WITH LAID-BACK lakeside communities, expansive state parks, and small-town festivals, southeastern Ohio is an amazing spot for relaxing, enjoying nature, and living the good life. Here are seven local-favorite places, events, and activities around Ohio’s Guernsey County — set in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains — that you’ve probably never heard of.
1. Take a walking tour…underground.
Cambridge, a city of 11,000 or so, is the county seat, and it will likely feature as “home base” for any trip to the region. What you might not realize on first glance, however, is there’s a whole other Cambridge sprawling just below your feet.
Join the “Underground Cambridge” walking tour for a unique insight into the city’s 20th-century past. From a costumed guide, you’ll hear all about the town’s lively history, and you’ll get to see hidden storefronts on a trip that’ll take you up, down, and beneath Wheeling Avenue. Tours in 2017 will run on three Saturdays: June 24, July 29, and August 26. They’re all likely to sell out, so get your reservation in quick!
2. Visit a destination winery.
Most people don’t think wine when they think Ohio, but the southeastern part of the state is actually home to a few much-loved vineyards, one of which is family-owned Georgetown Vineyards.
With live music on Saturday nights, brick-oven pizzas, a range of wines including reds and whites, sweet and dry blends, and even local craft brews, Georgetown Vineyards is definitely a destination in itself. Set on a beautiful ridge overlooking the city of Cambridge, this spot is also environmentally friendly — the vineyard is an EPA Green Power Partner, generating much of its energy from an onsite blend of wind and solar.
3. See the coolest (little) steam trains around.
Some museums cost lots of money to enter, and more often than not there are big NO PHOTOS signs forbidding you from capturing all the brilliance on display. Not so at The Great American Steam Locomotive Museum in Cambridge. Admission is free, and you can take as many snaps of the beautiful wooden steam trains as you want.
And you will want to take photos. One of the exhibits — the Union Pacific “Big Boy” — is 8 feet long! This spot on Dewey Ave is also home to an incredible toy store filled with handmade wooden alphabet trains, little scooters, boats, and buses — all of which beat iPads any day of the week.
4. Take part in the Bigfoot Night Hike at Salt Fork State Park.
With its hiking trails, giant lake, and lovely turn-of-the-century lodge, Salt Fork State Park is no secret around these parts. And, at 17,229 acres, it’s the largest state park in Ohio. But beyond the lake, 18-hole golf course, endless trails, rolling hills, and thousands of feet of beach, what really sets Salt Fork apart are its monthly Bigfoot Night Hikes.
There have been some 36 Bigfoot sightings in this neck of the woods over the years, and you can join guides for a nighttime wander that explores the areas where encounters have been reported. For those who are a bit more adventurous, the guides also offer multi-day tracking and camping adventures. Good luck out there! And remember, we’re going to need some photo evidence of any Sasquatch that crosses your path…
5. Go mountain biking among wild animals at the Wilds.
The Wilds is home to exotic animals like the greater one-horned Asian and white rhinos, zebras, the Persian onager, antelopes, oryx, and giraffe. See them through the park’s many tours, or take on the Wilds’ extensive mountain biking trail system. It weaves through the parts of the property where you won’t run into rhinos. The trails are maintained by Appalachia Outdoor Adventures, and they’re as awesome as Guernsey County itself.
6. Go geocaching at Seneca Lake.
Thirteen miles southeast of Cambridge, Seneca Lake is Ohio’s third largest inland waterway, and it has all the lake activities you might expect: fishing for bluegills and bass, boating, waterskiing, swimming, camping…all that and geocaching. The park oversees all new geocache submissions, ensuring they meet guidelines, and gives you a chance to explore the area around the lake on a scavenger hunt in the great outdoors — whether you’re an avid ‘cacher or a first-timer.
Bonus: Open April to December, and serving the best barbecue between May and September, The Dockside Restaurant overlooks the shores of Seneca Lake and is definitely worth a visit.
7. Take on the Great Guernsey Trail.
This trail is 14 miles round trip if you want to do the whole thing, but it’s also ideal strolling territory — the hand-in-hand, birds-chirping, overhanging-trees kind of trail. The Great Guernsey Trail runs from the eastern edge of Cambridge to Lore City, and was once an old B&O Railroad track. Today, it’s the perfect place to hike, bike, inline skate, or even horseback ride along Leatherwood Creek. There are interpretive stops along the path, and next to the trail, just east of Reservoir Road, is the Great Guernsey Trail Bird Sanctuary — home to an ornamental garden and a viewing blind for spotting birds like cardinals and red-winged blackbirds.
Also, if you like a bit of friendly competition, in August 2017 the trail holds its 8th annual 5K, 10K, and family fun run beginning and ending in Lore City.