Zaleski State Forest
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Ohio Birding Day Hike
Zaleski State Forest Trails
Olds Hollow Trail – .7 mile
Complete loop with the backpacking trail is 1.4 miles. Hikeable from the Zaleski Backpacking Trail trailhead, as are the Hope Furnace Trail and Peninsula Trail at Lake Hope State Park.
Zaleski Backpacking Trail – 23.5 miles, shorter options available
Backpacking trailhead with overnight parking is directly across from Hope Furnace at Lake Hope State Park.
Zaleski Horse Trails – 29 miles total, with many loop options.
The state’s website claims 50 miles of horse trails, but this is adding the mileages of each loop, which repeats many sections of trail.
Moonville Rail-Trail – 16 miles, 6 miles continuous (with restored bridges)
The AllTrails website has descriptions and maps of 4 hikes in Zaleski State Forest.
Tips for birding Zaleski State Forest
The quickest way to get onto public state forest land at Zaleski State Forest from Columbus and other areas to the north is to take route OH-33 southeast to Logan. At Logan take OH-93 south to OH-56. You can also take OH-56 from Circleville if you are coming from the west.
Just north of the intersection of OH-56 on OH-93 is a small privately owned grassland area that annually hosts both Henslow’s and Grasshopper Sparrows. This area is at the top of the hill just north of OH-56 and just south of the Hocking/Vinton County line. There are pull-offs on both sides of the road here, but be careful of the traffic if you stop.
From the intersection of OH-93 head east on OH-56 to the small town of New Plymouth then head South on OH-328. Enter the Forest at Hunt Hollow. I have timed different routes and that one wins every time.
You should be able to find most of the regular warblers and other passerines within the first couple of miles on Forest Road 18. When getting to the top of the ridge you have three options and all are excellent:
1. Head down the dead end Long Ridge (Southwest on Forest Road 15) for a few miles then turn around. This is a great road that has had a lot of clear cutting on the west side of it in recent years, but that seems to be done for now. The east side of the road is relatively intact older growth. So this road hosts birds of all forest ages and is on top of a ridge that seems to attract more early morning migrants than anywhere else that I know of in the forest.
2. Take the middle route down Forest Road 9 (Cabin Ridge) which goes through Lake Hope state park land to Lake Hope.
3. Head northeast on Forest Road 15 on another part of Long Ridge to Irish Ridge. Irish Ridge is one of the better roads in the forest of a good variety. On the north side of Forest Road 15, just west of the intersection with Irish Ridge is an excellent clear cut where you can get out and hike around a bit.
Also on the west side of Zaleski is Furnace Ridge which is the state park camping area. It usually is uncrowded on weekdays and can be excellent for birding. Bolster, Coalmont, Mine and Webb Hollows, as well as the Will Tract, are all worthwhile too if you have the time.
On the east side of OH-278, there are plenty of roads also worth a visit. There really are no dull spots, but some areas I try to hit on every visit include Forest Road 19 along East Raccoon Creek, Baptist Church Road (Township Road 15), Crow Road (Township Road 20) with its extensive pines and horse camp. That takes you to OH-356 where you can then check out the Waterloo State Forest and the Waterloo Wildlife Area. After that, you can reenter Zaleski State Forest proper at King Hollow, also a great road for a long list of species.
From Robert Royse
There are 20 Warblers that breed in this area. Prothonotary, Magnolia, and Chestnut-sided are not common. When you find the proper habitat you may or may not find the bird. However, the numbers for these birds are increasing. The other 17 Warblers are numerous. When you find the proper habitat you will find these birds.
Clear Cut Warblers
+ Common Yellowthroat
+ Yellow-breasted Chat
Warblers found along flowing water–there are creeks everywhere
+ Louisianna Waterthrush
+ Northern Parula
Warblers found in areas near water with willow trees
Warblers found in shelter woods, areas that have been timbered, but a few trees with mast crops were selected to not be cut
+ Magnolia-found where there are a few Conifers
Warblers found in pine groves
+ Black-throated Green
+ American Redstart
There are numerous roads which you can explore to find these birds. Some favorite roads are Baptist Church, Wheelabout, Shea, and Hope-Moonville.
During a normal visit in the spring migration birders can spend 8 hours in this area and find all 20 warblers and around 80+ species. Besides the 20 warblers, there are at least 4 hawk species that breed here. There are 6 breeding woodpeckers.
From Bruce Simpson, Naturalist at Blendon Woods Metro Park
About Zaleski State Forest
The Zaleski State Forest is the second largest forest in the system. The Zaleski State Forest Backpack Trail was established on the forest to provide backpacking opportunities as well as to introduce some scenic and historic aspects of the forest. The main trail is a loop of 23.5 miles. There is also a 10-mile day loop trail.
From Zaleski State Forest webpage
Restrooms at locations identified on Zaleski State Forest map and Lake Hope State Park.