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True to its name, the Heart of Ohio Trail lies in the central part of the state, extending from Mount Vernon southwest to the Knox-Licking County line just south of Centerburg. Along its nearly 16 miles, the trail highlights picturesque landscapes of woodlands, farm fields, and wetlands. The vast majority of the path is paved, with only a short section awaiting asphalt; that stretch spans just over a mile from Huffman Road in Centerburg south to the county line.
In Mount Vernon, the Heart of Ohio Trail begins at the beautifully restored Cleveland, Akron & Columbus (CA&C) Railroad Depot, which dates back to 1907. The trail is built on the railbed that once carried trains in and out of the station. From here, you could hop on the Downtown Connector Trail, which runs a mile across town to meet up with the Kokosing Gap Trail on Mount Vernon’s east side. All three trails are part of the Ohio to Erie Trail, a planned 320-mile trail network that will eventually span Ohio from the shores of Lake Erie in Cleveland to the Ohio River in Cincinnati.
Another worthwhile side excursion while you’re in Mount Vernon is the Ariel-Foundation Park. Like many rail-trails, its grounds have an industrial past. Once the site of a glass manufacturing plant, the 250-acre park houses unique sculptures (including a glass “stream”) and a labyrinth, in addition to a towering smokestack with a staircase spiraling around the outside that you can climb for a breathtaking view of the countryside.
Head southwest from Mount Vernon to travel on the Heart of Ohio Trail. Soon, you’ll be loosely paralleling Dry Creek, which gets quite close to the path at some points. Several bridges on the route take you over the creek. From spring through fall, wildflowers add to the trail’s beauty.
The trail ends in Centerburg, which is the geographic center of Ohio, hence the town’s name. A large boulder with a mounted plaque marks the central spot in the community park. The bustling small town also provides restaurants and shopping downtown.
On the trail’s northern end, parking is available at the William A. Stroud Welcome Center, located in the Cleveland, Akron & Columbus Railroad Depot (501 S. Main St., Mount Vernon). From I-71, take Exit 131 for US 36/OH 37. Go east 3.7 miles, and turn left to remain on US 36. In 21.9 miles, turn right onto County Road 80/Columbus Road. In 1.7 miles, the road meets S. Main St., and the depot will be on your left.
On the trail’s southern end, parking is available at Memorial Park (59 Johnsville Road, Centerburg) and the path’s terminus (2750 Huffman Road, Centerburg). To reach Memorial Park, from I-71, take Exit 131 for US 36/OH 37. Go east 3.7 miles, and turn left to remain on US 36. In 10.6 miles turn left onto Johnsville Road, which is also OH 314 N; the park is 0.1 mile ahead on your left. To reach the parking area on Huffman Road, from I-71, take Exit 131 for US 36/OH 37. Go east 3.7 miles, and turn left to remain on US 36. In 8.1 miles turn right onto Huffman Road. Go 0.5 mile, and the parking area will be on your left.
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