SEASONAL TRAIL CLOSURES: Parking lots are not winter maintained and trail hiking in the perilous cliff country of the Sanctuary should never be attempted during snowy or icy weather for safety reasons. Many of the Sanctuary’s trails are closed during our annual Deer Management Hunt which take place annually on 1) the Monday through Sunday following Thanksgiving, and 2) the Saturday and Sunday before Christmas.
At 3000 acres, the Sanctuary is the largest of the Arc’s preserves, and offers over 16 miles of beautiful hiking trails. In the preserve’s heart is the sheer-walled limestone gorge of the Rocky Fork in a karst landscape filled with rock formations, springs, and grottos. The Sanctuary serves as the Arc’s headquarters and offers a variety of overnight lodging options, as well as the Appalachian Forest Museum, which interprets the world significance of the nation’s Eastern Hardwood Forests.
The Junction- Steel Earthworks Preserve features 2000 year old Native American earthworks, several miles of hiking trails, and a 70 acre native prairie providing spectacular summer wildflowers and rare grassland birds. Before you go, be sure to download the free phone app called Junction Earthworks Trail Tour, providing a three dimensional view of Junction’s ancient architecture that is visible on your phone as you stroll through the 20 acre ancient ceremonial site.
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 after the Golden Star Lily, an early April wildflower that is rare or endangered throughout its Midwestern range. Although it only grows in this immediate region in Ohio, at the preserve it grows in abundance. The preserve features two trails totaling 3.5 miles in length. One leads through the wildflower-rich floodplain of the Rocky Fork; the other to an oak-hickory hillside forest with trees of impressive girths.
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 protects a 2000 year old large earthen-walled ceremonial enclosure on its flat ridgetop built by Native American Indians of the Hopewell Culture. The 1400 acre preserve also shelters the largest mature forest in Ohio. Fort Hill is a hiker’s paradise with its limestone boulders and cliffs bordering the Baker Fork, stone arches, towering ancient trees, a high diversity of botanicals and outstanding spring wildflower displays.
Rock Run is a 802-acre Wilderness Preserve protecting the exceptionally deep ravine of Rock Run – a two square mile pristine watershed that flows directly into the Ohio River and is nearly completely protected within the boundaries of the Arc’s Rock Run preserve and Shawnee State Park holdings. A 3.3 mile loop trail takes hikers deep into the preserve. The 400 foot elevation difference between the region’s river and its ridgetops provides a landscape of extraordinary relief and outstanding panoramas.
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.
If Barrett’s Rim is the floral jewel of the Rocky Fork Gorge, then Ohio River Bluffs is surely the crowning gem of the entire Arc of Appalachia Preserve System. Nowhere else in the Arc is there such unrestrained wildflower exuberance. From the base of the bluffs facing the Ohio River, all the way to the top of the ridgetop, are solid tiers of wildflowers – wild hyacinths, bluebells, toadshade trilliums, twinleaf and dwarf larkspurs, just to name a few.
Spruce Hill Earthworks is best known for its stone wall outlining the rim of a steep-sided flat-topped hill that was built two thousand years ago by the Native American Hopewell Culture. It is the largest Hopewell hilltop earthworks ever discovered in the United States. The most important feature preserved on Spruce Hill is the aesthetic broad vista of the Valley from the top of the hill, certainly the reason the Hopewell people chose this site for their ceremonial grounds.