Highland County Birding Drive

Birding Drives are routes for birding trips which can be accomplished in one day, stopping to walk and bird at various eBird hotspots. For each birding drive, a Google map is provided with the route and suggested stops at eBird hotspots. You may save the link to the Google map on your smartphone or tablet, or print a copy on paper to take with you. Links are provided with information about each eBird hotspot. Follow those links for more information about birding each location.

Highland County Birding Drive
Click on the hotspot names below to view the page about that hotspot.

This birding drive visits eBird hotspots which give an introduction to birding in the county. One of these locations, The Highland Sanctuary, is open to non-members only on the weekends, April through October.

Paint Creek SP (Highland Co.)

Bainbridge, Ohio 45612

From Bainbridge, drive west on US-50 for 6.6 miles. Turn right onto Upp Road and drive 1.2 miles. Upp Road turns slightly left and becomes Deer Park Road for .8 mile. Turn right onto Snake Road and go .7 mile. Turn right onto Cummings Lane and drive 1.4 miles. Arrive at Paint Creek State Park.

The Paint Creek region lies at the very edge of the Appalachian Plateau in Highland and Ross Counties. This escarpment marks the boundary between the hilly eastern section of the state and the flatter western portions. Most of the plateau in southeastern Ohio was never reached by glaciers, although the Paint Creek area bears evidence of glacial activity. One stream near the park, Rocky Fork Creek, was blocked by glacial ice and reversed direction, rapidly cutting the 75-foot gorge seen today. Sullivantia, an extremely rare wildflower in Ohio, blooms in the gorge in mid-summer.

The reservoir provides habitat for numerous waterfowl and shorebirds as well as the great blue heron. Osprey and bald eagles have been sighted over the lake. The limestone outcroppings on the lake’s edge provide nesting habitat for the cliff swallow. Other songbirds, raccoons, white-tailed deer and the elusive wild turkey inhabit the park.

Highlands Nature Sanctuary

Cave Road Bainbridge, Ohio 45612

From Paint Creek State Park, turn left onto Cummings Lane and go .4 mile. Turn left onto Snake Road and drive .7 mile. Turn left onto Deer Park Road and go .8 mile. Deer Park Road turns slightly right and becomes Upp Road. Turn right to stay on Upp Road for 1.2 miles. Turn left onto US-50 east and drive 2.3 miles. Turn right onto Cave Road and drive 1.2 miles. Cave Road is located immediately east of the bridge over the Rocky Fork Creek. Watch for the highway signs. Turn south on Cave Road and follow for one mile until you reach the Appalachian Forest Museum. Parking is on the left-hand side, across the road from the Museum.

The Highlands Nature Sanctuary is 2200-acre hiking and nature education destination in southern Ohio, managed by the Arc of Appalachia in the heart of the scenic Rocky Fork Gorge, a 100-foot high steep-walled canyon renowned for its stunning rock formations, ancient white cedars, spectacular wildflower displays, grottos, springs, and stone arches.

The Appalachian Forest Museum serves as the trailhead for three beautiful loop trails, also open on weekends from April through October. Two of the trails wind into the Rocky Fork Gorge, offering splendid views of the geological scenery of the region, and a third trail leads into a towering old-growth beech forest. The trails are open at other times to Arc of Appalachia members.

Miller Sanctuary State Nature Preserve

Barrett Mill Road Bainbridge, Ohio 45612

From Highlands Nature Sanctuary, drive west on Cave Road for 2 miles. Turn right to stay on Cave Road for .1 mile. Turn right onto Barrett Mill Road and drive .3 mile. Parking for Miller Nature Sanctuary is on the right. When the gate is closed, park to the side and walk .5 mile back to the trailhead. Do not block the gate. Visitors must remain on developed trails.

Miller Nature Sanctuary is located within the striking geologic feature known as the Rocky Fork Gorge. Dolomite cliffs and slump blocks produce tremendous spring wildflower displays in April and May. Natural arch and bridge visible from the trail. Additional hiking opportunities in nearby Highlands Nature Sanctuary.

Fort Hill Earthworks and Nature Preserve

13614 Fort Hill Road Hillsboro, Ohio 45133

From Miller Nature Sanctuary, drive east on Barrett Mill Road for 3.4 miles. Turn right onto OH-41 south and drive 4.6 miles. Turn right onto Fort Hill Road and drive 1.6 miles. Turn left onto Hilderbrand Road and arrive at Fort Hill in .2 mile.

