Ohio Route 41 starts in Covington and follows a crescent path to the Ohio River, where it ends in the small town of Aberdeen. It’s a distance of about 160 miles and, without stops, takes about four hours to drive.
However, as you’re about to see, several days can be spent exploring this route, and several nights can be spent at some of the amazing campgrounds, bed and breakfasts and cabins found along the way.
While there are many things to see and do on this trip, drivers will notice a few reoccurring themes. This includes beautiful murals, award-winning museums, ancient Native American mounds and earthworks, and antique and outlet malls, plus state parks, architecturally significant buildings, popular greenhouses, and rural Amish communities, among other surprises.
Geologically speaking, Route 41 passes through some of the most interesting anomalies in the state. To the south of Greenfield, for example, the Appalachian foothills rise out of the flat farmland. This drastic change in scenery follows the glacial boundary in Ohio, which is where the last glacial maximum stopped. This divide between the hills to the south and east and the flat farmland to the north and west is where the Moundbuilder cultures of thousands of years ago built their most important earthworks, including the world-famous Serpent Mound effigy.
After passing through the little village of Sinking Springs, drivers on Route 41 will cross directly through the Serpent Mound Impact Crater (see page 18), where between 256 and 330 million years ago a meteor or comet struck Ohio. The remnants of this impact are still visible in the landscape, including at several rare outcrops and at Serpent Mound itself.
Along with the Serpent Mound effigy, Route 41 directly passes—or is located a short drive from—a number of other Moundbuilder sites. This includes Seip Mound (one of the largest mounds in the Midwest) and Fort Hill. Fort Hill is considered one of the best places in Ohio to hike. In fact, the Buckeye Trail connects Fort Hill to Serpent Mound and passes directly through the Serpent Mound Impact Crater!
Several murals on this trip pay homage to the Moundbuilders and other points of interest. One in Peebles depicts Serpent Mound (as well as other historical images) and one in Bainbridge depicts Seip Mound (and other local attractions). Other notable murals include the Buzzard Roost Rock mural in West Union and the impressive Dorothy and Lillian Gish mural in Springfield, among others.
There are several lesser-known, yet very interesting museums to visit near Route 41. Some of the highlights are the Appalachian Forest Museum near Paint Creek State Park, The Pennsylvania House museum and Heritage Center of Clark County, both in Springfield, the Dr. John Harris Dental Museum in Bainbridge (the building was the first dental school in the United States), and The Kentucky Gateway Museum Center, which is an award-
winning museum located just across the Ohio River from Aberdeen. The Visitor Center at Serpent Mound also contains fascinating exhibits and artifacts.
For state parks and prairies near Route 41, late spring through fall is probably the most popular time to visit the area, although any time of year will do.
One of the best times to visit Fort Hill is in the late spring, when the wildflower display is brilliant. Paint Creek State Park (near Bainbridge) is best in the fall. Adams Lake State Park and Prairie is wonderful in the spring, but is most popular in the late summer when the prairie blooms and the lake blossoms with thousands of white lotus flowers. The two events often coincide. Adams Lake Prairie is one of the last pockets of large prairie habitat in the state. Rare plants in the prairie have fun names, such as scaly blazing star, rattlesnake-master and blackjack oak.
Rounding things out, a trip along Route 41 can include stops at a Frank Lloyd Wright home in Springfield (and other architectural wonders in this fascinating city), the huge McClish’s Greenhouse in Washington Courthouse, the Country Crust Bakery (a popular Amish bakery, deli and café), and antique shops large and small, not to mention the outlet malls in Jeffersonville, which Route 41 passes directly through.
For lodging, there are several standout places to relax. Campgrounds can be found at each of the state parks and at private resorts. This includes Long’s Retreat, where camping, giant water slides and go-karts, among many other amenities, attract tourists in the summer. Walls Family Cabins is a peaceful getaway in an Amish setting, as is The Murphin Ridge Inn Amish House, a bed and breakfast.
Likewise, there are plenty of unique places to dine. Many are ma and pa restaurants that serve home-cooked meals; others are specialty cafes with healthy and locally sourced menus.
