With Ohio's largest unbroken expanse of forest, this old Shawnee Indian hunting ground north of the Ohio River is the most expansive State Forest at 59,603 acres. The gem of Shawnee State Forest is the 8,000 acre Wilderness Area. From the mid-1800’s to early 1900’s, stone was quarried from hollows within the Wilderness Area, much of which was used in the construction of downtown Cincinatti. Known as the little Smokies due to the gentle blue haze rising from the trees, the Shawnee State Forest has numerous ridges, ascending to over 1100’ from a base altitude of 600’, carved from the Appalachian Plateau due to the erosive power of many streams. This results in reasonably strenuous trails with good verticals. Overall, the forest contains over 70 miles of bridle trails and 58 miles of hiking trails passing stands of oak, hickory, sassafras, pitch pine, and black gum stands. The main hiking trail is the orange-blazed 43 mile Shawnee Backpack Trail (SBT) which has several spur trails blazed in white comprising an additional 15 miles. Note, that hiking on all trails requires a no-fee, self-registration permit available 24-hours a day at the main trailhead -- also, camping is permitted in designated sites only.
Overall, the SBT can be divided into northern loop (23 miles) and southern loop (29 miles) above and below SR 125, respectively. Generally, the southern loop is more enjoyable and scenic because it was designed to follow the ridge lines thus avoiding roads. Also, the southern route provides access to a 10.5 mile side spur trail into the Wilderness Area, which in turn gives access to a bridle trail stretching the length of the area.
To reach the trailhead from Cincinnati, take SR 32 east about 40 miles and head south on SR 247 to West Union. Then drive southeast 23 miles on SR 125 to the trailhead. Use the parking area across from the Shawnee State Park Lodge on Turkey Creek Lake on SR 125, six miles northwest of US 52.
Overall, Shawnee Backpack Trail is the 3rd most popular hiking trail of all 26 hikes in Ohio.