Shawnee State Forest Backpacking Trail - Portsmouth, Ohio
What’s the best way to tell you are winning a trail race? You are covered in spider webs!
My friend Brian and I were not running a race on the Shawnee State Forest Backpacking Trail, but we encountered 100s of spider webs on the trail the day we ran it. Since no one else was on the trail, we had to clear the spiderwebs that spanned the trails width. It was a good reminder for how remote and lightly used this trail is in Southern Ohio. It’s one of the premier backpacking trails in Ohio because of how remote it is, its 60 miles of trail, and the 7 camping sites (some including water). I found it perfect for trail running since the loop trails make the logistics easy to just park and go.
We made the adventure a day trip since the trailhead is only a 2 hour drive from Columbus, Ohio. Most of us have areas close by for ultrarunning but it can take some searching to find then. One of the best ways I’ve found is to search on google for “multi day backpacking trail”. Most 3-5 day backpacking trips cover around 30-40 miles (50 - 65k). In addition, these trails are often more remote than what you find if you just search for hiking or running trails.
We started out early on a humid morning. Dense forest canopies like here definitely keep their own microclimate. As mentioned above, we encountered thick spider webs from the start. Throughout the day we alternated who was in the lead and experimented with different methods of holding sticks to break the spider webs instead of running straight into them. I was so focused on spider webs I didn’t notice the big black snake I nearly stepped on at one point. Eventually, we just gave up and ran right through them since there were so many.
The forest canopy covers nearly 100% of the trail and the track is not always so runnable because of erosion. Much of the trail appears to be maintained or cut with a bulldozer leaving deep cuts in the ground that have eroded. In just a few points the trail pops out for a quick view of the hills and valleys. There are no large mountains, but the trail is constantly changing elevation that added up to 5000 feet (1524m) over the course of the 28 mile (45k) run.
I encourage you to do your own google search for “multi day backpacking trail” near where you live, or are traveling, to make your own ultrarunning destination. If you are in Columbus, OH, Cincinnati, OH or Lexington, KY then this run is just a 2 hour drive, so makes for a great ultrarunning destination day trip.
Start and Finish : Shawnee State Park Backpacking Trailhead
Distance : 28 miles / 45k
Elevation Gain : 5000 feet / 1524m