Exploring Ohio's Edge of Appalachia

Appalachia Ohio
Photo: John Noltner

Hiking trails, country inns and Amish shops reward casual explorers in Ohio's Adams County.

01 of 09

The Edge of Appalachia

Appalachia Ohio
John Noltner

Adams County, Ohio, rests on the edge of the Appalachian foothills, 60 miles southeast of Cincinnati along the Ohio River. For years, travelers zipped through on the Ohio River Scenic Byway (US-52) as they raced to Shawnee State Park in neighboring Scioto County.

But Adams County has a quiet beauty all its own. You can visit Adams County's dozen-plus parks and preserves, fledgling Amish community and surprisingly upscale bed and breakfasts. The region may feel blessedly undiscovered—Adams County rewards explorers more than tourists.

02 of 09

Quilt Barns

Quilt Barns Adams County Ohio
John Noltner

Just outside the blink-and-miss-it town of Peebles is the GoodSeed Farm, where a bright star quilt pattern decorates the barn. Painted barn quilts like this one originated in Adams County, and more than 20 are scattered throughout the area today.

03 of 09

Scenic Stay

Murphin Ridge Inn Adams County Ohio
John Noltner

At the Murphin Ridge Inn in West Union, paths connect modern cabins, a two-story guesthouse, tennis courts and an Adirondack-ringed fire pit. A cabin porch provides a place to read during the day or, at night, to watch starry skies virtually unpolluted by electric light.

At the inn's restaurant, a three-course dinner might include pork chops with grilled apples or a 16-ounce ribeye steak. Breakfast, included for overnight guests, focuses on from-scratch baked goods and specialties such as homemade granola and egg scrambles.

04 of 09

The Amish in Adams County

Amish in Adams County Ohio
John Noltner

Most afternoons, you'll see Amish walking home from work and school along Adams County's country roads. You might also catch a glimpse of horse-drawn buggies.

Adams County's Amish arrived in the 1970s. Some came to escape tourists in Holmes County, but others cater to visitors. Popular Amish businesses include Miller's Bakery and Yoder's Bakery and Furniture.

05 of 09

Exploring Great Serpent Mound

Great Serpent Mound Adams County Ohio
John Noltner

Adams County's most famous landmark, Serpent Mound—generally considered the world's largest single effigy mound—can seem to be playing hard-to-get. On a ridge above Ohio Brush Creek, a 1,330-foot earthwork snake uncoils in grassy, dandelion-speckled loops.

The millennia-old Native American site lacks interpretative plaques, the small museum holds irregular springtime hours, and as of early 2023, the 1908 viewing tower was closed for repairs. But explore on your own—it's worth the trip.

06 of 09

Edge of Appalachia Preserve

Edge of Appalachia Preserve Ohio Adams County
John Noltner

The Edge of Appalachia Preserve could be considered the crown jewel of Adams County's parks. The 20,000-acre sanctuary, run by the Nature Conservancy and the Cincinnati Museum Center, offers 27 miles of hiking on five trails, including Buzzardroost Rock (pictured), but most of "The Edge" lies untouched. Roughly 1,200 plant species grow here, many rare or endangered.

07 of 09

Hiking Favorites

Edge of Appalachia Preserve hiking trails
John Noltner

At the Edge of Appalachia, the 2.5-mile Wilderness Trail loops through forest, revealing wildlife and wildflowers found nowhere else in the area. The strenuous, 1.5-mile (each way) Buzzardroost Rock Trail stretches over waterfalls (pictured) and along ridgetops, ending at a sweeping overlook. In summer, warm-weather wildflowers brighten the 1.5-mile Lynx Prairie Trail.

Also in the area: The 60,000-acre Shawnee State Forest offers hikes with solitude and challenging terrain. The Shawnee section (40-plus miles) of the Buckeye Trail, which circumnavigates the state, runs through hilly woods.

08 of 09

Spring in Adams County

Spring hiking Adams County Ohio

Spring is a particularly good time to visit Adams County, as the forest slowly turns green, wildflowers start to bloom and migrant birds return. Here's what to expect:

March Once temperatures begin to hit the 50s, the first wild plants (cresses and mustards) emerge. By late March, the first migrant birds arrive: Louisiana water thrushes, blue-gray gnatcatchers and black-and-white warblers. Rain is likely; snow is still possible.

April Trout lilies and hepatica bloom on hillsides; twinleafs and trilliums star when the wildflowers hit their peak. March rains make this the best mushrooming time on Adams County's hilly eastern side. Daytime highs hit the 60s, and redbuds show off vibrant pink blooms in late April.

May Being outdoors is a must this month, with daytime temps near 70 and mild nights. Beavers are fairly easy to spot, and diligent observers might see a bobcat or river otter. Scores of bird species from South America have finally arrived, making Adams County a top bird-watching destination.

09 of 09

More Outdoors Ideas

Harshaville Covered Bridge Adams County Ohio
John Noltner

Nature preserves Davis Memorial's two miles of scenic paths pass by impressive dolomite cliffs. Along the Ohio River, Whipple Nature Preserve's two-mile loop features views of Kentucky.

Inn trails Private trails at the Murphin Ridge Inn make for convenient, misty morning walks.

Country roads Stroll country lanes on the Buckeye Trail's West Union section, which follows several out-of-the-way backroads.

Covered bridges You can drive through the 1855 Harshaville Covered Bridge (pictured) or walk on the 1890 Kirker Covered Bridge.

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