The Heart of the Serpent

Map & Directions Below

The heart of the serpent covers a figure eight (see map) of about 64 miles from Lake Hope up SR 278 to SR 56 east to the top of SR 356. Follow the length of this fabulous and mostly deserted road past crazy sharp curves and rock outcroppings and through the town of Mineral to Hwy 50, turn west for several miles to SR 278, then north to Zaleski**, turn south again on SR 677 back to Hwy 50 then west again to McArthur, Ohio and north on SR 93 just to the beginning of SR 328 north - another gem of a paved backroad with nary another vehicle for many miles and plenty of country on which to feast your eyes.

Where SR 328 intersects SR 56, turn east again to SR 278 then meander back south to return to Lake Hope and Zaleski State Forest. Eat at the lodge. Celebrate! You've completed the Heart of the Serpent and had a fine time of it. Or hurry on over to Blue Heron Run for a dip in the swimming hope and a secluded Bell tent camping experience in peace and seclusion and real bed. Plenty o' firewood and unmatched stargazing.

Check back for more of the Serpent's Bones Tours -secluded, lightly traveled, paved roads tracing the Serpent's Bones and showing them off as they emerge from their resting places beneath these unglaciated* Appalchian hills.

Prost!

*The Unglaciated Allegheny Plateau is located in an arc around southeastern Ohio into western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This area is a dissected plateau, characterized by sandstone, shale, and many coal seams. - Wikipedia

**Mine Rd off of SR 278 just north of Zaleski is paved (well) and will cut you over to SR 328 if you'd like to do that portion of the Heart of the Serpent but by-pass McArthur and SR 93. Oh the places you'll go!

Turn by Turn Directions:

SR 278 N

Right on SR 56 E

Right on SR 356 S - watch those curves!

Right on Hwy 50 W

Right on SR 278 N to Zaleski

Forward onto SR 677 S

Right on Hwy 50 W

Right at stoplight in McArthur onto SR 93 N

Right onto SR 328 N

Right onto SR 56 E

Right onto SR 278 S to Lake Hope

62 miles - about 1.5 hours

Heart of the Serpent - Map

Heart of the Serpent's Bones Features:

Lake Hope: parking, picnicking, swimming, boating, hiking, restrooms. 

Lake Hope Lodge: Park information, great dining, trails, cabins, camping. 

Hope Iron Furnace: St. Rt 278 just north of Lake Hope. 

Zaleski State Forest: both sides of St. Rt 278. 

King Hollow RR Tunnel: take either King Hollow out of the town of Mineral or Rock Camp Rd at the junction of St. Rt 356 and 681 (WARNING! loose gravel). Park where they meet. Walk east.  

Uncle Buck's Riding Stable & Dance Barn: just off SR 356 down Robinette Ridge Road (gravel) 1.5 miles. Nice place to stop for a beer or to see the forest from the back of a different kind of steed.

Blue Heron Run: romantic glamping & cabins just east of St. Rt 356 in the corner of Athens Co. Home of The Serpent's Bones.  

Raccoon Creek Outfitters: Hwy 50 at St. Rt 356. Kayak/canoe livery & more. 

Zaleski Candleworks: The red barn in the heart of Zaleski where St. Rt 278 meets St. Rt 677. Homemade scented candles - a great gift!

Vinton County Convention and Visitor's Bureau: stop and say hello. Ask for a magazine. Buy a map.  

Vinton County Courthouse: in McArthur at junction of Hwy 50 and St. Rt 93. 

All of the backroads in Zaleski State Forest are suitable for adventure riding - Mace Rd is more adventurous than some would like (steep, loose gravel, tight corners and erosion) on the way from Wheelabout Rd (paved) down to the Moonville Tunnel on the Raccoon Creek. My favorite is Pearl McKibben Road, paved and one-lane cut through from Wheelabout Rd to State Forest Road - it is a delightful, secret treat in the middle of the forest. Baptist Church Road between Wheelabout and Atkinson Ridge is not steep, but definitely gravelly, rutted adventure. Keep in mind - street bikes who like smooth surfaces will not like these conditions!

 

At the far end of King Hollow RR Tunnel. Slick clay, good-sized puddles, and dark as night after bright sunlight. Best experienced on foot.

At the far end of King Hollow RR Tunnel. Slick clay, good-sized puddles, and dark as night after bright sunlight. Best experienced on foot.

Some bikes camping at Blue Heron Run by Albany. Thanks to Sarah Sipos for the photo!

Some bikes camping at Blue Heron Run by Albany. Thanks to Sarah Sipos for the photo!