Set out on a drive cruising along the Appalachian Byway, a scenic route in southeastern Ohio running from the Ohio to the Hocking River with views and destinations not to be missed. Discover for yourself why this section of State Route 78 has been honored with awards from the National Scenic Byway Foundation and the Eastern Ohio Development Alliance.
There’s no better escape from the city limits — and the winter doldrums — than a spring drive winding through the beautiful countryside of southeastern Ohio.
Whether you’re traveling by motorcycle or car, stop to explore the town of Caldwell, where you’ll find local favorites like Lori’s Family Restaurant and Patty’s Place, known for their mouth-watering daily specials, homemade soups and delectable pies. Looking for a bit of local lore? The Historic Jail Museum, built in 1882, is nestled in an area of beautiful streetlights, businesses and stores in historic downtown Caldwell. It’s just two blocks from the Ball-Caldwell House, which dates back to 1832. Both structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Continue on to find the Johnny Appleseed Memorial in Dexter City, created from rocks donated from people all along the route that Johnny traveled — an original crowd-sourced monument! Big Muskie Bucket at Jesse Owens State Park is an ode to the region’s roots in coal mining. Big Muskie was the largest dragline ever built — a true engineering marvel. Today, only the oversized bucket remains, perfect for fun photo ops.
Don’t forget your hiking boots, because spring is also a great time to explore Ohio’s blooming woodlands. The hills, caverns and trails of Wayne National Forest, the only national forest in Ohio, boasts 340 miles of multi-use trails open to hiking, backpacking and horseback riding.
In summer, anglers will find great fishing spots all along the scenic byway. Wolf Run Lake, Caldwell Lake and Seneca Lake offer a range of fishing options. The lakes are known for large catches of bass, bluegill, crappie, trout and catfish (a valid Ohio fishing license is required), or you can simply enjoy the sounds of the rippling water while kayaking or canoeing. Wolf Run State Park offers more than 1,000 acres of scenic, peaceful woodlands for a quiet getaway nestled in the heart of Appalachia, as well as a 200-foot public swimming beach on the south side of Wolf Run Lake.
For a wild time, bring the family for a special zip lining and horseback tour to see rare and endangered animals such as banteng, oryx, zebras, rhinos and takins roaming the rolling hills and meadows of The Wilds in Cumberland. You can even extend your stay overnight in a yurt or in The Wilds’ lodge.
In late July, Historic Downtown Caldwell overflows with parades, games, rides, food and fun during the Fireman’s Festival. You won’t want to miss all the classic fair fun, including live entertainment, livestock shows and midway rides and games at the Noble County Fair, held the week leading up to Labor Day.
For avid hunters, Ohio offers some of the best whitetail deer hunting in the country. Hundreds of acres of public and private hunting lands attract hunters (and shutterbugs) from all over. The Appalachian Hills Wildlife Area, dissected by numerous small streams, is rolling to rugged and populated by white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbit, wild turkey, pheasants and ruffed grouse.
The cooler months are also a great time to explore the history of the area. The Thorla-McKee Well in Noble County is said to be the first oil-producing well in North America. Oil, gas and brine still seep from the wellhead today, and parts of the original wood casing are visible. Pay your respects at McElroy Family Cemetery, the final resting place of the last surviving Ohio veteran of the American Revolution, John Gray II, who died near Hiramsburg at 104 years old. The 1925 crash of the U.S.S. Shenandoah in the hills of Southeast Ohio signaled the beginning of the end for the age of dirigibles. The airship was memorialized by country singer Vernon Dalhart with his mournful ballad “The Wreck of the Shenandoah” and is remembered with historical markers in the towns of Ava and Sharon.
The Appalachian Foothills Fall Festival brings the Heritage Park at the Noble County Fairgrounds to life in conjunction with the Old Iron Power Club show the 3rd weekend in September. Visit the one-room schoolhouse, church, log cabin and recently restored covered bridge during the Festival or year-round.
Just because it’s chilly outside doesn’t mean you have to stay home! Bundle up and head out to the westernmost point of the byway in Nelsonville, where you can browse for the perfect gift among the handcrafted pottery, scented soaps, fine art and antiques in the Historic Square Art District. Enjoy an old-fashioned cocoa by the campfire at Robbins Crossing Historic Village, or board a train for an elegant dinner date or fun ride with Santa at the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway.
Stop by downtown Caldwell for a Hallmark-style holiday you won’t soon forget during A Village Christmas to Remember. Lace up your skates at the synthetic ice-skating rink and enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride and holiday treats, and visit with Santa’s live reindeer as well as the big man himself.
Warm up and enjoy a show at one of the region’s iconic theaters. The Twin City Opera House in McConnelsville has been in operation since 1892 (and is rumored to be haunted!). The historic Monroe Theatre in downtown Woodsfield, which first opened its doors in 1939, has been restored and is ready to welcome new visitors under its brightly lit, Instagram-worthy marquee. Both locations offer classic and first-run movies as well as live theater and entertainment.