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The Ohio to Erie Trail is a colossal project, not just for the state of Ohio but also nationally. Dreamed up more than 25 years ago, this route will eventually connect the Ohio River in Cincinnati to Lake Erie in Cleveland. Of its planned 326 miles, more than 270 miles of trail are complete. Trail lovers the world over can now come to the Buckeye State and enjoy either the entire route (with some on-road connectors) or choose from the myriad of completed trails that make up this corridor.
Starting in Cleveland, the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail stretches more than 80 miles from the city, through beautiful Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the vibrant city of Akron, south to the village of Bolivar. As it approaches its southern end, the Towpath Trail connects to the Sippo Valley Trail in Massillon. From there, the Sippo Valley Trail heads west into Wayne County and ends in Dalton.
Between Dalton and Fredericksburg, about 17 miles of on-road riding is required, but once in Fredericksburg, you can pick up the Holmes County Trail, notable for its adjacent Amish buggy path, which creates a unique shared-corridor experience for everyone. Holmes County boasts one of the largest communities of Amish in North America.
From Holmes County, you will enter Knox County and encounter the Bridge of Dreams, Ohio’s second-longest covered bridge and quite the trail experience. The Mohican Valley Trail includes the bridge and some breathtaking vistas before its end in Danville. Just on the other side of town, you will come upon the crowd favorite Kokosing Gap Trail, which takes you through the Knox County seat of Mount Vernon. Though short (just a mile long), the Downtown Connector Trail, which runs through the heart of Mount Vernon, makes a crucial link to the Heart of Ohio Trail, a newly emerging route that continues to connect many small towns on its way into suburban Columbus.
The Heart of Ohio Trail whisks travelers to the border of Delaware County. From there, it’s about 10 miles of on-road riding to the Galena Brick Trail, a mile-long pathway named after the town’s historical Galena Shale Tile and Brick Company dating back to the 1890s. On the south side of Galena, you can join the Hoover Scenic Trail, a beautiful short paved path with great views of the Hoover Reservoir. The route ends at Plumb Road, where you can connect to the Genoa Trail, just on the other side of the roadway. This 4-mile paved path weaves through many landscapes, including some wonderful residential neighborhoods, ending at the border of Westerville. The town offers an exceptional trail system—the Westerville B&W—and as you pedal through town, you will be entering Franklin County.
The Alum Creek Greenway Trail begins at Westerville’s Main Street; heads south, passing under I-270; and travels through Columbus as it follows a lush riparian corridor dotted with parks. At I-670, a short but important connector, the Downtown Connector Trail, takes travelers into the city center. The Scioto River winds right through downtown, and the Scioto Greenway Trail hugs its banks, crossing the waterway via an amazing bridge to get into the Hilltop neighborhood. Once in this neighborhood, you can connect to the Camp Chase Trail after a short gap. The Camp Chase Trail goes over I-270 and back into the country.
Seamlessly blending together, the Roberts Pass Trail picks up where Camp Chase ends in Madison County. Beautiful farmland and wetlands take you into the county seat of London, where you meet the Prairie Grass Trail on the other side of town (there’s a short gap through town). This paved, 29-mile route crosses classic Ohio farm country with quaint small towns sprinkled all the way to Xenia in Greene County. Xenia Station is the terminus of this trail and the nexus of three other major regional trails, a truly unique place to visit.
Ohio to Erie Trail travelers will take the Little Miami Scenic Trail south from here. This Hall of Fame rail-trail begins the final leg of the journey, extending more than 50 miles from Xenia to just outside Cincinnati. A few short miles of on-street riding and a quick hop on a portion of the Lunken Airport Bike Path take you to the Ohio River Trail in Cincinnati, which allows you to touch the Ohio River and thus end an epic trail adventure.
This trail is a gateway to the Great American Rail-Trail, a nearly 4,000 mile developing trail that will connect the country from Washington, D.C., to Washington state. Gateway trails represent those iconic trails that make possible the Great American Rail-Trail in each of the states it connects. Learn more at www.greatamericanrailtrail.org
With such an extensive trail network, there are numerous points at which to park and access the Ohio to Erie Trail system. Please refer to the individual TrailLink pages for each trail segment or visit ohiotoerietrail.org for more information.
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.
A friend and I rode this route in May 2017, from South to North. Signage is excellent in Cincinnati and as far as Columbus. Once we hit the waterfront in downtown Columbus signage was sparse, and we ended up missing the turn onto Neil Rd, which takes you to the area near the Arena, and instead rode several miles along the Scioto River trail before we realized our mistake.
Signage was also sparse (nonexistent) at the Cleveland end. We ended up following signs for the Towpath, which took us through a questionable part of town, and eventually reconnected with the end of the trail, off of Franklin. Signage even after we returned to the route was nonexistent all the way to the end at Edgewater Park.
I will say that the recent maps, issued in February 2017, are excellent and now include designations for bike shops, definitely a plus.
The route was for the most part fabulous riding. We were self-contained and did fairly short days, taking about 10 days to complete the route. We also did a spur up to Springboro, which was gorgeous horse country riding, and although on roads, fairly low traffic. We especially enjoyed riding around Millersburg and sharing the trail with buggies. All the trails were in very good shape, and even the crushed limestone (the Northernmost two days) was well maintained and relatively smooth to ride.
The State of Ohio definitely deserves kudos for what they’ve put together. It’s amazing to be able to ride across a state almost entirely on bike path. We came from California just to ride this route, and it was well worth it.
I rode this route from Cleveland to Cincinnati over a six-day period from May 16-21, 2016. I mention this upfront because it may be relevant to my comments about going through Columbus later in the review.
Ohio and many of its communities and cycling enthusiasts deserve a hearty congratulations for taking on this ambitious effort, coordinating a route involving 10 or so independent, dedicated bike trails to allow the rider to travel the length of Ohio with only a few on-road segments. The amount of planning and cooperation required to do that is amazing.
The Ohio-Erie Canal Towpath Trail from Cleveland to south of Akron. Very easy getting out of downtown Cleveland. Beautiful scenery through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and beyond. Great little towns along the way, especially Peninsula and Canal Fulton.
Holmes County Trail in east-central Ohio. Shared use trail with a lane for bikes and a lane for Amish/Mennonite horse & buggy travelers – how cool is that? Hilly countryside with nice small towns – Millersburg was a favorite.
Little Miami Scenic Trail from Xenia to Cincinnati. Stunning scenery, and downhill all the way if you’re heading south.
Route markings: The entire route from Cleveland to Cincinnati is very well signed, with exceptions noted below.
Things that could use improvement:
Map set. The four-piece map set for the entire route is pretty to look at, and conveniently sized, but it lacks some critical information that multi-day cyclists need – namely, which towns offer food, lodging (campground/motel), and have bike shops. The maps say that “facilities” are available at some locations, but what does that mean? I’d suggest the designers of these maps take a look at what Adventure Cycling Association does with its route maps – they’re much better.
Route changes – Columbus in particular. A printed addendum I received with my map set said the route through Columbus had been changed. I followed the narrative instructions,got terribly lost, and ended up having to ride many miles on sidewalks through sketchy neighborhoods. It was a disaster. This may be better by the time you’re reading this review, however – I believe the changes in the Columbus route were under way at the time of my ride, and perhaps the problems I experienced have been fixed by now.
Lodging information. Again, for multi-day riders (and that’s pretty much inevitable on a 330-mile route), knowledge of where you can camp or find a motel is essential. Towns along the route could be more helpful in providing this information, as well as incorporating it into the map set.
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