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Traveling just over 18 miles through some of the most scenic areas of the Buckeye State, the Richland B&O Trail is an ideal way to immerse yourself in the region. Built partially as a result of the National Trails System Act amended in 1983, the path follows the disused line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad along a semicircular route between Butler and Mansfield in north-central Ohio. In addition to presenting stunning views and abundant wildlife, the trail passes through quaint towns with shops and restaurants.
Begin at Frances Hitchman Park in Butler, where commemorative benches depict the history of the railroad that operated along the corridor. Head northwest as the trail zigzags across several roads and weaves in and out of rural landscapes. Just outside of town, you’ll cross a fork of the Mohican River and enjoy beautiful views of the valley from the bridge. On the far side of the slow-moving river, the trail takes you into quiet rural fields. At the next crossing of OH 97, note that trail users have a stop sign and that motorists have only a warning sign, so use caution.
Cross the river again on a unique curved-deck iron trestle bridge that leads into Bellville, about 5 miles from the start. Just over the bridge, the Bellville trailhead is located in a railroad depot that’s a replica of the one built in 1906. The depot offers restrooms, parking, and some interesting information about area history. Several more road crossings are ahead, as is a view south toward downtown Bellville with its classic small-town Main Street shopping district.
After crossing OH 97 again, the path reaches Alexander Road. Here, you’ll find many restaurants; just take a right at this crossroads. Continuing on, you’ll pass underneath I-71 and then experience a serene journey for the next 2-plus miles, with only one rural road crossing and a few farm fields breaking up the pleasant forested environment.
Coming out of the forest, the trail parallels South Mill Street for about 1 mile and passes a water treatment plant just before arriving in Lexington. The Lexington Senior Civic Center (a former depot) on the left side of the trail provides a restroom and a place to fill your water bottle, the last opportunity for a pit stop for nearly 7 miles.
At mile 15, you’ll arrive at Deer Park, which supplies basic trailhead amenities, before arriving at Home Road Marsh. Here, you may see an abundance of bird species, from swallows to hawks, as well as an assortment of other animals, including turtles, snakes, deer, and raccoons. Rest on one of the many benches and observe wildlife. Afterward, reach Mansfield and the tranquil northern end of the trail at North Lake Park.
The southern trailhead in Butler is located in Hitchman Park. From I-71, take Exit 165. Head southeast on OH 97 toward Bellville. In 3 miles, turn left onto Main St./OH 97, and go 0.3 mile. Turn right to remain on OH 97, and in 3.9 miles, turn right again onto OH 97. Go 1.8 miles; OH 97 becomes Main St. in Butler. At Elm St., turn right and immediately look for Frances Hitchman Park on your left behind Butler Town Hall.
The northern trailhead in Mansfield is located in North Lake Park. From I-71, take Exit 176 for US 30 W. Travel westbound on US 30 6.7 miles, and take the exit for OH 39 S/Springmill St. Head south on OH 39 into Mansfield; turn right onto Bowman St. in 0.9 mile, then take another right at the first cross street (0.3 mile) onto W. Sixth St. In 0.5 mile, turn right onto Rowland Ave. and continue 0.3 mile into North Lake Park; a parking lot is available on the west side of the lake.
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