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The next Appalachian trail? Federal support could mean big things for Ohio hiking loop

A hiker walks through the Buckeye Trail, guided by a tree that has a light blue streak of paint on its bark.
Buckeye Trail Association
Ohio's longest hiking loop could gain more support from a recent National Parks Service decision.

Ohio’s Buckeye Trail stretches more than 1,400 miles across the state, winding across the Hocking Hills, up to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and through many small towns along the way. It’s one of the longest hiking loop trails in the country, attracting millions of hikers each year.

And, the trail, which shows off every corner of the state’s scenic features, could have more support coming in.

Senior reporter Tana Weingartner, with Ohio Newsroom member station WVXU, has been reporting on the upcoming changes and joined the Ohio Newsroom to discuss the future of the Buckeye Trail.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

The Buckeye trail’s beginnings

“The idea was first envisioned in 1958 as a trail that would connect Lake Erie to the Ohio River. The first section opened the very next year, and it just kept growing from there and eventually became a loop of the whole state. It's best recognized by the blue paint, the ‘blazes’ that mark the trail.”

A map of Ohio shows the Buckeye Trail looping around all four corners of the state.
Buckeye Trail Association
The Buckeye Trail grew into the longest hiking trail in the state, spanning over a 1,400 miles.

What’s changing

“About 900 miles of the Buckeye Trail overlap with something called the North Country National Scenic Trail. It's a 4,800 mile long trail across eight states from North Dakota to Vermont. And that trail was just granted ‘unit status’ by the National Park Service. That puts it on equal legal standing with trails like the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Coast Trail, you know, the big ones.

“Now, here's how it affects us: The North Country Trail Association and the Buckeye Trail Association work together on their shared sections. So more federal support for the North Country Trail means more assistance for the Buckeye Trail with things like trail maintenance, signage, volunteers, administrative help, that kind of thing.”

On the horizon

“The Buckeye Trail could become one of those trails that's up there with the Appalachian Trail, because it is up for National Scenic Trail designation. A study is going to be launched this year, a feasibility study by the National Park Service, to see if they should be upgraded to this designation. And that would be a big deal because it would mean a federal office would be created to administer the trail. You'd get staff and, of course, you'd get money for operations, trail projects, volunteer programs, and the prestige of being a National Scenic Trail. There are only 11 right now in the U.S.;the Appalachian, the Pacific Crest. So it's a big deal.”

“Once the study is completed, then the Park Service will have to review the findings and make their report. And then if they decide they should go ahead and make the recommendation, it would have to be put into a bill and go before Congress for passage. So it could be a little while yet.”

Kendall Crawford is a reporter for The Ohio Newsroom. She most recently worked as a reporter at Iowa Public Radio.