Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

2200 Gratiot Road SE

Newark, OH 43056

When I was a kid, my family would bike the main paved path and walk the trails. I hadn’t yet explored the tunnel until last weekend. It is so pretty in all seasons. But Fall is pretty magical!

These pictures are from the paved path at main entrance of the park mid-October of last year. Bring a stroller! Bike with caution, there are cliff edges in some points.

Before you get to the main entrance, there is a gravel parking lot on the left. We parked there and walked across the road to access this path.

When the path forks, go up the hill on the left to access a nice view.

The prime feature of this preserve is a narrow, east-west gorge cut by the Licking River through the famous Black Hand sandstone formation. It also boasts the only bike trail in Ohio’s state nature preserve system; more than 4 miles of bike trail crosses the preserve. The preserve is rich in natural as well as early Ohio history. The name “Blackhand” originated from a dark, hand-shaped Indian petroglyph that was engraved on the face of a massive sandstone cliff along the north side of the river.

The engraving was destroyed in 1828 when canal builders blasted the cliff face, during construction of the Ohio-Erie Canal, which runs through the gorge. Sections of the canal towpath and canal locks may be seen from the trails along the river. The dry hilltops are dominated by oak-hickory mature woods along with Virginia pine and mountain laurel. Yellow birch, cherry birch and eastern hemlock grow on northerly exposures. It is an excellent site for viewing woodland spring wildflowers.

  • Open 1/2 before sunrise, 1/2 hour after sunset
  • Stay on designated trails
  • Pets are permitted only on the paved Blackhand Trail (paved bike trail) and must be controlled on a leash no more than 6 feet in length in hand. Pets are not permitted on other trails in the preserve. 
  • Bicycles, skates and skateboards are permitted only on Blackhand Trail.
  • Fishing is permitted along the north shore of the Licking River south of Canal Lock Trail.
  • Click here for all rules.


10 miles of trails:

  • Blackhand Trail (paved trail) – 4.3 miles
  • Canal Lock Trail – 0.4 mile
  • Chestnut Trail – 2.3 miles
  • Marie Hickey Trail – 2.0 miles
  • Oak Knob Trail – 0.6 mile
  • Quarry Rim Trail – 1.0 miles

Details above from…