Taking a long and relaxing drive is one of the best ways to spend some quality time with yourself, a friend or loved one, or the whole family. A long drive with beautiful sights and nature to enjoy can be just what you need to relax and unwind.
The state of Ohio has so much beautiful scenery to enjoy including farmland, waterfalls, caves, and more. The Buckeye State is home to 75 state parks, one National Park, and the Ohio Department of Transportation has established 27 official scenic byways in the state will allow you to fully enjoy all of the sights to be seen.
27 is a lot to cover, so we have narrowed the list down to our top five recommended scenic drives that anyone will be sure to love!
With that being said, buckle up and get ready to explore some of the best scenic drives in Ohio.
Top 5 Scenic Drives in Ohio
1. Amish Country Byway
- Distance: 160 miles
- Time needed: 2-3 days
Have you ever wondered what life would be like without the modern technology and conveniences that we have in today’s world? A drive through the Amish Country Byway is the perfect way to do so.
During your drive, you will enjoy beautiful sights while having the opportunity to visit historic Amish sites and embrace Amish culture, including cooking, farm life, and country living.
Amish Country has so much to offer, including a visit to Behalt, The Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center. Here you can enjoy a guided tour that will show you the history of the Amish and Mennonites from the start to how they are living in today’s world.
Additionally, a visit to the Victorian House Museum is a must when you are visiting Amish Country. The Victorian House Museum is located on Ohio’s largest Amish settlement, and it is a 28-room Queen Anne-style home that features historic Victorian-style décor.
The slogan for the Holmes Country Historical Society is “Preserving the past for the future,” which is precisely what the Victorian House Museum represents.
When to go: While the Amish Country is beautiful at any time of the year, it is especially eye-catching in the Winter season when it is blanketed with snow, and the town is decorated with Christmas décor and lights.
2. Big Darby Plains Scenic Byway
- Distance: 27 miles on the main route, additional 20+ miles through additional spurs
- Time needed: 1 day
The Big Darby Plains Scenic Byway is a great scenic drive that is perfect for a quick day trip. The main route is only 27 miles making it easily achievable in a couple of hours. Enjoy the additional routes that spur off the main drag for an extended day.
The state of Ohio was once home to nearly 1,000 square miles of prairie land. Today, Darby Plains is one of the largest concentrations of prairies that still exists. You can witness what is left of the prairie ecosystem when driving along the Big Darby Plains Scenic Byway.
The Big Darby Plains Scenic Byway will take you through a number of counties in Ohio, including Union, Madison, North Lewisburg, and Plain City. In addition to the prairie ecosystem, you can also see a number of historical sites, including covered bridges, cemeteries, and more as you travel.
The Bigelow Cemetery State Nature Preserve was established in an effort to preserve the remnants of the native prairie plants and species from the grass prairie that was once the Darby Plains prior to the European settlement of the 1800s.
When to go: The byway is available for travel all year round, and you will have the chance to enjoy the activities and attractions available at any time of the year.
3. Hocking Hills Scenic Byway
- Distance: 26.4 miles
- Time Needed: 1-3 Days
Hocking Hills state park is an absolute dream for those that love the great outdoors. A drive along the Hocking Hills Scenic Byway will take you along State Route 374 through Hocking Hills State Park and Forest.
Hocking Hills is known to be one of the best camping and hiking parks in Ohio and is home to some of the most beautiful scenic views as well.
While the route is rather short, coming in at 26.4 miles, we recommend stopping off and staying for a while, whether that be a long day trip or you may choose to stay overnight either on the campground or in one of the cabins on the property.
Hocking Hills State Park offers horseback riding, ziplining, and seven incredible hiking trails and areas to enjoy beautiful views. Some of the most popular trails include Old Man’s Cave, a cave where the legend of “Richard Roe” and his dog, Harper, was found in the 1800s.
Visitors like to see the bones and flintlock rifles that created the legend. Additionally, you will not want to miss the breathtaking views of Cedar Falls, an approximately 0.5-mile-long trail that will lead you to Cedar Falls, a natural seasonal waterfall.
When to go: Because you will spend a lot of time outdoors rather than in the car, it is recommended to visit during the warmer months of the year, spring, summer, and early fall.
4. Ohio River Scenic Byway
- Distance: 452 miles
- Time Needed: 2-3 days
The Ohio River Scenic Byway full-length travels through three states, including Illinois, Indiana, and of course, Ohio, and its total length is approximately 943 miles making it not only an Ohio State official byway but also a National Scenic Byway as well.
A large portion – 452 miles – of your travel along the byway is within the state of Ohio as you travel along the full length of the Ohio River. This makes it one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the Midwest.
If you start at the beginning, you will begin your drive at US 50 right along the Indiana state border, and you will travel through 14 counties in southern Ohio, offering a number of beautiful scenic views, including a near-constant view of the Ohio River.
If you chose to drive straight through, the route could, in theory, be completed in a single day but trust us when we say that you will want to make a number of stops to enjoy a variety of views, activities, and local eats.
One popular stopping point includes Historic Fort Steuben in Steubenville, OH – here, you will have the opportunity to learn and explore the history behind the 18th-century military fort as well as other historical events such as the American Revolution and the culture behind Native American tribes that resided in the area.
Other popular stops include downtown Cincinnati, where you will find a number of family-friendly activities, local dining hotspots, fascinating presidential libraries (including the Taft National Historic Site where kids can earn Junior ranger badges!), and take in beautiful views of the Ohio River.
Also, check out Gallia County, where you will find a number of beautiful hiking trails, events, and activities such as art shows and classes, and more.
When to go: The trail is open, and there are a number of activities available to see all year round.
5. Scioto Heritage Trail
- Distance: 84 miles
- Time Needed: 1-2 days
The start of Scioto Heritage Trail begins in downtown Portsmouth Ohio and takes you along the Ohio River into Shawnee State Forest, the largest state forest among the 20 that are in the Buckeye State.
Shawnee State Park has a number of incredible scenic trails and views, including the famous Raven Rock overlook. As you travel along the trail, you will also encounter a number of historical sites, including the childhood homes of two Ohio historical figures, Leonard Slye and Branch Rickey.
Leonard Slye is better known as Roy Rogers, an American singer, actor, and TV host. Branch Rickey was a huge player in African American history as he broke the color barrier by signing the first African American player into the MLB, Jackie Robinson.
Another can’t-miss attraction along the Scioto Heritage Trail includes the Philip Moore, Jr. Stone House, a primitive stone home built by Philip Moore, Jr., a Revolutionary War veteran. The Philip Moore, Jr. house is one of the very few remaining stone homes in Southern Ohio. Today the home stands as a historical site and is used to host a number of local events and activities.
When to go: Most sites and attractions are open and available for viewing at any time during the year.
More Tips & Further Road Trips In Ohio And The Midwest
With so much abundant natural beauty in Ohio, it’s easy to find a scenic drive for a weekend away or extend your road trip further to neighboring states:
- We have selected all our favorite Midwest family road trips over here.
- Continue around the Great Lakes with these fabulous beach towns you can’t miss in Michigan, and the best scenic drives to try in Michigan.
- Or seek out some of the most fabulous lake destinations in the US, perfect for family vacations
- Don’t miss these beauty spots and natural treasures to enjoy by car in Pennsylvania
- Never forget an important road-tripping item again! Check out our ultimate road trip checklist (with downloadable PDF)
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