The following is just some of what can be seen when traveling Route 41 from Miami County to the Ohio River.
Enjoy and drive safely!
A Country Drive to Springfield
After passing through familiar territory in Covington and Troy, Route 41 enters the peaceful countryside in Clark County, but not before passing one of the first points of interest on this trip. Just before reaching Alcony on Route 41, look for a metal sculpture of a horse at the entrance of Tiara Arabians, a horse training center.
A short ways after this, in Clark County, drivers will pass through the first roundabout in Ohio to have all approaches at 55 mph, and then reach the small village of North Hampton.
Along with legendary speed traps, North Hampton has a covered bridge (walking only), a colorful caboose and a historic sign to view—which is one of dozens of historical markers seen on this trip.
Just before reaching Springfield, stop by Fent’s Dairy Corner for a cool or hot treat.
Route 41 passes right through the heart of Springfield. However, there are many points of interest to be found off the path, including Buck Creek State Park, the Maitland Junction Railroad Crossing (a rare 4-way railroad intersection), The Pennsylvania House museum, Mad River Gorge & Nature Preserve and more. The city also has a large number of thrift shops and several one-of-a-kind restaurants.
Located directly on Route 41 in Springfield are a number of interesting stops. The first is the beautiful Ferncliff Cemetery & Arboretum. It contains a Civil War soldier monument and several peaceful areas to walk or sit and relax, plus lots of flowers. A highlight of the arboretum is a series of limestone cliffs that feature a cave and waterfalls. They can be seen by car and on foot. This is a fun place for photographers.
A little further up the road is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Westcott House, which is open for tours. (Call ahead for reservations). It is one of dozens of amazing buildings and architectural styles found in Springfield. Add to this the gothic architecture at Wittenberg University, and a series of murals in the downtown, and quite a while can be spent exploring Springfield.
Just before leaving Springfield, and continuing south on Route 41, stop by the Springfield Antique Center or, if it’s a special weekend, the Springfield Antique and Flea Market at the Clark County Fairgrounds. Just up the road is the Heart of Ohio Antique Center, another large facility.
One Small Town To Another:
South Charleston to Greenfield
This quiet, mostly rural farm setting on Route 41 passes through a number of eclectic and interesting towns, starting with South Charleston, and followed by South Solon, Jeffersonville (and the Jefferson Outlet Malls), Washington Courthouse, and into Greenfield. After Greenfield, the landscape changes into the Appalachian foothills and then enters an Amish community.
In South Charleston, make a stop at Village Chic for coffee and gift shopping and then at All In Flavor Café & Sweets Restaurant for dessert. The Houstonia Bed & Breakfast is located just off of Route 41 on Mound Street and is not far from the South Charleston Trailhead for the Ohio-to-Erie Trail. The paved trail connects nearby London to Xenia and is part of The Nation’s Largest Paved Trail Network.
In South Solon, look for a large, somewhat ominous-looking abandoned school building, and not much else. The school is one of several abandoned buildings or homes that can be seen when traveling the distance of Route 41.
Jeffersonville isn’t much bigger or more interesting than South Salon. The outlets are located a few miles south of Route 41 next to Interstate 71 and contain popular chain stores, restaurants and hotels. The part of Route 41 that passes through Jeffersonville goes through the old, historic downtown.
A popular gardening destination on Route 41, just south of Jeffersonville, is McClish’s Greenhouse. Open seasonally, this massive greenhouse has almost everything imaginable. It is one of numerous greenhouses to visit on and near Route 41.
Larger than most towns on Route 41, Washington Courthouse still keeps its charm. The historic downtown is worth a stop. There are numerous historical markers and buildings in the downtown (the city was the first capital of Ohio), as well as several murals. Interesting stops include the Fayette County Historical Society museum, a popular vintage shop called Harry & Annie’s, The Willow restaurant (known for its steaks) and Ohio Thrift, which is known as “America’s #1 Thrift Store.”
