A Quiet Drive with Some Socially Distanced Stops to Enjoy
Story & Photos By Matt Bayman
With a full tank of gas and some snacks and drinks packed in a cooler, the following day trip offers a chance to get away from the house for some fresh air, hiking and sightseeing, all while complying with social distancing guidelines.
In fact, in the 8 hours I spent doing this trip on Saturday, I only crossed paths with one man and his dog the entire time. We made sure to move to opposite sides of the trail as we passed.
In a nutshell, this trip uses mostly country roads to connect a series of rural attractions, starting with the World’s Largest Horseshoe Crab in Hillsboro and the amazing Fort Hill Earthwork & Nature Preserve nearby, followed by an Amish community, six covered bridges, several state parks and lakes and a number of small towns with interesting features such as wall murals, historic courthouses, and picturesque main streets lined with Victorian-era homes. One of the final stops can be drive-thru ice cream at Young’s Jersey in Yellow Springs.
The directions for this trip are listed in the descriptions below. You can also click on this Google Maps photo to see the directions and also to send them to your phone for navigation.
The World’s Largest Horseshoe Crab
Start your trip by driving I-75 south to U.S. 35 east. In Xenia, relax onto U.S. 68 south toward Wilmington. Just before reaching Wilmington, take OH-73 south to Hillsboro and enjoy the peaceful countryside. Also, pass through the quaint village of New Vienna.
In Hillsboro, head east on OH-124. On the outskirts of town is the World’s Largest Horseshoe Crab. The parking area for the crab is closed due to COVID-19, but it is possible to view the roadside attraction.
Rocky Fork State Park & Fort Hill Earthworks & Nature Preserve
After the crab, continue east on OH-124 and pass by Rocky Fork State Park.
In the tiny village of Marshall, continue east on OH-506. When you reach an even tinier village, Carmel, turn right (south) on OH-753, which is a sparsely traveled road surrounded by forest. When this road dead-ends into
OH-41, turn right (south) and then take the first right into Fort Hill Earthworks & Nature Preserve, pictured directly below.
ABOUT FORT HILL
While the museum and bathrooms are closed at the park, the hiking trails are open, and they're considered some of the best in the state.
Take the 2.2 mile Fort Trail (see trail map HERE) and climb to the top of this ancient Native American earthwork.
Fort Hill was built about 2,000 years ago by the Hopewell Indians. It is a walled enclosure made of soil and is more than 1 ½ miles in circumference. It encloses more than 35 acres of the summit.
Interestingly, there are 33 notches or gateways in the wall. Nobody knows what purpose they served.
Contrary to its name, the earthwork was not a fort, but a place of ceremony. When you're there, imagine that the entire top of the hill would have been barren of trees. A reflecting pond on top of the hill (part of which is still there) would have reflected the stars above during these ceremonies. Also, note how perfectly quiet it is on top of the hill.
Interestingly, Fort Hill may point to nearby Serpent Mound. If you know what you're looking at, it is possible to see the two Hopewell sites from the other. Before you go, read up on this historic site HERE.
Right now is a great time to visit Fort Hill. Not only are the views of the surrounding valley better from the top (with no foliage in the way), but it's wildflower season, and the hiking trails are surrounded by them!
Amish Country, Paint Creek State Park & the Lynchburg Covered Bridge
From Fort Hill, return to OH-41 and turn left (north) toward U.S. 50.
This part of OH-41 is surrounded by Amish farms and beautiful scenery.
Next, turn left (west) on U.S. 50 and pass by Paint Creek State Park, which has 12 miles of mountain biking trails, plus more than 3 miles of hiking trails, and then continue on U.S. 50 through Hillsboro.
When you reach the small village of Allensburg, turn right (north) of OH-135 to reach Lynchburg. The road will dead-end into High Street. Turn left and the Lynchburg Covered Bridge is right around the corner.
This is the only covered bridge in Ohio that connects two counties, which are Highland and Clinton.
Martinsville & Engle Mill Road Covered Bridges & A Beautiful Mural
From the Lynchburg Covered Bridge, return back the way you came and turn left (north) on OH-134 toward Martinsville. From OH-134, turn left (west) on OH-28/Main Street and then right (north) on OH-104/Gibson Road. The Martinsville Covered Bridge is located just outside of town on Gibson Road. It is the first of the two covered bridges pictured below.
After viewing the bridge, continue north on Gibson Road until it dead-ends into OH-350. Turn right (east) on OH-350 and then take the first left (north) OH-134, which will take you to U.S. 68 in Wilmington. Watch for barn quilts and paintings, including these pictured below.
Turn right (north) on U.S. 68 and look for the huge mural painting in downtown Wilmington, pictured below left.
Continue north on U.S. 68 for about 9 miles, then turn left (east) on Spring Valley Paintersville Road. After about 3 miles, turn left (south) on Engle Mill Road. The Engle Mill Road Covered Bridge, built in 1877 and pictured 2nd below, is just around the curve. This is one of two covered bridges featured on this trip that was built by a company from Tippecanoe City, later named to Tipp City. Signage at both bridges provides detailed information about the structures and link to Tipp City.
3 More Covered Bridges, Yellow Springs & Then Ice Cream
After visiting Engle Mill Covered Bridge, return back to Spring Valley Paintersville Road and turn left (west). In less than 2 miles, turn right (north) on OH-380 and take it to the center of downtown Xenia.
In downtown Xenia, take a right (east) on OH-42. In less than 2 miles, turn left (north) on Stevenson Road. This will lead directly to the Stevenson Road Covered Bridge, the first bridge pictured below.
From this bridge, head southeast on Jones Road until it dead-ends into Wilberforce-Clifton Road. Turn left (north) on Wilberforce-Clifton Road and then immediately turn right on Charleton Mill Road. The Charleton Mill Covered Bridge is located shortly after.
From here, return to Wilberforce-Clifton Road and turn right (north).
In 2 miles, turn left (north) on Grinnell Road. The Glen Helen Covered Bridge (pictured lower right) is located just after the Grinnell Mill (pictured lower left) on the Little Miami River. Both are closed due to COVID-19, but you can still see them on the outside.
Finally, continue north on Grinnell Road until it dead-ends into Cory St. in downtown Yellow Springs, where you’ll turn right. View the beautiful architecture in the community and then turn right (north) on U.S. 68. On the way out of town, stop for drive-thru ice cream and other treats at Young’s Jersey Dairy.
From here, head home on either Interstate 70, historic U.S. Route 40 or keep going on U.S. 68.