The Buckeye Trail Bicycle Route: Cincinnati to Cleveland

  • Distance

    622 Mi.

    (1,001 KM)
  • Days

    8

  • % Unpaved

    40%

  • % Singletrack

    0%

  • Difficulty (1-10)

    4

  • % Rideable (time)

    99.5%

  • Total Ascent

    36,350'

    (11,079 M)
  • High Point

    1,260'

    (384 M)
In the 1950’s, a foot-trail was created from the Ohio River to Lake Erie to encourage young people to slow down the pace of day-to-day life, and learn about their native land. An association was formed and the Buckeye Trail was built along the back roads and trails through some of Ohio’s most scenic terrain and historic locations. The Buckeye Trail Bicycle Route follows the paved and dirt roads of the original hiking trail and is 90% marked with blue blazes.
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As a state that sits on the far east border of the geographic region of the Midwest, Ohio’s topography is commonly stereotyped as being flat. This is mostly true. At one point glaciers covered the western half of Ohio, flattening the land, and fertilizing the soil making it ideal for agriculture. But, there is another side to Ohio, the east side, which was left unscathed by glaciers. This region is called the Appalachian Plateau, where the land is made up of rippling hills of 1,000 – 1,400 ft above sea level. Rivers, gorges, waterfalls, caves, and lush forests dissect this rugged landscape making it a mysterious terrain that has since been forgotten. The Buckeye Trail Bicycle Route travels from the Ohio River, northeast to Lake Erie through this land and will remind you of the unique beauty in all landscapes, climates, and cultures.

Signs of Ohio’s long history of industry and mineral extraction can be seen along the route as you make your way towards what is left of the Ohio-Erie canal. The land has been inhabited for a very long time. Ancient burial grounds of the Adena and Hopewell tribes dating back to 9,000 BCE are found throughout the state. The route passes through Ohio’s most forested and least populated region.

The original Buckeye Trail hiking route follows the scenic paved, dirt roads, and footpaths through this region. There are no bicycles allowed on the footpaths so the Buckeye Trail Bicycle Route uses an alternate paved or dirt road around those few sections. Because there are so few hiking paths included in the original hiking route, The Buckeye Trail Bicycle Route remains 90% marked with 2 x 6 inch blue blazes. These route markings add a unique element to the navigation of the route, one in which they could be used a supplement navigational tool, or a simple reminder that you are on the right path.

  • Highlights

    camera

  • Must Know

    alert

  • Camping

    home

  • Food/H2O

    drop

  • Trail Notes

    signpost

  • The route starts at Sawyer Point along the river at the oldest outdoor Geologic Timeline in the world. Walk or roll around and get some context about the region you are about to explore.
  • There are two places you must eat to get the full Cincinnati experience, Montgomery Inn and Skyline Chili. We recommend treating yourself to a rack of barbecue ribs at Montgomery Inn the night before your ride, then grabbing a quick bite at Skyline Chili on day one. Some word of warning: Skyline Chili may not be the best thing to eat on a bike ride (or ever), but it’s an incredibly popular cuisine in Cincinnati and it must be experienced!
  • Stop at Fort Hill Earthworks and make the short hike (along the Buckeye Trail Hiking Route) to see ancient American Indian earthworks created by the Hopewell Culture 2,000 years ago.
  • Hocking Hills State Park is one of the most beautiful regions of Ohio. Be sure to allow some time to explore the many caves, waterfalls, and deep rocky gorges along the route, including, Ash Cave, Old Man’s Cave, and Conkles Hollow.
  • The Town of Deersville: We came across the nicest people in the state, in the town of Deersville. Be sure to make a stop at Sally’s Corner Store for an ice cream cone and some camping supplies. Also consider camping at Tappan Lake Park, it’s a huge park with so many campsites that many are vacant. You’re bound to have a whole area to yourself.
  • The historic town of Zoar: In 1817 an experimental communist settlement was founded in Zoar that lasted until 1898. The town is worth visiting for the architecture of the old buildings, the Zoar Store and Visitor Center, a great place to purchase your Ohio souvenir and learn more about the odd town.
  • Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail: You will be following 70 miles of this beautiful crushed limestone scenic trail.
  • Falls: 1.5 Miles off route, but it’s well worth the visit to this 65-foot waterfall.
  • The route ends at Headlands Beach State Park. Before you get there, grab a couple Great Lakes beers and a sandwich from Lighthouse Deli and Beverage to enjoy at the beach!
  • If you have some time after you complete your ride, head into Cleveland to visit Great Lakes Brewery and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum.
  • Temperatures in Ohio are similar to those across the north-central and eastern United States making the months of May-November an ideal time to ride this route. There are some things to consider though. The state is open to cold dry fronts from the north and warm moist fronts from the Gulf Coast. If there is a hurricane going on, you will most certainly get heavy rain and wind a few days after it hits the coast. The summer can be very hot and humid, and bugs love heat and humidity! The fall is the driest season and between mid September to early November the colors of the foliage will be beautiful.
  • This route track does not route to all POI’s listed: This route follows as closely as possible to the original Buckeye Trail Hiking Route, which avoids passing directly through many towns. In order to reach many of the POI’s included, there will be a brief detour required to do so.
  • The streams in Wayne National Forest do not meet the safety standards for drinking water. We avoided filtering our water there, but filtered in a few places in the surrounding area, which seemed fine. There are enough towns along the route that filtering is not always necessary, assuming you have the storage capacity to carry it.
  • Deer Hunting Season in Ohio is from late September through the middle of January. If you are doing this route during hunting season, be sure to wear some bright clothes.
  • We have had very few issues with vehicles along this route; however, you should assume that the motor vehicles in this region are not accustomed to seeing cyclists. Always use lights and the same practices as defensive driving aka, defensive riding.
  • The logistics of navigating to the start and from the end of a single-direction route are personal preference. We typically park our car at one end, and then rent a car to drive back. There is an Enterprise Rent-A-Car in Mentor Ohio, approximately 6 miles from the end of the route.
  • There is a temporary bypass at the Towpath Trail bridge in Akron after it was destroyed by arson.
  • Hotel lodging is frequently available slightly off route after mile 275.
  • Most of the camping along this route exists in State Parks and costs between $10-$25 for a tent site.
  • Pike Lake State Park Campground – Tent sites, cabins, and laundry facilities!
  • Old Man’s Cave Campground – a great place to set camp and hike from in the surrounding area. Please note: In Hocking Hills, wild camping is prohibited due to the dangers of the caves. You must camp at a campground if you plan to stay in Hocking Hills State Park.
  • Stockport Mill – A mill turned restaurant and inn along the Muskingum River still powered by hydroelectricity.
  • Primitive camping is allowed in Wayne National Forest.
  • There is very little public land in Ohio, if you are someone who prefers to wild camp, be considerate of private property.
  • Montgomery Inn Restaurant (Cincinnati)
  • Skyline Chili (Cincinnati)
  • Great Lakes Brewery (Cleveland)
  • Sally’s Corner Store (Deersville): Deli, ice cream, and basic camping supplies.
  • Water is available at the many gas stations/convenience stores along the route and at state park campgrounds.
  • The streams in Wayne National Forest do not meet the safety standards for drinking water.
  • From mile 208 through mile 336 there are no convenience stores directly on the route. It is not recommended that you filter the water from streams in this region. There are many opportunities for food and water, slightly off route (See POI’s).
  • Difficulty: 4 out of 10. 60% of this route is paved while 40% of it is gravel roads in good condition, crushed limestone trails, and a short overgrown double-track section. The difficulty level is 4 out of 10 because of the length of the route, and the repetitive steep hills.
  • Rideability: This route is 99.5% rideable although many areas are prone to flooding. If you are going during a rainy time, be prepared to navigate an alternative route. The .5% of the route that is not rideable consists of short portions of overgrown trail typically connecting two roads. The longest of these sections occurs around mile 308 and is approximately one mile long.

