The Arc of Appalachia Preserves stewards highly protected nature preserves. Please read complete regulations before visiting, only some of which are summarized here: Remain on trails at all times, walking in single file to protect bulbs of native wildflowers bordering the trail. Do not disturb, pick nor collect flowers, plants, rocks, or wildlife. Hunting, caving, fishing, trail biking, rock climbing, wading, camp fires and swimming are prohibited. Many Arc trails border dangerous, potentially life-threatening cliffs: Trails can be narrow, uneven, and steep; with possible ticks, poison ivy, and stinging nettle. Keep children close at hand, and hike at your own risk. Click here for a complete list of dog-friendly trails. Most trails do not permit dogs.
CORONA VIRUS ALERT: Please know most Arc preserve hiking trails remain open to the public, and Serpent Mound and Fort Hill have reopened. The Forest Museum and connected trails, Etawah Woods, Valley of the Ancients and Barrier Ridge, will be closed until April, 2021. During this time we will be taking this opportunity to make long-deferred improvements and renovations to the trails and museum that require warm weather to complete. All other trails at the Highlands Nature Sanctuary remain open.
Download: Directions to the Arc’s Open Preserves
At 2900 acres, the Sanctuary is the largest of the Arc’s preserves, and offers 16 miles of beautiful hiking trails. At the preserve’s heart is the sheer-walled limestone gorge of the Rocky Fork in a region filled with rock formations, springs, and grottos. The preserve offers overnight lodging and the Appalachian Forest Museum (seasonal hours).
The Junction- Steel Earthworks Archaeological Park and Nature Preserve is open to the public 365 days of the year from 9 am to sunset at no charge. The park features 2000 year old Native American earthworks, four nature trails providing over four miles of hiking, and a 70 acre native prairie providing spectacular summer wildflowers and rare grassland birds.
Chalet Nivale features two loop trails that meander through the low floodplain created by two short tributaries of Scioto Brush Creek that have sculpted the bedrock into mossy slump blocks and intriguing outcrops, bounded by vertical cliffs. A third trail dissects a meadow that lies like a low bowl – surrounded by a rim of Appalachian hills. The trail provides pleasant panoramas of the surrounding hill country, especially during fall color season.
The preserve is named after the early spring wildflower, the Golden Star Lily. The flower has a spotty distribution in only a few eastern central states and is uncommon throughout its range, but grows in significant numbers at this preserve. The preserve features 3.5 miles of Hiking Trails.
In 2015, the Arc of Appalachia partnered with Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Natural Areas and Preserves, to successfully purchase an adjacent 60-acre property that nearly doubled the preserves land holdings, bringing the preserve up to 130 acres. This preserve is a State Nature Preserve managed by the State. Chaparral Prairie offers three loop hiking trails and one spur trail totaling 1.6 miles.
Fort Hill not only protects a 2000 year old large earthen-walled ceremonial enclosure on its flat ridgetop, but the 1400 acre preserve shelters one of the finest and oldest forests in Ohio. Eleven miles of trails immerse hikers in the beauty of Ohio’s Appalachian hill-country, the remote trails shaded by towering trees.
The winding sinews stretching 1,348 feet, Serpent Mound is the largest and most internationally recognized of all the world’s ancient effigy mounds. The exact identity of the American Indians who constructed the mound is still a mystery, but their accomplishment still elicits a feeling of humility and awe in visitors today.
Plum Run Prairie is one of the larger prairies remaining in the state, and one of the few such large tracts found in southern Ohio. This is truly an exceptional prairie, the site having been officially listed with the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves as one of the top 40 sites worthy of protection in all of Ohio. At nearly 140 acres, with at least forty acres pristine, and the remaining acres in the farm coming back into prairie even without intentional management, this site has the potential to be among the largest tall grass prairies in Ohio.
Samson/Obrist Woods is one-of-a-kind, in the sense that it is the only preserve in the Arc’s system created entirely by donation from benevolent landowners. Nestled just north of the ancient Teays River Valley, in an area comprised of ridges and ravines, the preserve projects a mature forest composed of oaks, maples, dogwoods, and sassafras trees. The hiking trail offers a variety of features, from rich and abundant ferns and acidic soil loving plants, a hemlock grove, towering oak trees, and a large natural recessed sandstone cave.
Rock Run is a 779-acre Arc of Appalachia preserve region protecting the Appalachian hill country surrounding the exceptionally deep ravine of Rock Run – a two square mile pristine watershed that flows directly out of Shawnee Forest into the Ohio River. Rock Run’s highly dissected hill-country and associated watershed is scenic, biodiverse and completely forested.