Ohio brims with opportunities to discover new places for hiking. And how wonderful are these trails for doing a pre – or post – Thanksgiving hike with friends and family? Always looking to explore a new area, I finally narrowed down my hiking choice to what others describe as an underrated and uncrowded trail in Licking County. Part of the Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve, which straddles the Licking River, the Marie Hickey Trail has fewer visitors than the trails across the river.
The Marie Hickey Trail meanders through the Blackhand Gorge Nature Preserve and the start of the trail is off-the-beaten path. The trail head was easy enough to find using GPS. Finding the trail itself was another story. At the parking lot, there is a board with a map of the trail, but right near that display is a gated area. After a false start on the service road behind the gate, I realized that this was no the correct trail. The real start is either a small path to the right of the sign or a large cleared swath far to the left and toward the road.
The inviting woods immediately welcomed us – colorful leaves still clung to the trees, birds sang from their tree branch perches and the fallen leaves provided a multicolored carpet. After trying to discern the path mostly hidden by leaves in certain spots, we encountered another hiker who confirmed we were on the path.
I asked this hiker who had traversed this trail frequently what brought her here so often. The solitude, the slightly hilly terrain, the birds, the wildlife and the view of the river below made this an ideal hiking area for her. In fact, she had spotted eagles here; we had spotted a young buck at the start of our journey.
The Marie Hickey Trail skirts the river at a point and it’s possible to spot hikers on the other side of the river across the gorge. Getting a glimpse of the river through the trees was a definite incentive for doing this hike in the fall. (The areas with these glimpses can be dangerous for uncontrolled children, so be sure to keep them close.) The paved trail on the other side of the gorge might be more appropriate for the youngsters. Put on your walking shoes and head out to the Marie Hickey Trail.