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Lake Hope State Park, OH

At Lake Hope

The U.S. Census Bureau says Vinton County is one of the poorest in Ohio, but the agency fails to take into account what Vinton County is very rich in - deep forest, quiet solitude and the kick-ass mountain biking at Lake Hope State Park.

There are 25 miles of high-quality singletrack at Lake Hope, built by mountain bikers for mountain bikers to International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) standards; a rarity in Ohio. This means you not only pedal through lovely forest full of white oak, wood fern and white-tailed deer, but you hammer up well-designed climbs with switchbacks instead of washed-out ruts and loose rock.

The trails at Lake Hope offer plenty of fun and challenge for both newbies and experienced riders alike. The mostly flat and mellow Hope Furnace Trail sticks close the shore of the lake, giving you serene views of anglers floating among the blooming water lilies, while those who want to really flex their mountain biking muscles can start by climbing up the Sidewinder Trail to connect with Copperhead Trail. From there you can explore the challenging spurs and connectors of the Bobcat and Wildcat trails before looping back to the start, either on the Hope Furnace Trail (named after the hundred year old sandstone iron-smelting furnace still standing) or on the pavement of State Route 278.

Wednesdays and Saturdays through the summer, you can combine your biking trip with your chance to become Doctor Dolittle – Lake Hope hosts a really cool hummingbird hand feeding program at the nature center.

Where it’s at: 1½ hours from Columbus; take US 33 about 55 miles to Nelsonville, OH. Turn south on OH 278 and travel 13 miles to Lake Hope, on the right.

Contact: www.lakehopestatepark.com or (740) 596-5253

Grub: Etta’s General Store and Lunchbox Café, near the junction of OH 56 and OH 328, serves pizza and subs and is home to an old lunchbox collection worth checking out, (740) 380-0736

Digs: Lake Hope State Park campsites ($15-$20/night) include a rent-a-camp option with tent and other gear included ($30/night), cabins run $75-$95/night, (740) 596-5253; Ravenwood Castle, www.ravenwoodcastle.com or 800-477-1541

Gear and Support: Cycle Path, www.athenscyclepath.com or (740) 593-8482, and Athens Bicycle, www.athensbicycle.com or (740) 594-9944, are both in Athens, OH