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Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve

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.


2200 Gratiot Rd SE

Newark, Ohio 43056

Phone Number(s)

Toll-Free: (800) 945-3543

Special Hours: Open half-hour before sunrise and closes half-hour before sunset







Partner Itineraries

  • Licking County Birding
    by Partner Author

    Enjoy the sights and sounds of birding in Licking County. 

    Start your day off at Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve. 
    Black Hand Gorge State Nature Preserve is a 970-acre area with both paved and unpaved trails. Blackhand Trail is a 4.26 mile paved wheelchair accessible trail that essentially follows a former railway bed along the south side of the Licking River.  Pileated Woodpeckers, Great Blue Heron, Warblers, Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers and many more species can be spotted here.

    Next, drive to Flint Ridge State Memorial. The Loop Trail can be accessed from the Flint Ridge museum. Other trails are also available. Check at Museum for brochure/map. The habitat is mostly mature/second growth woodland.  Some birds of interest are Cerulean, Kentucky and Hooded Warblers and Yellow-throated Vireo.

    After a long day settle in at Cherry Valley Lodge, located in Newark, Ohio.  The lodge is the nation’s only hotel featuring a beautiful arboretum and botanical garden with many chances to view Bluebirds and Purple Martins on the property.  Access to the Licking County Bike Trail is also available at Cherry Valley Lodge.

    Dawes Arboretum is the first stop on day two.  Here you will find an 1,800 acre tree and plant collection, as well as 4.5 miles of paved auto tour and 8.0 miles of mulch/gravel hiking trails on the west or main grounds.  There is a viewing window in the nature center where many winged visitors like to eat and bathe.
    The Hebron State Fish Hatchery is a 230-acre facility acquired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1982. This hatchery has 63 ponds, 13 indoor rearing troughs, 25 acres of wetlands, and 50 wooded acres with 2.5 miles of nature trails. As one of the Division of Wildlife’s “Watchable Wildlife Areas,” the hatchery attracts bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts.  A Self-Guided Tour and trail maps are available in the Administration/Education Building. 

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