In the Wayne National Forest, the white-blazed Wildcat Hollow Trail provides access to many miles of hiking trails in bottomland forest of pine, elm, ash and walnut and dry wooded ridges of oak and hickory typical of the Appalachian Plateau. The Wildcat Hollow Trail is a large backpack loop, with a cutoff to create a smaller loop and an extension to create an even larger loop. While several publication state the formal loop as 13 miles, I have found this hard to believe after my adventures -- I could not imagine attempting this as a day hike (literature from the Forest Service marks the trail at 15 miles). From the trailhead, the path begins in an old pine stand providing nice shelter over several impromptu campsites. After a short jaunt, the trail splits east to Cedar Run or west to Eels Run. Proceed northwest up Eels Run, a very gentle grade to its headwaters.
Near the end of Eels Run, the trail climbs a switch back up to Irish Ridge. Where the trail crosses CR 16 note the abandoned oil well pump house and the one room schoolhouse -- most historic. While overgrown, the internals of the pump house are in great shape. The trail continues northwest and cuts back down the ridge into a narrow valley puncuated by numerous 1900-vintange oil wells still under rod power from an active pump house (converted to electric motor). In all my adventures, this was the first encounter with an active pump house. A brief inspection of the rod lines reveals large trees grown around the rod motion. As the trial climbs out of the valley, track the blazes carefully, especially under pine cover where fallen needles blanket the path. The trail cuts sharply north. The vistas to the west overlook the forested Dodson Creek valley. After the trail crosses CR 70, it winds around before cross back CR16. Again, track the blazes carefully.
For me, the next section was the toughest. I would swear the maps are wrong and the route is longer than shown (I also ran out of water at this point). It seems like endless little climbs and descents over small gullies. The path crosses several forest service roads and old jeep trails, some of which are not on the topo's. After one prominent jeep trail which heads sharply downhill to Cedar Run, the blazed trail descends down also. Instead of heading down, some maps indicate an alternate outer loop trail along a close forest service road, now dedicated to hiking and biking. The road eventually descends into Wildcat Hollow and back to the parking area. This route could possibly be easier to bike, though longer in distance.
The blazed trail tracks Cedar Run past beaver dams before crossing and climbing over the ridge to Wildcat Hollow. The killer is the final climb out of the hollow to the ridge above Eels Run. On top, intersect with the connector trail on the jeep track, turn right, and head southeast along the ridge line through developing woodlands for over a mile. There are many panoramic views of the valley foliage awash in brilliant orange, gold and crimson which you won’t appreciate now due to exhaustion. The trail descends into the parking area.
From Columbus, follow US 33 southeast to SR 13 and proceed north. In Corning, head east up the hill at the intersection with SR 155. Proceed southeast 1.6 miles on CR 70 (Waterworks Road). At CR 16 (Irish Ridge Road), travel south 1.4 miles and take left on CR58 to trailhead parking.
TRAILS MAY BE SUBJECT TO CLOSURE; CHECK WITH LAND MANAGER FIRST.
Overall, Wildcat Hollow is the 23rd most popular hiking trail of all 26 hikes in Ohio.