The Fort Trail is one of five trails at Fort Hill Earthworks which boasts a total of 11 miles of trails of varying topography and difficulty. You can download a trail map here
. The 1300 acre area is managed by the Ohio Historical Society and the Appalachian Arc.
Fort Trail encircles and even enters a large ancient earthwork built by the Hopewell Culture some 2,000 years ago. These Native Americans were instrumental in constructing dozens of hilltop enclosures and countless mounds in southern Ohio. We do not know what these ancient peoples called themselves, what language they spoke, or what ultimately happened to them, but we do know that they left some pretty amazing and mysterious earthen structures.
Information gleaned from the Arc of Appalachia website shows that Fort Hill was likely not a fort at all but a place where the Hopewell culture gathered for ceremonies. As you hike the Fort Trail, you'll see that the earthen wall follows the natural contour of the rim of the plateau. For specific numbers on wall height, length, and other interesting facts about Fort Hill please visit the Arc of Appalachia website.
You'll begin your hike at the parking area at the base of the hill. As you drive into the park, you'll pass a small museum that is only open on Saturdays from May-Oct. At the parking area/trailhead, there are restroom facilities, picnic sites, and trail maps/information.
A steady but fairly easy climb will bring you to the first level of the plateau which wraps around the base of the earthwork until about 1.6 miles into the loop, where you'll encounter the steepest grade which is short but will ultimately bring you to the top of the plateau as you enter through one of the 39 ancient openings.
From there, it is a meandering hike atop the plateau where you'll not only have a bird's eye view of the surrounding hills, but also see first-hand the remnants of the great earthen wall that was constructed thousands of years ago. Take note of the ditch on the inside of the wall and keep an eye out for the various entrances through the wall as you continue your hike. The hike will end once you descend a few switchbacks to the parking area below.
The 1300 preserved acres boast mature hardwood forests teaming with hundreds of species of plants and animals.