Upon entering Greenfield, stop by the Greenfield Cemetery, which contains, among other things, a Civil War soldier’s monument, several historical markers and unique stone architecture. Greenfield is attached to Paint Creek State Park and contains a number of historic and unique buildings in the downtown, including the colonial-style Highland County Courthouse. On the outskirts of town, as the hills begin to roll, is Holly Hills Preserve. It’s a quiet and peaceful place to hike and enjoy nature.
Bainbridge and Things Close By
Bainbridge is a quaint and picturesque small town. It is home to the Fall Festival of Leaves in October and, each autumn, offers four scenic driving tours through the hilly, forested area that surrounds the community. This includes through Paint Creek State Park and Pike Lake State Park—two areas known for their vibrant fall foliage.
Bainbridge is home to some unique attractions, from the Dr. John Harris Dental Museum to the historic and active Paxton Theater. There is a new mural to view and several antique shops, including C&L Treasures and Ancient Valley Mercantile, as well as several small diners.
Bainbridge is located at the intersection of Route 41 and U.S. 50 and close to a number of other interesting attractions. To the east of town is Seip Mound, which is one of the largest earthworks and mounds in the region. To the west of town on Route 50 is Highlands Nature Center. Highlights here include Rocky Fork Gorge and the Appalachian Forest Museum, which contains artistic murals that depict “the world significance and 40 million year history of the Appalachian forest.” There are several popular hiking trails that lead to caves and other interesting features, as well as overnight lodging and camping.
Passing Through Amish Country
South of Bainbridge, Route 41 passes through an Amish community and the village of Cynthiana. However, before reaching Cynthiana, travelers should stop at the Country Crust Bakery. This Amish bakery, deli and cafe has outdoor dining and food to go. It is known for its baked pretzels, sandwiches and pies and is open year-round.
Located nearby is Walls Family Cabins. Overnight guests at this Amish farm can stay in miniature barn-cabins, all of which face a large pond on the property. Learn more at wallsfamilycabins.com.
A little further up the road is the Bainbridge Produce Exchange. In season, this outdoor market offers locally grown produce in small and large quantities, much of it grown by Amish farmers. There are also special events held at the market on select weekends.
Located just off of Route 41 in this area are several greenhouses and Amish businesses, including Pickett Run Farms and Crafts Unlimited.
Just east of Cynthiana is Pike Lake State Park, which has paddle boat rentals, one of the best campgrounds in southern Ohio and miles of hiking trails that are scenic any time of year.
Fort Hill to Peebles, and Through an Impact Crater
Just south of Cynthiana is Fort Hill Earthworks & Nature Preserve. This 1,300-acre forest contains miles of hiking trails, two of which lead to the top of a 2,000-year-old Native American earthwork known as Fort Hill.
The “hill” is 500 feet tall and surrounded by a mile-and-a-half of manmade walls that encircle a plateau on the top of the hill. Because of this, early settlers thought it must have been a fort, which is how it got its name. However, it was actually a ceremonial gathering place and probably used to study astronomy. Mysteriously, there are 33 “gateways” notched in the manmade walls. They can still be seen today and no one knows what they were used for.
In the winter and spring, the lack of foliage allows hikers at the top of Fort Hill to see panoramic views of the area. It is actually possible to see Serpent Mound in the distance, and visa versa.
Not far off of Route 41 is one of the most popular camping resorts in Ohio—Long’s Retreat Family Resort. The resort has go-karts, cabins, waterslides, a beach and many other family friendly attractions. Learn more at longsretreat.com.
Also nearby is Kincaid Fish Farm, a government facility. The hatchery has 15 ponds containing a total of 24 water acres. The facility also has six indoor raceways and four indoor rearing troughs. Water is supplied by a spring that can deliver 70-3,000 gallons per minute, depending on groundwater levels. This cold-water supply allows the hatchery to raise muskellunge and rainbow trout. Muskellunge production starts in the spring, while trout production starts in the fall. Call ahead for tours.
