Hiking Archer’s Fork Loop Trail In Wayne National Forest
The Archer’s Fork Loop Trail is located in the Marietta area of the Athens Ranger District of Wayne National Forest in southern Ohio.
From the trailhead (39.52406, -81.18091) this 14 mile moderate to strenuous loop trail takes you through forests, meadows, and rock outcroppings.
This is a hike we have done many times over the years, but this was our first time doing the whole loop in one day.
Once we were done it came out to 13.97 miles and took us 8 hours and 21 minutes. I walk extremely slow though so must people seem to finish this in 6 hours.
We usually backpack this trail and spend the night at one of the many primitive campsites along the trail. No permit is required to hike or overnight here. We have never had any issues in all our times overnighting here.
The trail is usually not that busy especially during the week. During 75% of our visits here we have never seen another soul.
The hike starts at the St. Patrick’s Cemetery Trailhead and if you like old cemeteries be sure to check it our before you start. The trail is well maintained and easy to navigate. As long as you follow the yellow diamonds you shouldn’t get lost.
We went counterclockwise on the trail.
If I did the whole loop in one day again I would probably go clockwise. I feel like there are way less hills to climb up in that direction. I mean there are a ton of hills to climb in either direction, but maybe less if you went clockwise.
Anyways, for reference, all mile markers I mention in this post will be if you go counterclockwise on the trail.
For the first 3 miles you will be traveling through the forest and past a few rock outcroppings.
In this section you will pass the Great Cave and the Irish Run Natural Bridge. Both can be seen by accessing extremely short spur trails. Neither one is very impressive truthfully, but hey in total both will only add five minutes to your hike so why not check them out.
At around three miles you will make your first water crossing. It’s nothing major and during most of the year you probably won’t even get your feet wet. But, if you need water you can get some here.
There are multiple water sources located on this trail, but if you pass a source and you’re running low fill up. You never know when the next water source will pop up or if it’s flowing.
Always remember to filter all your water. We have used the Sawyer Squeeze for years and love it.
You will follow the stream for a minute and pass some old mining equipment and at about mile 3.4 you’ll come to our favorite campsite on the trail. It’s surrounded by pine trees, has a water source behind it and plenty of room.
We have spent many many nights at this spot and loved it.
From this point you will pass a couple more camping spots, travel through a meadow with pretty wildflowers and come to Archers Fork Stream. You will get your feet wet during this water crossing. Depending on the time of year the water can get pretty high.
On one trip it was up to my mid-thigh when we crossed, so be careful.
This was also the spot we saw a bobcat one time!
We had just started crossing when I looked down stream and saw a decent sized bobcat taking a drink. I froze, he stared at me, I stared at him, and then he ran away.
It was exhilarating and terrifying all at once.
Wayne National Forest is actually home to 45 species of mammals, 158 bird species, 28 reptilian species, 29 amphibian species, and 87 species of fish. Copperheads and rattlesnakes are native here so watch where you step (we’ve never seen one though).
We’ve never seen coyote either, but have heard them almost every night camping.
Shortly after crossing the stream you will cross a road and start you’re first of many, many climbs of the day. This one is a doozy and goes on for a while before ending in a meadow with a gas/oil drill.
From this point you walk on an old service/forest road before heading back into the woods and continuing on the trail.
At around the 6.68 mile mark you will reach, in my opinion, the best campsite on the trail.
It’s entrance is completely overgrown though so look carefully or you’ll walk right by it. A water source runs beside it and a nice bench, table and firepit is available. It’s a great halfway point to spend the night at.
I have no pictures of the rest of the trail from this point.
The 0% chance of rain for the day that the forecast had called for was a complete lie. It had been drizzling since we started, but thick tree coverage prevented us from getting wet.
At this point the rain went from drizzling to downpour and back and forth for the rest of the day and we got soaked. I put my phone up so it didn’t get ruined. So sorry, all remaining pictures our from the first half of the hike as well.
Also after this point I can’t be 100% on the mile markers, but they’re close. I was trying not to pull my phone out, because of the rain. Also it’s been a week since we did the hike and my memory is not what it once was.
Around mile marker 8.5 you’ll come to what we call the intersection.
This spot has a camp site and the option of leaving the Archer’s Fork Loop Trail and continuing on another trail. We have spent time taking many of these different trails and they all offer something unique.
Around mile marker 10.5 you’ll come to another old service road and have to walk it for a short period before entering the woods again. At around the 10 mile mark I was getting pretty tired and the rain was not helping matters at all.
The second half of this hike truly consisted of walking up a lot of hills while traveling through the woods. I swear it felt like we spent miles just walking up hills (even though that wasn’t the case, but it felt like it).
A lot of these steep climbs do include switchbacks which really do help.
By mile 13 I was truly exhausted.
We had just finished another hill and I thought for sure I wasn’t going to make it. We usually don’t hike over 7 miles in one trip, so I must of been insane to think I could do 14.
Almost an hour later though, I was sitting in an air conditioned truck and never been so happy to be out of the woods!
Watch your footing while hiking.
The trail is quite rocky and rooty (yeah probably not a word, but I don’t care) in many different sections. It’s very slippery and muddy in parts as well. Moss on rocks looks pretty, but has been the culprit of many twisted ankles.
If your looking for a longer backpacking trip that can easily be accomplished on this trail. North Country, Covered Bridge, Shay Ridge, 9 Bell Trail, Scenic River Trail, and Greenwood Trail are just some of the trails that connect with Archer’s Fork.
You can hit any of these trails to make your hike last longer.
The Buckeye Trail also follows a large portion of Archer’s Fork before splitting off. The Buckeye Trail is a 1,444-mile hiking trail that circles Ohio. If you want to spend some more time on it considered following it for a while.
We have spent days exploring this area and investigating the different trails. We stayed out 3 nights and 4 days one time and had a blast.
Archer’s Fork Loop is a great trail and a popular one in the area. If you’re looking for a real workout this trail will not disappoint. My legs were like jell-o the next day!
The trail is also open to mountain biking if you prefer traveling on two wheels instead of two legs.