Featured Adventure: Archer’s Fork Backpacking Trail – Part 1

Us ready for the trip

Ready for the 2.5 Hour drive to the trailhead

The Trail

Archer’s Fork Trail is a beautiful and moderately challenging loop trail in Southeastern Ohio, deep within Wayne National Forest. It is located near the Ohio River and the West Virginia border in between Marietta, Ohio and Wheeling, West Virginia. The challenge of the trail comes in the elevation change, which is somewhat unusual for Ohio trails. This is due to the trail being near the Appalachian Mountains. Elevation on the trail ranges from around 700 feet to about 1,200 feet. These elevation changes occur frequently taking adventurers from river beds to high hilltops and back again. The trail itself is between 11 and 12 miles, but has many side trails and sites to see that can extend the trip. These include a Covered Bridge Trail and connectors to the North Country Trail as well as a small diversions to see the Natural Bridge and the Great Cave.

Path the to Archer's Fork Trail

Day 1

The trail head is a little over a two and a half hour drive from Columbus and even the drive can be a bit of an adventure. While most of the trip is on the highway, the last half hour is through the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains on back country roads. The twists, turns, and hills were so intense that they had me wishing for my motorcycle. My friend Kevin accompanied me on this trip and was kind enough to drive. He had quite a fun time maneuvering his 5-Speed, 1998 Ford F-150 with it’s 8-foot bed through the curvaceous hills. The challenging roads made the time pass quickly as I white-knuckled the passenger handle and pumped my imaginary brake pedal. Finally, we arrived at the trailhead, safe and sound

Getting geared up at the trailhead

Getting geared up at the trailhead

The trailhead is located near a small, well-kept cemetery at the top of a hill. It was about 5:30 pm when we set out on the trail for the day and we immediately were heading back downhill into the woods. This trip was actually Kevin’s first experience with backpacking. So my plan was to take the first day very easy. We would hike in about a mile or two and find a nice camp. This would give us some time to setup and allow for Kevin to learn the basics of camp and my equipment. The fact that both of our packs weighed in at over 50 pounds also influenced the decision to take the first day a little easy.

Day 1 at the Trail Head

Day 1 at the Trail Head

There were a couple dayhikers heading back to the trailhead, but it looked like we would be the only backpackers in the woods tonight (unless more were to arrive later). Since this was actually my second time on the trail, I decided to hike the loop in the opposite direction that I had hiked it previously.

Natural Bridge

We kept a good pace and quickly arrived at the first site to see: a natural bridge that had been formed by a waterfall flowing through the weaker portions of the rock. It was a fascinating site to see and we explored the area for a few minutes. Mayflowers covered the hill and surrounding areas and the setting sun gave everything a beautiful glow.

Kevin on the Natural Bridge

Kevin on the Natural Bridge

We set back out on the trail and headed through some large rock formations. We continued to keep a good pace and covered a little under a mile from the Natural Bridge before we found our first potential campsite. The sun was still shining and the site was not cleared very well. So we decided to press on. The trail wound down the large hill we were on and eventually crossed a stream. There was an old, abandoned shed and pumping station along the creek that we quickly explored before moving on.

Hiking through the forest and rocks

Hiking through the forest and rocks

The trail twisted up a slight slope about ten feet above the creek bed and then followed parallel to the creek into a pine forest. Shortly after passing into the pine forest, we found an excellent campsite. It was already cleared and had some rocks that formed a firepit as well as a few pieces of firewood. It was close to 7:30pm so we decided to camp there for the night.

 Night 1

It was a cool evening with almost no wind as I taught Kevin how to setup our backpacking tent. It had been a couple years since I had used this specific tent and it was a different setup than my others. Even I had to think for a few minutes to remind myself how to set it up.

Archer's Fork Day 1 CampWe finished that up and I started building a fire as Kevin scavenged for additional firewood. Soon, a beautiful fire was roaring and we unpacked our backpacking stove to boil some water for dinner. Our delicious freeze-dried meals consisted of Mesquite BBQ chicken and a lamb vindaloo. Both were delicious for freeze-dried trail meals.

Kevin and I sat around the fire on our camp mats relaxing and letting our meals settle. With absolutely no social pressure, no worries, and no further responsibilities for the night, we were able to completely let loose and talk about anything and everything. Before we knew it, my watch showed 1am. We turned in for the night and quickly fell asleep as temperatures plunged into the 20s.

Relaxing around the fire

Relaxing around the fire

6 thoughts on “Featured Adventure: Archer’s Fork Backpacking Trail – Part 1

  1. Thanks for the backwoods trek. Beautifully written. Reminds me of the many times our family camped…fun to remember!


  2. Pingback: Featured Adventure: Archer’s Fork Backpacking Trail – Part 2 | Atlas Alex

  3. I love your style of writing. It keeps me engaged. Your photographs are beautiful and well placed. Keep up the good work. You may get published someday like your Aunt Terry!


  4. Pingback: Featured Adventure: Archer’s Fork Backpacking Trail – Part 3 | Atlas Alex

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