The major earthwork at Fort Hill is an ancient earthen-walled enclosure constructed on top of a large flat-topped ridge. The earthen-stone wall has a circumference over one and a half miles, its span interrupted with at 36 definite constructed openings and three more possible constructed openings. The wall itself ranges from 6 to 15 feet in height, averages 30 feet wide at its base, and encloses 35.3 acres. It was built to follow the natural contour of the rim of the hill and is bordered on the inside wall by a substantial ditch. The total length of the embankment has been surveyed at 8,619 feet.

A total of eleven miles of hiking trails exist at Fort Hill, offering some of the best hiking in the entire state of Ohio. Because of the relatively long length of the preserve’s three trails, they are best suited for hiking enthusiasts. Hikers, please note backcountry trail conditions. It is wise to dedicate approximately one hour per mile in order to leisurely and safely enjoy Fort Hill’s backcountry trails. The trails are generally primitive in nature, being narrow, uneven, and traversing rolling hills that can sometimes approach steep. After a rain or in the spring after winter snowmelt, the paths can be muddy, so please be prepared with proper footgear. Before coming in the fall/winter, sure to check dates the hiking trails are closed for the deer management hunt. Fort Hill is a protected natural area. Regulations require that hikers remain on the trails. Harvesting or disturbing plant and animal life are not permitted. Fishing is not permitted. Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash at all times.

Fort Hill boasts a stunning natural area of 1300 acres, sheltering one of the largest and oldest contiguous forests in all of Ohio. It is estimated that the park preserves over 800 vascular species of plants within its boundaries, an outstanding remnant of the temperate deciduous forest that once covered nearly all of the eastern United States, and in earlier times, sheltered as many as 100,000 species of plants and animals. In 2015 Fort Hill was officially inducted as part of the Old Growth Forest Network.

Rocky Fork SP

9800 North Shore Drive Hillsboro, Ohio 45133

From Fort Hill, drive north on Hilderbrand Road for .2 mile. Turn left onto Fort Hill Road and drive .9 mile. Turn right onto Carmel Road and drive 2.1 miles. Turn left to stay on Carmel Road and go 1.6 miles. Turn right onto OH-506 east, then turn left onto OH-753 and drive 3 miles. Turn left onto North Shore Drive and go 3 miles. Turn left onto East Lake Shore Drive for .6 miles. Turn right onto South Lake Shore Drive and arrive at Rocky Fork State Park in .1 mile.

Rocky Fork State Park nestled in 1,384 acres in Highland County derives its name from the stream flowing through the park. This stream, winding over dolomite limestone, has eroded spectacular gorges and caves which we can enjoy today.

Present-day Rocky Fork Creek flows through an ancient valley. Blocked by glacial ice more than 12,000 years ago, the stream reversed direction and rapidly cut the 75-foot gorge seen today. Caves in the region formed as rainwater, trickling through the limestone, dissolved the bedrock. Dolomite limestone is particularly vulnerable to this type of weathering. Sullivantia, extremely rare in Ohio, blooms in the gorge. The small white flowers can be seen from the moist cliff face in mid-summer. Other wildflowers include wild geranium, jewelweed, yarrow and Queen Anne’s lace.

Rocky Fork provides habitat for numerous waterfowl, songbirds, raccoons, skunk, red fox and white-tailed deer. The wetlands in the park are home to the green frog, bullfrog, opossum, and muskrat.

Old Highland Stone Gravel Pits

Hoagland, Ohio 45133

From Rocky Fork State Park, drive east on South Lake Shore Drive for .1 mile. Turn left onto East Lake Shore Drive and go .6 mile. Turn left onto North Shore Drive for 3.5 miles. Turn right onto OH-124 west and drive 3.5 miles. Turn left onto Key Street, then turn right onto East Walnut Street for .5 mile. Turn left onto South High Street and then turn right onto West South Street for .5 mile. Continue straight onto OH-138 south for 5 miles. Turn right onto Mount Zion Road and drive 1.1 miles. Turn right onto Pence Road and go .7 mile. Turn left onto Price Road. Arrive at the Old Highland Stone Gravel Pit.

The Old Highland Stone Gravel Pits are located at a former gravel pit operation. While the public does not have permission to walk around on the property, Price Road runs right through the middle of the operation and circles around the south pit. This is a public road that predates the pits, and even when they were in operation, you could drive through it.

Birders may scope the pits from the large dikes along the side of the road, but not enter the actual gravel pit property.