Fort Hill has what many call the best hiking trails in the state, encompassing 1300 acres in Highland County. Its fully mature forests harbor many rare or endangered wildflowers, hundreds of species of mushrooms and a high number of tree species. Birders will likely be able to check off several hard-to-find species.
You can hike to a stone and earthen-walled Hopewell hilltop enclosure at the top of Fort Hill. With a circumference of 1 ½ miles, the earthwork has 33 gateways and, on the inside, a large ditch. (You’ll find a similar fort-style enclosure 50 miles away at Fort Ancient.) Fort Hill’s hilltop earthworks are accessible only by hiking to the top. Two trails terminate at the enclosure.
For archaeology enthusiasts, the well-preserved hilltop enclosure at Fort Hill is spectacular. But Fort Hill also has a second Hopewell earthwork: Circle Earthwork, in a field on the south side of the park, can be hard to see. A mown trail accessible from the Buckeye Trail leads to the Circle Earthwork. Average visit time: Allow 2+ hours
Fort Hill is one of the best-preserved examples of an ancient hilltop enclosure. Fort Hill was built by American Indians of the Hopewell Culture, who lived in Ohio about 2,000 years ago. Despite the name, Fort Hill was not an actual fort used for warfare, but more likely a ceremonial gathering place. Fort Hill is also a nature preserve, and the 1,300 acres are home to one of southern Ohio’s largest mature forests, with many towering old trees.
People of the ancient Hopewell culture (100 B.C.–A.D. 500) built the 1 ½ mile-long earthwork, as well as at least two ceremonial buildings and probably a village in the Brush Creek Valley. Lying at the western edge of the Allegheny Plateau, immediately south of the glacial boundary, this hilly area contains an impressive diversity of bedrock, soils, flora and fauna. There are 11 miles of hiking trails at the preserve, as well as a picnic area and latrines. A museum houses exhibits on the geology and archaeology of the area.
Learn more about Fort Hill at Ohio History Central, our online encyclopedia of Ohio history.
Learn more about the Fort Hill collection on Ohio Memory.
Fort Hill is managed locally by the Arc of Appalachia Preserve System.