Road Trippin’ with Truda: Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks
Posted July 3, 2024
Orange block with Road Trippin' with Truda written with the image of a vintage car.

Join me as I visit the sites in the Ohio History Connection network! This month's road trip took me to the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks sites in Oregonia, Chillicothe and Newark & Heath.

For this month’s road trip, I definitely bit off more than I could chew.

There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the recent addition of the eight Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks locations to the World Heritage List. Ohio History Connection staff, as well as many community, Tribal and National Park Service partners, have worked for decades to make this dream a reality. You can read more about it here.

The Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks are in three counties. I’ve been to the Ohio History Connection’s Great Circle Earthworks, Octagon Earthworks and Fort Ancient Earthworks & Nature Preserve several times. And I’d visited one of the five sites that make up the National Park Service’s Hopewell Culture National Historical Park a few years ago with my family. But I thought it would be fun to visit all the sites in one day. I should have known from the weird looks I got from my coworkers and the fact that no one wanted to go with me that this wasn’t the best idea.


I had mapped out a route and it looked very doable to me. So, I packed some snacks, got my road trip playlist ready and set off to experience Ohio’s only World Heritage site. Here’s what I found out.

Can you see all the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks sites in one day: Sort of.

Should you see all the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks sites in one day: Absolutely not.

All of these sites are complex and deserve more than a cursory visit. If you truly want to understand their history and significance, you should visit them one at a time on days when you have plenty of time to explore. You’ll also want to make time to pop over to the communities where they’re located. Lebanon (near Oregonia), Chillicothe and Newark are all very walkable, with a lot of smalltown charm.

The Hopewell Culture National Historical Park is comprised of five noncontiguous groupings of earthworks. Be sure to start your visit at the Mound City Group Visitor Center.

Addresses: Fort Ancient Earthworks & Nature Preserve is located at 6123 State Route 350 in Oregonia.

The Hopewell Culture National Historical Park Visitor’s Center is located at 16062 Ohio 104 in Chillicothe. Remember: This is not an Ohio History Connection site. However, it is free to visit.

The Great Circle Earthworks (the only part of the Newark Earthworks that’s open to visitors on a regular basis right now) is located at 455 Hebron Road in Heath.

Truda’s Tips: My biggest tip is to not visit all these sites in one day (see the rest of this article).

People standing over a case that contains a diorama showing the layout of Fort Ancient.

Plan to visit Fort Ancient when you can take one of site manager Bill Kennedy’s great tours.

My second tip is to make your first stop Fort Ancient Earthworks & Nature Preserve. The excellent museum there will give you a great overview of American Indian history in Ohio and will inform your visits to the other sites.

My third tip is to schedule your visit to these sites when they are offering a guided tour. The knowledgeable staff members at each of these sites really bring the history to life and can answer your questions.

And my final tip is to talk to the staff at each of these sites. They’re so knowledgeable about their sites and can make recommendations that will make your visit truly special. Seriously—talk to them. They love it and you will too.

How much time: If you want to fully experience Fort Ancient, I would budget 3-4 hours. That’ll give you time to explore the museum, take one of their excellent tours, visit the North Overlook, hike a trail or two and make a purchase in the gift shop. Because I was on a very tight schedule, I did a quick perusal of the museum, drove to the North Overlook for the gorgeous view, saw a deer (!) and then headed to Chillicothe. Don’t do what I did—you’re missing out on too much.

The Hopewell Culture National Historical Park is made up of five noncontiguous groupings of earthworks, four of which are publicly accessible. You’ll need to hop in your car and drive between each of them, so it can take some time. I would devote the entire day to fully exploring all four of the groups. Be sure to start at the Mound City Group Visitor Center. You can pick up maps, get some recommendations from the rangers and visit the restrooms. For my quick visit, I walked through the Mound City Group earthworks, which are spectacular and very photo friendly. I also drove over to the Hopeton Earthworks and hiked out to see the earthwork remnants. The path, which was easy, but not paved, led me to an overlook where I had an amazing view of the earthworks. The staff has cut the grass to highlight the earthworks, so you can get a great feel for how they would have looked. Because of my time crunch, I wasn’t able to see the Hopewell Mound Group or the Seip Earthworks. I definitely plan to go back and spend the day.

I would recommend about an hour to see the Great Circle Earthworks. The small museum provides context for the earthworks and houses the restrooms and the wonderful gift shop. The earthworks are magnificent. I’ve visited several times and still feel a thrill when I walk through the gateway to the interior of the circle. I got to the site after the museum had closed, but I was still able to walk around the earthworks. When you visit, make sure you’re there when the museum is open and preferably when there’s a tour.

Lunch: Because I was on a schedule, I didn’t even stop for a fun lunch. This alone is an important reason not to see all the sites in one day. I only had time for a quick fast-food lunch in Chillicothe because I was running behind. However, you should take the time to eat at one of the many locally owned restaurants in Lebanon, Chillicothe and Newark when you visit these sites. In Lebanon, I would highly recommend The Village Parlor or The Breakfast Club. In Chillicothe, I love Paper City Coffee and Sumburger. When in Newark, I really like Elliot’s Wood Fired Kitchen & Tap and River Road Coffee House. But there are so many great restaurants, coffee shops and stores to visit in these towns. Don’t miss out by overloading your day!

And if you like to picnic Fort Ancient, the Great Circle and Hopewell Culture National Historical Park all have outdoor tables available.

The staff at the Great Circle makes the earthwork come alive with their in-depth tours.

For more information: You can learn about all the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks sites here. You can also visit our webpages for Fort Ancient Earthworks & Nature Preserve and the Newark Earthworks, as well as the National Park Service’s website for Hopewell Culture National Historical Park. You can find dates and times of operation, as well as phone numbers to call to check on tour times.

As I mentioned, all these sites are located in wonderful communities that are well worth a visit. You can find out more about Warren County, where Fort Ancient is located, by visiting Warren County: Ohio’s Largest Playground (and check out their new geocaching tour!). Discover more about Ross County, where the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park is located, by visiting Visit Chillicothe. And you can get more information about Licking County, home of the Newark Earthworks, at Explore Licking County.

Ohio History Connection members enjoy free general admission to the Great Circle Earthworks and Fort Ancient Earthworks & Nature Preserve, as well as our 50+ other historic sites and museums. Visit to become a member!

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