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Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

Preserving 956 acres in Licking County

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 wind through the preserve.

The preserve is rich in natural as well as early Ohio history.The name Blackhand, for which the preserve is named, originated from a dark, hand-shaped Indian petroglyph which 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 dynamited the cliff face, during construction of the Ohio-Erie Canal, which runs through the gorge. Sections of the canal towpaths 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.

NOTICE (Updated 10/2015): Temporary repairs have been made to the damaged section of the bike trail. The repaired section of the trail is open but remains unpaved and unstable. Those that choose to use this section of trail should proceed with extreme caution.

Local Directions

Located in Licking County 8 miles east of Newark on State Route 16, exit southeast on State Route 146 and proceed 1/4 mile to County Road 273. The preserve's entrance and parking lot are 1.5 miles south on County Road 273 just outside of Toboso.

Special Features

Spring Wildflowers
Geologic Features
Bird Watching

  • Geologically spectacular narrow sandstone gorge cut by the Licking River
  • Excellent display of spring wildflowers


Wheelchair Accessible

  • 10 miles of trail including 4 miles of bike trail

Tell Your Preserve Story