changes. At the end of the day, we liked this trail and all is has to offer. It's a very good combination of hiking/biking that's not too long, so as to discourage the little ones. There are plenty of places to get down to the river for rock throwing/skipping and general exploring. Very easy to make a day's worth of activity. And don't forget, Dillon State Park is just around the corner for those with even more time to spend. We highly recommend a visit to BG, especially so for families with young kids who enjoy the rugged outdoors.

Beautiful trail, not bike friendly.

I rode the trail from the Blackhand Gorge park trail head. Although the scenery is beautiful, it is hard to see, as you cannot take your eyes off the trail for a second. There are so many tree roots (big ones) that it is inadvisable to look up! I was on a hybrid, and it felt rough to me. No way I would take a road bike on it at all. I was really disappointed, as I had heard how beautiful this trail was. Perhaps I'll return to walk on it, but not toride.

Blackhand gorge, great walk.

We went on the gorge trail on a rainy day. Barely got wet, it was great because of the tree canopy. Nice and cool on a hot day hike too. Very nice area right off the main road. Would never know it was there. Great place for families. We also went on the side trails. Wildlife was everywhere, especially the deer. One thing that bothered us was on the Marie Hickey trail. There were numerous oil wells in that area. They must have been leaking because the stream that runs by the trail was briney looking. I scooped up some of the water only to find it was oily. Very disappointing. This stream runs to the river! I contacted both ODNR and the EPA and was more or less given the brush-off. Evidently those in charge to protect the area are not really interested about the welfare of the area. I wonder if the state gets money off those wells. That could explain it.

Great ride

"Great ride, lots to look at, cool ride in the hot summer."

Very nice ride.

"The parking lot to the trail is at a curve and hard to spot so look for a river and a bridge and you are there. We passed it on the road going north but came back down from 16 and headed south and spotted it. Once you are there, it's 4.26 miles of beauty! Mother nature is truly awsome and this little trail shows it. Mostly wooded so no need for sunscreen and great for hot days. Only two hills and neither is difficult, just a small one down under a bridge and another down to a creek. VERY worth the ride."

Blackhad Gorge

This is a beautiful trail. We went to Newark and stayed and then went looking for the trail It nedds better signing. Once you find it it is well worth the time you spent looking for it. The trail is rough in spots. Trees pushing up the pavement .

This is a wonderful place to ride.

Rollerblade Review

"I entered the trail from the west entrance where there is some beautiful scenery. This trail is a little weathered. There are many cracks and ridges to negotiate on rollerblades. This isn't a good trail for beginners, but more experienced bladers may find it challenging and fun. "

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