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The mountain biking trail system at Lake Hope State Park in Southeastern Ohio has been known as a destination-worthy place for quite some time. So, with the day free of other obligations on Labor Day, three of us decided to make the trip down there to check it out for the first time.
The trails were in excellent condition; very dry, which was not surprising given the recent dry weather. It’s hard to tell, but we suspected, based on several dry stream crossings throughout the trail network, that it gets a little sloppy in the springtime.
The park has several named trails that vary in length from about one mile to seven miles, which make it easy for a beginner looking for a short sample of trail riding. You have to do a little planning to do a longer loop that takes in all, or most, of the available terrain. We were happy with the loop that we ended up putting together, which ended up at 20 miles on the nose. Here’s what to do if you’d like to follow the same route:
- Park at the Hope Furnace trailhead on State Route 278. Ride through the picnic area to pick up the Hope Furnace Trail.
- About a mile in, turn right onto the Habron Trail.
- In less than a mile, turn left onto the Bobcat Trail, and follow it until it ends.
- Turn around and take the Bobcat Trail back the way you came (it’s more fun this way, with a downhill ride most of the way back).
- Turn left onto the Habron Trail.
- A short distance ahead, turn left onto the Copperhead Trail.
- Continue following the Copperhead Trail; about halfway through, you’ll pass the same area where the Bobcat Trail ended earlier–keep following the signs for the Copperhead Trail.
- When the Copperhead Trail ends, cross the gravel road and follow the sign for the Sidewinder Trail. A short bit after you leave the gravel road, the trail forks; take the left fork to continue on the Sidewinder Trail (this is the only place where the signage is not clear).
- When the Sidewinder Trail ends, bear left towards the lake and beach area.
- The trail will end on a paved park road; turn left onto the road, and follow it, keeping the lake on your right.
- Just before the park road dead-ends, look to the right for a sign down over the grassy bank for the Hope Furnace Trail.
- Follow the Hope Furnace Trail around the lake and back to the Hope Furnace trailhead parking area.
This loop leaves out the Yosemite, Yosemite Falls, Wildcat, and Little Sandy Trails; a good excuse to return for more exploration at a later date!
The Hope Furnace Trail is relatively flat compared to the other trails, and has lots of wooden foot bridges, which you may or may not have to walk your bike across, depending upon your riding skills. All of the trails are multi-use, so watch out for and yield to hikers, especially on the Hope Furnace Trail.
A very good trail map is available courtesy of Cycle Path Bicycles of Athens.
The Cycle Path bike shop has produced a Bicycle Commuter Map of Athens, Ohio that can be downloaded and printed. There is also a four-part Southeast Ohio Bicycle Map available that shows routes and road conditions for Athens County and Meigs County, as well as parts of surrounding counties. The Athens Bicycle Club web site has information on how to order this map by mail, as well as a list of area businesses where this map can be obtained in person.