Welcome to the Zaleski State Forest

Zaleski State Forest is the second-largest state forest in the U.S. state of Ohio, located primarily in Vinton County, with areas in Athens County as well. The 26,827 acre (110 kmē) forest surrounds Lake Hope State Park in Vinton County, and extensively borders the Waterloo Wildlife Research Station in Athens County.

Zaleski State Forest Brochure with Map (pdf)
Zaleski State Forest Brochure with Backpack Map (pdf)

Zaleski State Forest is also located close to the Wayne National Forest. In addition, the older and much smaller Waterloo State Forest in Athens County is administered as part of the Zaleski. The forest is named after the town of Zaleski, Ohio in Vinton County, where the forest headquarters are located, and is centered around Ohio State Route 78.

The forest has active logging programs, and is one of the few in Ohio to have a working sawmill. The Zaleski State Forest Backpack Trail was established on the forest to provide backpacking opportunities as well as to introduce some scenic and historic aspects of the forest. The main trail is a loop of 23.5 miles. There is also a 10-mile day loop trail, a network of bridle trails, a horse camp, a large lake (Lake Hope), and the Hope School, an old but renovated one-room schoolhouse.

Recently, the state of Ohio acquired a conservation easement to 10,000 acres (40 kmē) of the Raccoon Creek Ecological Management Area (REMA). This area will be administered in conjunction with the state forest.

The forest is located in rugged hills of the unglaciated Allegheny Plateau in Southern Ohio, with elevations ranging up to about 1100 feet above sea level. The area has an extensive history of coal mining, coke production, and steel production. The historic Hope Furnace can be seen at Lake Hope State Park, just across the road from the forest.

Public Recreational Areas near Zaleski State Forest
Use ODNR's Recreational Areas by County Map to locate State Parks, Nature Preserves, Boating Areas, and public hunting and fishing areas near Zaleski State Forest.

 General Forest Rules

  • Zaleski State Forest is open to visitors between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily. Legal campers, hunters and anglers may be present during other hours.
  • Operation of motor vehicles is restricted to roads provided for such travel. The speed limit on state forest roads is 30 mph unless otherwise posted. Vehicles may not be parked where traffic or access to division service roads or trails will be obstructed.
  • Horses may be ridden only along forest roads or on designated bridle trails.
  • Fires are not permitted except in grills or fire rings provided or in portable stoves. Fires must be attended at all times.
  • Litter must be disposed of in receptacles provided.
  • Camping is permitted only in areas provided and designated for such use.
  • Public display or consumption of any alcoholic beverage is prohibited.
  • Disturbance, defacement or destruction of any property, material, natural feature or vegetation is prohibited. Berries, nuts and mushrooms may be gathered and removed except from tree seed orchards or posted areas.

For more information on State Forests and Park around the Hocking Hills and lodging availability visit:


Brief History of Ohio State Forests

The vision articulated more than a century ago provides still pertinent (click photo for larger view) direction for the future of Ohio's forests. As pressure on state, national and world forests intensifies there will be an ever-greater need to practice sustainable forestry, and to demonstrate how it is done.

The history of Ohio's State Forests officially began in 1916, but its roots go back much further. Before Ohio was settled, it was virtually all forested. But by the late 1800s, many of those forests had been cut down, leaving the state with only 20 percent forest cover.

Today's state forests are a reflection of decades of stewardship. With careful nurturing by generations of dedicated, trained and committed foresters, Ohio's forests have become shining jewels of resource management and protection.

A truck carrying lumber for the World War II effort is pictured leaving Scioto Trail, one of the first state forests. Click on photo for a larger view.

Lands virtually devoid of merchantable timber now boast an inventory in excess of 1.2 billion board feet. At the same time, more than 400 million board feet of forest products have been removed and processed over the last 50 years through carefully planned and executed forestry operations. The current value of the revenue to the state for these products removed would arguably be in excess of $100 million. But these state forests are more than timber. State forests are outdoors havens for millions of recreational visitors, habitat for almost 100 endangered species, and home to some of the oldest tended trees in the United States.

The forests of Ohio have witnessed dramatic changes since European settlement started over 200 years ago. When settlers first came to the Ohio country, the state was predominantly forested. Some have estimated the forest cover was as much as 95 percent.

With the dawn of the 19th century, settlement and westward expansion spawned almost 100 years of forest removal. Lands that nurtured excellent tree growth also supported bountiful crop production. Thus started massive forest clearing that continued through the twilight of the century. By the first decade of the 1900s, forest cover had dropped to 10 percent of the state.

Remarkable changes soon took place, due to sound government policy and social changes.

A forestry agency was created, as were laws that encouraged forest development. Efforts made by the Division of Forestry resulted in the growing and planting of more trees, as well as the protection of forests from fire.