A 20-mile loop is among plans to further develop mountain bike trails.
LOUDONVILLE, Ohio -- To me, Ohio's Mohican Country for a long time meant one thing: paddling the Mohican River.
That's what made Loudonville the canoe capital of Ohio, with its multitude of liveries that sent happy paddlers splashing down the various branches of the Mohican.
You can still paddle the knee-deep Mohican in southern Ashland County, but there's something new outside Loudonville: an 81/2-mile mountain bike trail.
The trail, one of the sweetest on state-owned land in Ohio, lies in Mohican State Park and the adjoining Mohican Memorial State Forest and overlooks the Clearfork of the Mohican River.
The trail is not only for mountain bikers; it is open to hikers, too.
The trail, the result of five years of planning, is envisioned to be a low-impact recreational facility that is compatible with the state forest and the state park.
The eastern terminus of the trail is at the state park campground off state Route 3 south of Loudonville. Park near the campground entrance.
The western terminus is near the group campground off Ashland County Road 939 near the state forest headquarters.
The trail was built by a partnership between the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Ohio Mountain Biking Association.
The trail
At its eastern end, the trail wends its way uphill then curves along a wooded ridge on the north side of the Clearfork Gorge. The new trail repeatedly snakes back on itself in sweeping curves that create a longer trail in a shorter space.
It is moderately hilly, very wooded, wonderfully isolated (once you get away from the highway). It gets bone-jarringly rocky and rough near the top of the ridge.
The scenery is especially stellar at the western end, with steep drops into the picturesque river gorge.
The trail narrows there, with giant hemlocks towering overhead before the eastbound trail drops in a steep wash or gully. It's hard to believe that you're still in Ohio.
The trail -- which opened in April -- was designed and built by Ryan O'Dell and the members of the Mohican/Malabar Bike Club.
Plans are being developed for an even bigger mountain bike trail system at Mohican, O'Dell said.
That includes turning the mountain bike trail into a 20-mile loop and adding a five-mile beginners loop, he said.
Mohican is among the 31 Ohio state parks that together have 273 miles of mountain bike trails.
In Northeast Ohio, they are West Branch, Beaver Creek, Mosquito Lake and Quail Hollow in addition to Mohican.
What guests can expect to find
But there's plenty for visitors to do and see at 1,110-acre Mohican State Park and the surrounding 4,525-acre Mohican Memorial State Forest.
The state park has five miles of stream. It was an area where the Delaware Indians lived and where John Chapman, or Johnny Appleseed, lived and worked in the early 1800s.
The state forest features 20 miles of bridle trails, six miles of multiple-use trails (hike, bike, snowmobile, horse), two miles of hiking trails and three miles of the new mountain bike trail (the rest of the mileage is in the state park) and several camping areas.
Clearkfork Gorge, a federally designated National Natural Landmark, is special.
A 29-acre state nature preserve lies on the south slope of the gorge surrounded by the state park and state forest.
It is a 300-foot-deep sandstone gorge that is 1,000 feet wide and was created by glacial melt about 15,000 years ago. You can see into it from an overlook on the southern side.
The secluded gorge is home to old-growth eastern hemlock and white pines.
It became a state nature preserve in 1990 and includes a loop trail that runs down to the Mohican River.
Not far from the park's campground is the historic Wolf Creek/Pine Run Grist Mill.
About the old mill
It was built around 1831 by Isaac Meanor on Wolf Creek, about six miles from the park. The mill was dismantled and moved in 1970 or 1971. It became part of the park in the early 1990s, but needed work.
The dark-colored mill off Route 3 is being restored and is operated by the nonprofit Friends of Wolf Creek/Pine Run Grist Mill. It was opened to the public in late 2002.
The building is open from noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from Memorial Day to Labor Day and by appointment or chance.
For more information, call (419) 668-2497. You can also check out www.wolfcreekmill.org.
Hiking options
For hikers, Lyons Falls Trail, a two-mile loop in the gorge, features two waterfalls. Upper Lyon's Falls drops 40 feet over the open mouth of Lyon's Cave, while Lower Lyon's Falls drops 30 feet.
You can access the trail from the park's wooden covered bridge and from Pleasant Hill Dam.
The Hemlock Trail leads two miles from the campground to the covered bridge.
A 90-foot fire tower in the state forest is again open to the public. The orange structure, built in 1934, offers stunning up-high views of central Ohio. It is one of 14 standing Ohio fire towers and the only one open to the public.
The tower was restored by the Mohican chapter of the Forest Fire Lookout Association.