Hike to Spruce Hill – Ancient Native American Earthworks

Saturday, June 3, 2017 – 10am – Mid-Afternoon

Co-Sponsored with Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, Led by Bruce Lombardo


Prepare before you come: 

Participants should pack a lunch, and bring a full, large water bottle. Hike will go on rain or shine.

For additional questions regarding this event, please call the National Park at 740-774-1126.


Enigmatic Spruce Hill is one of the few remaining of only roughly a dozen hilltop enclosures
built 2,000 years ago by Native Americans associated with the Hopewell Culture era.

Normally accessible by permit only, this guided hike is a rare educational opportunity to see this compelling architecture from an earlier era. Built primarily of stone, the low walls enclose a 140-acre gathering space on top of the mesa-like ridge top. At intervals along the walls is evidence of mysterious burning that produced heat higher than an open fire can generate. Spruce Hill proper is a prominent feature in Paint Creek Valley, once affording grand vistas of the surrounding floodplain below that included the geometric ceremonial complex of nearby Baum Earthworks, as well as easy walking access to the grand Seip Earthworks – all built by people associated with the Hopewell Culture.

Spruce Hill is also a destination for naturalists. The Arc’s Wildflower Pilgrimage visits the site each April to see its magnificent display of ephemeral spring wildflowers on the floor of the extensive forest. It is an excellent breeding habitat for colorful forest birds, whose melodious voices will be heard and identified during the climb to the enclosure. Once on top, the great enclosure’s meadow is full of wildflowers and nesting birds, including the rare Henslow’s Sparrow, which is unusually common here.

The Arc of Appalachia was instrumental in raising the funds to purchase Spruce Hill at a public auction in 2008, in partnership with The Archaeological Conservancy. In 2009, an additional adjacent tract was purchased by the Arc, increasing the preserve to 270 acres in size. Today Spruce Hill Preserve is co-owned by the Arc of Appalachia and Ross County Park District, and co-managed with Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, whose staff is leading this trek.

Hike Description 

The hike will follow an old farm lane from the base of the hill to the ridge top. Hikers will enter the large enclosure through the remains of the original gateway, and then cross the entire length of the enclosure through an open meadow. On the far end we will inspect the most apparent section of the ancient stone wall at “The Isthmus”. Numerous stops will be made along the way to discuss the earthworks and artistic brilliance of the Hopewell Culture, as well as the ecology of their home in America’s Great Eastern Forest.


The entire hike from beginning to end is three and a half miles long. The trail climbs 350 feet from the parking lot at the base of the hill to the top of the Spruce Hill, and then back down. Participants need sufficient stamina for the trek’s length and the trail’s long steady ascent during the first third of the hike.


Bruce Lombardo is the biologist at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, which co-manages the Spruce Hill property with the Arc of Appalachia. Although he has lived and worked in many exotic places around the world, Bruce began his long career working as an interpretive naturalist for the Ohio State Parks in 1980. Before becoming the biologist at the National Park, he worked there for seven years in interpretations, teaching visitors about the dramatic significance of these ancient sacred sites to Ohio’s heritage. He is now on the working group to nominate many of southern Ohio’s Hopewell ceremonial earthworks as World Heritage Sites with UNESCO. He has also been volunteering for the Arc of Appalachia as a hike and course leader for the Wildflower Pilgrimage and Birding by Song workshop since 2007. He is as enthusiastic about the natural history of Spruce Hill as he is about its awesome cultural significance.