Summer Adventures: Blackhand Gorge Nature Preserve (Licking County, Ohio)

As you can tell from all my other Summer Adventures posts, my family love the outdoors and we spend a lot of time in the summer exploring state parks and nature preserves. We also like to check out other outdoor recreation like canoeing and other things like that. The kids love it. We are thinking about heading to Ohio Caverns this weekend. Ohio Caverns isn’t one of the free state parks but we have never gone and it looks like fun.

Anyway, back to Blackhand Gorge. This nature preserve is located in Licking County, Ohio. The gorge is cut by the Licking River. There is 10 miles of trail including a paved 4 mile bike trail.

A little about Blackhand Gorge

“The preserve is rich in natural as well as early Ohio history.The name Blackhand, for which the preserve is named, originated from a dark, hand-shaped Indian petroglyph which was engraved on the face of a massive sandstone cliff along the north side of the river. The engraving was destroyed in 1828 when canal builders dynamited the cliff face, during construction of the Ohio-Erie Canal, which runs through the gorge. Sections of the canal towpaths and canal locks may be seen from the trails along the river.” Source: http://naturepreserves.ohiodnr.gov/blackhandgorge

The photo above was taken from the bike path. The bike path winds through the whole nature preserve. It’s a 4 mile path and you can bike, walk, or even take a run. When we go there are families and dogs spending the day doing different things. Of course there are hiking trails too. What I love about it is that the hiking trails are right off the main bike path. There are a few different hiking trails along the path that you can explore for a total of 10 miles if you explore it all. The great thing about it is that there are even bike racks by the entry points of the trails. Which is pretty cool because while following the winding hiking trails, you eventually come back out to the bike path. You are fairly close to where you left your bike if you brought your bike with you. Then you can hop back on your bike and continue riding down the bike path until you come to another trail and then explore the next one if you wish.

Hiking through the woods was a lot of fun. There are tons of wildflowers and trees. The kids loved the hollowed trees we came across. There are also pretty cool rocky areas too. When walking the hiking trails, you are also moving up higher ground and you can get different views from the water below.

We only took one hiking trail when we went that day. It was the first one off the bike path. We took our time through the trail so we can see what we could see. The trail we hiked took us about 45 minutes but we also took our time. I think if we just hiked without taking our time, we probably would have been back on the bike path in almost half the time. But what fun is it if you don’t take the time to explore and look at everything?

Once we got back to the bike trail, we walked the path for a bit. We walked passed the rock walls that you see in the first photo. What was really neat about it was that there was a sign there explaining how there used to be a railroad system and I could only imagine what it would be like to see one of those old trains coming down a track through those walls.

After walking a little more up the path, we decided to walk back because the kiddos was getting hungry. So we decided to have our picnic. After we ate, we went back up to an area close to the beginning of the bike path. There was a place you could walk down by the water. Parts of it was rocky but there was a sand bar and path and the kids wanted to play in the sand.

We spent some time chatting with other families hanging out down there. One couple had their dog down there and he kept jumping in the water and swimming out to retrieve his ball. After spending some time in that area, we decided to just head home and come back another time to go further and explore other trails. There’s still more to see. I did a google search of Blackhand Gorge and there are so many photos of other things we didn’t get to see that day. We will definitely be back. 

I also found out that they allow visitors to kayak the Licking River. They have a launch area on the river up there. The only thing is, there isn’t a livery near there so the only way you can do it is if you have your own and bring your own kayaks or canoes. They say you can paddle up about 4.5 miles to another state park in that area. 

So that was our first time taking our kids to Blackhand Gorge. What kinds of places do you visit or explore in the summer?

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