Field Trip – Harmony Trail and Black Gum Woods

General Hike Location: Harmony Trail is managed by Paint Creek Reservoir/Corps of Engineers and is located just off of Rapid Forge Road not far from Paint Creek Dam. Black Gum Woods is a six mile drive from Harmony Trail, and is off of SR 753 – managed and owned by the Arc of Appalachia at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary.

Driving Distance from the Appalachian Forest Museum: 10 minutes.

Trail Length: Approximately 1 mile total for both trails

Time & Meeting Place: Meet your leaders at Paint Creek Reservoir’s Harmony Trail parking lot at 9:15 am. Hike begins promptly at 9:30 am. After lunch we will drive to Black Gum Woods.

Bring: Be sure to pack a bottle of water and bring your packed lunch. We will enjoy our lunch on the picnic grounds provided at Paint Creek Reservoir and managed by the Corps of Engineers.

Hike Difficulty: Both trails are level and easy.

Description: Harmony Trail is located on the floodplain of Paint Creek, not far downstream from Paint Creek Dam. The trail has many two peaks of wildflower displays in the year. The first is in mid to late April, when this short level trail offers probably as many wildflowers and wildflower species as any comparable trail in its size class in spring. Harmony Trail is an unexplainable floral refuge for the larger Paint Creek region which was – before the invention of the plow – probably among the most spectacular wildflower epicenters in Eastern United States. Much of Paint Creeks vernal beauty is now underwater, buried by Paint Creek dam, or replaced by thickets of non-native invasive shrubs. Why Harmony Trail survived – with its three species of trillium, carpets of bluebells, wild ginger, large-flowered bellflower and Isopyrum anemones is a mystery, but one that is celebrated.

The second wave of floral spectacles arrives in mid-summer and is composed of just one species – the flowers of wild ramps, also known as wild leeks. Wild ramps throw up their bright green foliage in April to catch the light, but soon wither away, an adaptation especially advantageous in the dry, well-drained, gravelly soils bordering Paint Creek. Long after the leaves are gone, ramps shoot up 6-8 inch stalks topped with little Allium-like creamy white balls of flowers. At Harmony Trail, these flowers literally carpet the forest floor and truly are one of Ohio’s seasonal spectacles. 

After lunch, we will drive over to Black Gum Woods. This under-appreciated tract of forest inside the Highlands Nature Sanctuary borders the Rocky Fork Gorge and shelters many fine specimens of towering ancient trees, including black gum, beech, hickories, and oaks. The tree diversity is very high, and the floral showcase is delightfully dense. Black Gum’s floral display is a classic example of the kind of understory richness associated with rich, undisturbed, mesic soils.

We have combined two fabulous floral destinations on this trip – neither of which take a lot of hiking to enjoy. But if you ARE an avid hiker, don’t let the short length of the trails dissuade you from this field trip – you will not be disappointed in the floral vistas. That said, obviously this trip will be moving at a slower pace than some of the others, and the trip is therefore ideal for nature photographers and other nature lovers who appreciate the greater attentiveness afforded by a slower pace.