Additional Resources

Terms of Use: As with each bikepacking route guide published on BIKEPACKING.com, should you choose to cycle this route, do so at your own risk. Prior to setting out check current local weather, conditions, and land/road closures. While riding, obey all public and private land use restrictions and rules, carry proper safety and navigational equipment, and of course, follow the #leavenotrace guidelines. The information found herein is simply a planning resource to be used as a point of inspiration in conjunction with your own due-diligence. In spite of the fact that this route, associated GPS track (GPX and maps), and all route guidelines were prepared under diligent research by the specified contributor and/or contributors, the accuracy of such and judgement of the author is not guaranteed. BIKEPACKING.com LLC, its partners, associates, and contributors are in no way liable for personal injury, damage to personal property, or any other such situation that might happen to individual riders cycling or following this route.

  • Doug Nielsen

    These are my favorite posts! Closer to home! Thanks for this!

  • mikeetheviking

    Dang, this looks great… caves, climbs, lakes, low water crossings and mountain dew…. looks dreamy, What would be the best time of the year to hit this up?

  • Quinn Pedal Alonzo

    yayyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!

  • Andrew Spurlin

    The ‘must know’ section answers your question pretty well, I think.

  • Idle Prentice

    Dig that crazy elevation profile. Better bring your climbing gear!

  • joshhh

    but wait, ohio is pancake flat!

  • Dominick Dimiceli

    Sadly, two days before the publishing of this article, some (insert expletive here) arsonist set fire to a bridge on the Towpath near Akron, destroying it. Hopefully, the repairs will move swiftly.

  • Assholes (expletive inserted) are unbelievable.

  • Bulldog

    Did you all go back to Cincinnati? I don’t get how the route is over 600 miles long…just a lot of meandering?

  • Check out the map above… a lot of curves.

  • Dominick Dimiceli

    Bulldog, this isn’t even half the trail. The entirety of the Buckeye Trail is about 1440 miles, all within the state of Ohio. There’s a portion that heads from Cleveland over to about the Defiance area and then back down to Cincinnati. Gigantic loop. This is just the longest section mapped for riding.

  • Matthew Fitzpatrick

    I made a video of my recent go at the BT if anyones intrested

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUbU2C6TbLs

  • Clay Claborn

    Nice video! A nice fix for between rides.

  • Dan Andrews

    What camera do you use?

  • Matthew Fitzpatrick

    Just a simple gopro3, might upgrade in the future

  • Mallory M

    We’re from the Canton area, not far from portions of the towpath (cinder) trail. We want to plan a two-night bikepacking trip with our roadbikes on a portion of the car-free, paved trail…what portion do you recommend…north or south? what portions are paved? Thanks!

  • J

    Have you ever been to Ohio?

  • joshhh

    ^*sarcasm*

    I live here, my friend! Just a bad joke about how those big city coastal folks assume Ohio has no hills or anything interesting.