The Serpent's Coil

Map & Directions Below

This loop begins from a different starting place in Vinton Co - the delightful little jewel of a lake and campground just east of Hamden, OH - Lake Alma! It is bite-sized and oh-so welcoming, with easy access, updated facilities, a lovely shallow beach for dipping, and a low-key profile. It was built originally as an amusement park. If you spent the night somewhere else (Blue Heron Run is best for romance) Lake Alma is easy to find. Gas up in Hamden, pick out your picnic spot for when you return, and saddle up or just put the top down - it's gonna be a lovely day for touring! This loop dips into Gallia County and is about 92 miles with the stop at Buckeye Furnace, but can be shortened or joined up with another route for a custom riding/driving/bicycling experience.

From Lake Alma go north on SR 329 to SR 160 and turn right/east. Follow 160 as it dives into the Serpent's Bones and twists delightfully along the stream bed and old RR tracks, through Radcliff and turn left onto I-32. Or, if you're a fan of ruins and old RR tunnels like me, turn right on Hwy 32 and then take the first left onto Thompsonville Rd (CR 10). It is paved, though not well. Just before the hill you'll see the Campbell's Tunnel on your right - and the daylight at the far end is almost 900 feet down through a hand-hewn tunnel through solid rock! Don't stop there (trailer & dogs) but go up and over the hill and down the other side to a stretch of deserted road by the floodplain of the Raccoon River. There's a pull-off on the former RR bed that is hard-packed gravel, and the tunnel is mud and muck galore, so for adventuring you'll want mud boots. Then right back to Hwy 32 and East.

Now I know that I promised backroads, and you can twist and wind over by taking Cottrill Rd just south of the interstate off of SR 160, or hop onto CR 38A north of the interstate to cross the Eakin Mill Covered Bridge (see Scale map for details), but you really want to enter this next road from Hwy 32 so you do not miss an inch of its hilly, windy, unimproved goodness. After 5 miles or so of highway, turn south onto SR 689 and hang on to your garters. Farmers along this route will tell you that they've had to pull more than a few incautious drivers and riders out of their blind corners because when you come up over that next hill, as likely or not, the road will not be where you think it is. Fair warning, and the farmers do appreciate a postcard when you finally get where you're going.

SR 689 ends at SR 160, go left or south through Wilkesville, or stop at Route 160 Restaurant for a sandwich or a piece of pie. Turn left or east at the south end of town onto SR 124 (a lovely road from end to end) for about 8 miles and turn south onto SR 325 for yet another whoopsie-daisy ride of about 10 miles into the town of Vinton, OH. Stay on SR 325 - lovely, windy goodness - as it winds through gorgeous deserted country to Rio Grande home of the University of Rio Grande and the Bob Evans Farm & Restaurant Museum. Or turn off just before Rio Grande at Drinx - a restaurant and bar with outside seating. But the best place to grab a cup of coffee and pastry or sandwich is Twinkleberries just down SR 588 off of SR 325.

Stay on SR 325 - I cannot sing this road’s praises enough! - until it dead ends at SR 141 in Gallia Co. Right on SR 141, then right again onto SR 233. Look around. It is lovely country. There are at least 4 renovated log cabins on this stretch. After the curviest parts of SR 233, turn north onto C,H and D Road toward Cooper Hollow Wildlife Area.  If you take the paved turn toward the Cooper Hollow Ranger Station there is a cool old example of an iron furnace, Madison Furnace with a pull-off if you'd like to walk back.

The evocatively named C H and D road (it was a railroad bed) jogs right then left to join SR 327 just south of Hwy 35. Take SR 327 north under Hwy 32 and through Wellston where it joins with SR 93, then stay right onto SR 349 back to Lake Alma. Picnic and dip time! Or take a side trip and go east to follow signs for the only reconstructed iron furnace in Ohio - Buckeye Furnace State Memorial. It is worth the journey to visit the furnace, see the metal works, another great place for a picnic, and there's a covered bridge and an old general store that serves as information center and gift shop open only on Saturdays & Sundays Noon-4. From there just head back to SR 327, turn right and right again onto SR 327 and right on SR 349 to Lake Alma Phew. A little splashing in the shallow end would be just the thing about now.

90 miles and just over 2 hours

Turn by Turn Directions:

From Lake Alma (Northern Start):

SR 349 N

Right on SR 160  - serpent undulations to die for - watch your speed!

Left on I-32 (or loop over to see Campbell's Tunnel then back)

Right on SR 689 (a little windy piece of heaven!)

Left onto SR 160 again (the piece you missed was minimally scenic)

Stay straight onto SR 124 E

Sharp right on SR 325 

Follow SR 325 through Rio Grande

Turn right when it meets SR 141

Stay straight onto SR 233

Turn right onto C, H, and D road to Cooper Hollow Wildlife Area TR 2

Jog right/left to jump onto SR 327 N through Wellston

Right on SR 349 back to Lake Alma!

Turn by Turn Directions:

From Gallipolis (Southern Start):

Take SR 141 from the southern end of Gallipolis

Stay straight onto SR 233

Turn right onto C, H, and D road to Cooper Hollow Wildlife Area TR 2

Jog right/left to jump onto SR 327 N through Wellston

Right onto SR 349 N - such a pretty little lake, Lake Alma!

Right on SR 160  - serpent undulations to die for - watch your speed!

Left on I-32 (or loop over to see Campbell's Tunnel then back)

Right on SR 689 (a little windy piece of heaven!)

Left onto SR 160 again (the piece you missed was minimally scenic)

Stay straight onto SR 124 E

Sharp right on SR 325 

Follow SR 325 through Rio Grande

Turn left at intersection with SR 141

Back to Gallipolis!

The Serpent's Coil - Map

Buckeye Furnace - off the beaten path and well worth a visit. You can hike up top. Nice spot for resting or a picnic.

Buckeye Furnace - off the beaten path and well worth a visit. You can hike up top. Nice spot for resting or a picnic.

Campbell's Tunnel on Thompsonville Road just South of I-32 and one exit west of SR 160 and Radcliff, Ohio. Coolest thing I've seen in a while!

Campbell's Tunnel on Thompsonville Road just South of I-32 and one exit west of SR 160 and Radcliff, Ohio. Coolest thing I've seen in a while!

Madison Furnace in Cooper Wildlife Area by the ranger station.

Madison Furnace in Cooper Wildlife Area by the ranger station.