Just north or south of Sinking Springs (it depends who you ask), Route 41 passes through the Serpent Mound Impact Crater (learn about visiting the crater HERE). A short detour off of Route 41 visits areas where it is still possible to see evidence of the ancient crater, including at the Serpent Mound Historical Site, located not far from Route 41.
While in Sinking Springs, see a rare Octagonal Schoolhouse on Grand Street.
Into the Wild - Parks, Prairies and Peebles
The next stretch of Route 41 is lined with parks, nature preserves and prairies, plus the picturesque town of Peebles. Like Bainbridge, a new mural in Peebles honors the local Moundbuilders, as well as the history of the village. The town has several hometown diners to choose from. A popular one is the White Star Restaurant, known for its variety and country style cooking.
Just north of Peebles is the House of Phacops, a rock shop that has information about Serpent Mound and its impact crater, and items for sale.
East of Peebles is a number of worthwhile parks and camping areas. This includes the Chalet Nivale Nature Preserve, Mineral Springs Lake Resort (a vintage camping destination!), Davis Memorial State Nature Preserve and Johnson Ridge State Nature Preserve.
To the south of Peebles are several more Amish attractions. They are clustered together and include the colonial bed and breakfast, Murphin Ridge Inn, Miller’s Bakery & Furniture, Family Traditions Animal Adventure and Barn Sale Antiques.
Murphin Ridge Inn is located on 142 acres of rolling woodland and farmland and has an outdoor pool, hiking trails and deluxe rooms in what Ohio Magazine described as “a contemporary lodge furnished with museum-quality shaker reproductions.” Learn more at murphinridgeinn.com.
One of the most surprising stops on this trip is Adams Lake State Park & Prairie. As already mentioned, the park is known for its lotus flowers, which blossom in the late summer, and its prairie, which blooms several times through spring and fall. Although not a large park, these two special features make it stand out.
Not far from Adams Lake State Park is Johnson Ridge State Nature Preserve. This 208-acre site is known for its prairie barren openings, which contain rare flower species.
West Union to Aberdeen – Following Big Threemile Creek to the Ohio River
The final leg of Route 41 passes through the charming towns of West Union and Bentonville before following a very ancient stream to Aberdeen and the Ohio River.
In West Union, Lace & Grace Boutique and Olde Wayside Inn “Ohio’s Oldest Standing Inn Still In Use” are worth stopping at, as are the town’s murals. One depicts Buzzard’s Roost Rock, located at nearby Edge of Appalachia Nature Preserve. The huge preserve borders the Ohio River. It is not located directly on Route 41, but it’s worth the detour. Bentonville’s claim to fame is having been the birthplace of The Bentonville
Anti-Horse Thief Society, a vigilante organization formed in the 1800s to combat and punish local horse thieves.
The last part of Route 41 follows Big Threemile Creek, which empties into the Ohio River in Aberdeen. For geological reasons, the jagged and layered rocks in the streambed are filled with millions of ancient fossils, some dating back nearly a half-billion years. Many bridges over the creek, and located just off of Route 41, have areas where drivers can park and climb into the shallow creek to have a closer look and to fossil hunt.
Aberdeen & Maysville, Kentucky
Route 41 ends a few hundred feet from the Ohio River at Aberdeen Community Park.
The park is a great place to find a bench to sit and watch the ships roll in, the trains pass along the southern shore of the river in Maysville, Kentucky, cars and trucks cross the Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge between Ohio and Kentucky and the abundant wildlife that calls the river home.
Aberdeen has several river- themed murals, a number of historical markers and a noteworthy 9/11 memorial.
Across the river in Maysville is where some of the last great stops can be, with the most notable being the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center. It features more than 4,000 regional artifacts, fine art and a collection of miniatures.
If you’ve made it this far and are too tired to drive home, the French Quarter Inn in Maysville is a traditional, yet unique hotel that overlooks the Ohio River. It is located within walking distance of many attractions in Maysville.
There are several ways to get back home from Aberdeen. The first is to follow US Route 52 west along the Ohio River and then taking I-275 north to get back home. The second way is to take U.S. Route 68 north from Aberdeen.