Athens, Ohio 45701Ohio University Outdoor Museum complex
To reach The Ridges in Athens, go south on Congress Street, which becomes Richland Avenue. Continue on Richland Avenue through the roundabout (just after the bridge over the Hocking River), then take the next right on Dairy Lane. The eastern section of Southside Park is now immediately to your right. Continue to the next street to your right, which is South Park Drive, and turn right. The western section of Southside Park is now on your left. Go up the hill and take the first left, Piggery Lane, to the parking area. Total driving distance from downtown Athens to the parking area: 1.5 miles. There are two other parking areas, one farther south on Dairy Lane and the other on OH-682 (see map).
The trail to Radar Hill is a gently sloping gravel road up through fields that can be accessed from the parking lot off Dairy Lane. From that parking lot, follow the blue trail about a half mile to a T-junction, then turn left on the red trail for approximately 0.2 miles to the top of the hill. The brushy area surrounding that T-junction tends to be particularly “birdy” in all seasons. During spring migration, walk the yellow trail from point Y1 to Y3 (see map) for excellent early-morning birding with the rising sun behind you, then continue on the red trail from R3/Y3 to R1 (the top of Radar Hill).
The most common breeding species include Indigo Bunting, Field Sparrow, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, White-eyed Vireo, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, and Eastern Bluebird. Large numbers of Black and Turkey Vultures roost on the buildings. The diversity of habitats offers outstanding warbler watching during migration; 33 species of wood warblers have been observed through 2022. Noteworthy breeding warblers include Yellow-throated, Prairie, Blue-winged, and Louisiana Waterthrush.
Owned by Ohio University, The Ridges is the name given to the 700-acre complex that is the site of the former Athens Lunatic Asylum and its grounds, which included a working farm. It is the number 3 eBird hotspot for Athens County. The beautiful Kirkbride building is home to the Kennedy Art Museum and administrative offices. The grounds hold historic cemeteries, an observatory, an active land lab, woodlots, ravines, brushy former orchards, and regularly mowed hayfields. During World War II, there was a radar installation on the highest point of the property, which is still called Radar Hill.
The trail system is composed of a mixture of footpaths and gravel service roads. There are three color-coded loops (see map) with signage at trailheads and junctions to orient visitors. There is also a short (0.66 mile) nature trail (shown on the map as a black dashed line) built by fifth- and sixth-grade children from River Valley Community School, which forms a loop when combined with part of the red trail. It is accessible from the parking area along OH-682, 0.66 miles east of OH-56 (West Union Street) and 0.75 miles west of Richland Avenue. In addition, there are some periodically mowed trails through hayfields and former orchards that are not shown on the map; these are less heavily used and therefore provide some of the best birding opportunities. Pedestrians are permitted throughout The Ridges, so feel free to explore mowed trails when you see them.
The AllTrails website has descriptions and maps of hikes at The Ridges.