Spring officially begins Tuesday, but the spring-like weather in recent weeks has beckoned local folks to put on their walking shoes and head for the trails.
"There are a lot of really nice hiking trails in this area-one of my favorites is the Boord State Nature Trail in the Barlow and Bartlett area. It's about a 35- to 40-minute walk and it leads to a beautiful waterfall that's almost always flowing with water, even during dry spells," said Ed Lane, Washington County Common Pleas judge and a leader of the local Frontier Hiking Club.
He said club members currently meet once a month at the Kroger Wetlands lot off Acme Street and carpool to a local trail where they spend the day hiking and discovering some of the area's hidden wonders.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Hiking along the two-mile main trail loop at the McDonough Wildlife Refuge in Vienna Wednesday afternoon are, from left, Andrew Harpold, Joel Shingleton, Tony Maslany, and their dog Radar.
"There are three natural bridges in Washington County," Lane said. "The largest-you could probably drive a car across it-is in the Wayne National Forest on the Archer's Fork Trail."
He said great hiking trails are located on both sides of the Ohio River, including at the McDonough Wildlife Refuge in Vienna, W.Va. and Mountwood Park, off U.S. 50, east of Parkersburg, W.Va.
"If you don't like hills, there are some good level trails on Middle Island in St. Marys (W.Va.)," Lane said. "And there are several old cemeteries on the island, too."
Some favorite area hiking trails:
- Marietta Trail Network-8 miles of trails within the city. Info and maps available under recreational opportunities/mountain biking at www.mariettaoh.net.
- Boord State Nature Preserve Trail-0.75 miles at 245 Falls Run Road, Cutler. Located 4.5 miles east of Bartlett, follow Ohio 550 to County Road 6. Proceed .75 mile on CR 6 south to Township Road 69. The signed preserve is 0.5 mile west on Township Road 69. Small parking lot available.
- Scenic River Loop Trail in Wayne National Forest, 30 minutes north of Marietta along Ohio 7, near the Leith Run Campground. Total trail 10.5 miles. Parking at campground or small lot off Ohio 7 at trail head.
- McDonough Wildlife Refuge. Six multi-length trails. Refuge located on Rosemar Road across from Jackson Park in Vienna, W.Va. Parking lot at refuge.
- Mountwood Park-25 miles of hiking and biking trails. Twelve miles east of Parkersburg, W.Va., on U.S. Route 50.
- Wolf Run State Park-Three hiking trails. Park located off I-77 at 16170 Wolf Run Road, Caldwell.
- Burr Oak State Park-Seven hiking trails. Park located at 10220 Burr Oak Lodge Road, Glouster.
- Strouds Run State Park-Six hiking trails, 15 mountain biking trails. Park located at 11661 State Park Road, Athens.
- North Bend State Park-Multiple hiking trails, including 72-mile North Bend Rail Trail. Driving east, take U.S. 50 to the junction of W.Va. 31 (21 miles). Turn right, take W.Va. 31 to Cairo and follow signs to the park.
- Information about the Frontier Hiking Club available at 374-2782.
- More area trail info is available on the River Valley Mountain Biking Association website at rvmba.com.
- For more Wayne National Forest information, go to www.fs.usda.gov/wayne.
- Other Ohio trail info from Ohio Department of Natural Resources at www.dnr.state.oh.us.
Marietta residents can hike local woodlands without leaving the city.
"The easiest trails to catch are right here in town. A lot of people can just walk to a trail from their homes," said Ryan Smith, owner of the Marietta Adventure Company, a local outfitter, and member of the local River Valley Mountain Biking Association.
The association is developing a network of hiking and mountain biking trails across the Pioneer City, including multiple trails through the Kris-Mar Greenspace off Hillcrest Drive behind Tractor Supply in the Frontier Shopping complex.
Other trails within the city include the Kroger Wetlands off Acme Street, Marietta High School trails off Academy Drive, Marietta Middle School trails at 242 Seventh St., and the North Hills Trail from the intersection of Colegate and Glendale drives to Terrance Avenue.
"Marietta has a great network with more than 10 trails, and it's all free," said Court Witschey, healthy communities coordinator for the Washington County Health Department and a Frontier Hiking Club member.
"We have these fantastic natural resources right in our own backyard, they're very accessible, and you can hike or bike these trails," he said. "And Marietta is starting to be recognized for its trails and as an outdoor adventure destination."
Witschey said state grants through the health department helped fund a lot of the local trail development in order to promote healthy lifestyles for city residents.
Smith said River Valley Mountain Biking Association members also help build and maintain trails at Mountwood Park and North Bend State Park in West Virginia, as well as within the Wayne National Forest in Ohio. In addition the association has started developing a trails network within the city of Parkersburg.
"There's absolutely a growing interest in trail hiking and biking now," Smith said. "When I came back to the Marietta area six or seven years ago, there weren't many trails available and those that did exist weren't being maintained."
He said hiking trail advocates like the mountain biking association now make sure the trails are clearly defined and marked.
"You didn't see many people at all in the national forest a few years ago, but now it's not uncommon to meet people from all over the state walking the trails," Smith said.