Combining beautiful woods, isolation and unique history, Vinton Furnace Experimental State Forest is a wonderful place to spend a day.
Vinton Furnace Experimental State Forest is roughly 12,000 acres used for forest research, but open to foot traffic as well. There are several buildings at the park's 'headquarters' and if you go during the week, my understanding is you can drive to a parking area near them. On weekends however, the gate on the entrance road is closed, but parking is provided there.
Once parked at the closed gate, the hike begins by following the rest of Experimental Forest Road
to the headquarters area. The 'trails' are essentially gravel roads used by park and scientific staff, and they branch out from headquarters like spokes on a wheel. Each spoke is marked by name and they are relatively easy to find.
Once you reach the center of the headquarters area, the Pine Run Trail
is to the north-northwest and is marked by a post. The grades on Pine Run Trail
are mostly gentle, and even though there are no blazes on the road, the path is obvious. When you reach the end of the road there is a turnaround surrounding a tree. The path becomes a mowed singletrack at this point, leading off to the right and descending down a hill via several switchbacks. This is the most strenuous part of but doesn't last long. This part of the trail is blazed with round tree markers, a silver hiker symbol on a blue background.
The path leads you right to the ruins of the coke ovens. These ovens were made in Belgium in the mid 1800's and shipped here as individual numbered bricks for reassembly. The coke they produced was used as fuel to make iron in the furnace which is located directly over the hill from the ovens. Again, a mowed path to the furnace is provided. Iron furnaces dot the southern Ohio landscape but the coke ovens are the only known remnants of Belgian ovens anywhere in the world.
To finish, just return the way you came. This appears to be a very underutilized state forest. We were there on a beautifully sunny March day with temps in the mid 40's, and my friend and I had the entire 12,000 acres to ourselves. For a nice hike in the woods and some history you apparently can't see anywhere else, I highly recommend a day at Vinton Furnace State Forest.
According to what I have read, Vinton Furnace Experimental Forest has the largest known population of bobcats.
Ruins of an iron furnace and coke ovens point to a place in time when there was actually industry here.