The Serpent's Horns
Map & Directions Below
Leaving from Lake Hope, take SR 278 N to SR 56 toward Athens, or roll out of your real bed in a large romantic glamping tent at Blue Heron Run and take SR 681 west to SR 356 north to SR 56 east, and with a northward turn on SR 691 you'll be heading through winding roads to Nelsonville, Ohio which was the happening center of Athens County during the coal boom days. It was a flatter, more central area than further south and hillier Athens and was located on the Hocking River with easy access by canal and later, train. The Serpent's Horns follow SR 691 almost to Nelsonville (but feel free to make a stop - lots of arts and good food happening) then turn west onto CR 1 - Kimberley/Carbondale Rd, stay left onto Carbondale Rd south to SR 56 again - a brilliant slow ride.
Now take SR 56 W to a right on SR 278 N toward Nelsonville again and see the last standing examples of the once common round brick kilns used in the ubiquitous brick-making industry of the area. This time stop for gas, food, or just cruise the brick streets (one block northeast of the main drag). The historic main square is worth a look and The Mine Tavern serves bar food and cold drinks. Or if great baked goods are your bailiwick, stop at Sunflower Bakery on the south side of the main square.
From Nelsonville take SR 278 N through a neighborhood and see first hand why some countries have outlawed manufactured house trailers. This stretch of 278 is one of my new favorite bits of back road - once you leave Nelsonville proper. Follow it past US 33 and through Carbon Hill to SR 595, turn left or south. The Wayne National Forest Dorr Run ATV Trails are accessible from several points in this area is you're tired of pavement. Be sure to buy your permit in advance and bring your helmet & goggles. This road coasts across Hwy 33, quick, look or turn left a cool historic pull off at Lock #17 of the old Hocking Canal. Worth a looksie. Keep going on SR 595 through Haydenville, it bills itself as the last Ohio company town - and boy does it look it. Really cool architecture to see - so drive slowly. The old company buildings were torn down but a pallet and wood products business has taken over on the former company land.
Continue just past the round house made to look a bit like one of Haydenville’s iconic red clay pipes and make a right onto Laurel Run Rd. This meandering beauty will curve you all the way back to SR 56 just east of Starr. At SR 56 turn left and head back to Lake Hope Lodge or continue on SR 56 to Little Fish Brewery or other Athens Area destinations. You could also scoop the back of the Serpent's Heart by turning west on 56 just to SR 328 S and follow it to Mine Hollow Rd - a paved road that cuts over to SR 278 a few miles south of Lake Hope. You've earned a brisket and/or a swim!
Turn by Turn Directions:
SR 278 N to 56
SR 56 E to SR 691 N
SR 691 to Athens CR 1 - Kimberley/Carbondale Rd
Stay left to stay on Carbondale Rd
Right on SR 56
Right on SR 278 - through Nelsonville
Left on SR 595 - through Haydenville
Right on Laurel Run Rd
Left at 56 to wherever you need to be - 278 to Lake Hope or 56 to Athens
About 60 miles and 1.5 hours.