Visit Leo Petroglyphs and Nature Preserve near Jackson for a unique experience and see one of two examples of petroglyphs in Ohio.
I know a lot about Ohio but admit I had never heard of Leo Petroglyphs until a friend of mine from Michigan mentioned that she had planned to stop on her way through Ohio but it was raining. I couldn’t let someone from Michigan visit one of Ohio’s unique destinations that I’d never visited.
I made a note that the next time my husband and I would travel through the southeast part of the state, we’d stop to see what Leo Petroglyphs was all about.
We finally made it last February when we were on our way south on one of our van camping trips. Let me tell you, Leo Petroglyphs is pretty special. And not just the petroglyphs themselves, the hiking trail at the park is one of the more scenic trails that we’ve found in Ohio.
Honeycomb weathered rocks, tall sandstone cliffs, recess caves, and small waterfalls make this short trail memorable and one you’ll want to visit over again.
Now, back to those petroglyphs.
What is Leo Petroglyph?
Leo Petroglyph is a sandstone slab that has been inscribed with 37 figurative drawings. You’ll find animals, humans, birds, and drawings depicting footprints located on the rock that is protected by the shelter house at the edge of the parking lot.
The most interesting petroglyph is that of a cartoonish looking human head with antlers and small bird feet. While some of the figures have yet to be interpreted, this figure is thought to be a shaman or medicine man.
I found the petroglyphs fascinating and spent several minutes taking photos and trying to guess what each one was. I was a tad bit disappointed that much of the sandstone was covered with leaves so I wasn’t able to see all of the etches. I guess that only means that I’ll need to make a return trip sooner rather than later.
The petroglyphs were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and are one of two petroglyphs located in Ohio. The other, Inscription Rock, can be seen on Kelleys Island on Lake Erie, north of Sandusky.
The History of Leo Petroglyphs
According to the information found on the Ohio History Connection website, it is believed that the drawings were made by the Fort Ancient culture no more than 1,000 years ago.
The wooden shelter was part of a WPA project in the 1930s.
Where is Leo Petroglyph State Memorial?
Leo Petroglyph State Memorial is located north of Jackson, Ohio, off U.S. 35, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.
While Google Maps has failed us in the past, this time it took us exactly where we needed to go though we did wonder a couple of times if it was heading in the right direction.
What can you do at Leo Petroglyphs and Nature Preserve?
In addition to viewing the petroglyphs which will take anywhere from a few minutes to more minutes (how’s that for an approximation?), you can also picnic or take a hike into and around the gorge.
Hiking at Leo Petroglyphs State Memorial
While the hike is under one mile in length, I would recommend that you allow about an hour to traverse the trail. My husband and I visited on a warm day in February and enjoyed the trail immensely.
There is a lot to see along the way and the scenery is gorgeous. Along the trail, you’ll find placards indicating rock weathering in the form of a honeycomb pattern as well as one highlighting lichen and other plants that grow on rocks.
You’ll also see a couple of small waterfalls, recess caves, and rock shelters.
The hike through the gorge reminded us both of the trails you’ll find in the nearby Hocking Hills region and the best part? We had it all to ourselves.
We started our hike backward. Rather than head down the steps into the ravine, we walked past the shelter house, parallel to the road following the trail.
What we thought of our Visit
The pros: Leo Petroglyphs is truly a hidden gem in Ohio. It’s one of those spots that once you visit, you really can’t forget it and can’t wait to tell everyone about it.
The cons: The property has seen better days and could benefit from a bit of upkeep.
Would we return? Absolutely!
Tips to Know Before Visiting Leo Petroglyph
- You’ll find plenty of parking for large vehicles and RV’s.
- There are no restrooms and there isn’t anything nearby so you’ll want to go to the restroom before arriving.
- I would rank the trail as easy to moderate. If you’re taking young children, I would absolutely make sure that they stay with you at all times and don’t wander ahead. The walls of the gorge extend up to 65 feet in some places and the trail does lead along the top of the gorge if you do the entire loop.
- The park is remote and not heavily trafficked. That said, I would be hesitant to visit by myself but I may feel differently if I were more familiar with the area.
- While the trail is not at all handicap accessible, the petroglyphs are right at the edge of the parking lot and a short walk from your vehicle for those with limited mobility.
- The area is heavily wooded. If you’re traveling during the late spring or summer months, make sure to pack your bug spray.
- Good walking shoes are recommended.
- Take a camera. The views along the trail are gorgeous.
Address: 357 Township Hwy 224, Ray, OH 45672
Hours: Open 24 hours | 7 days a week, but it is very remote and I would be hesitant to visit outside of daylight hours (Currently closed)
Take U.S. 35 south. Turn left on County Road 28. You’ll see a small sign pointing the way. Follow CR 28 for about 3 miles before turning left onto County Road 29. Immediately you’ll turn left again onto Park Road (Twp Road 224). You’ll see the park about a ¼ mile on the left.
Looking for more road trip stops? Don’t miss this post on things to see in Ohio that features 50+ quirky things to see that are free or low-cost.
Have you been to Leo Petroglyphs? Leave a comment and tell us about your experience.