Birding at Scioto Trail State Forest

Chillicothe, Ohio

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Scioto Trail State Forest

General Information


144 Lake Rd, Chillicothe, OH 45601



DeLorme Page Number and Coordinates

(7th Edition and earlier) Page 78 B/C-2

Nearest Town or City

Less than 10 miles south of Chillicothe and north of Waverly, Ohio.

Directions from Nearest Town or City

The entrance is well signed along US Rt. 23 between Chillicothe and Waverly. The east side of the forest can be reached from Rt. 35 by crossing the Scioto River on Higby Road (consult maps).

About Scioto Trail State Forest

At 9390 acres (and an additional 250 acres of State Park land), Scioto Trail is far smaller than the Shawnee and Zaleski State Forests. Its location, however, makes it a top site in Ohio for both birds and birders. The forest was named after the Scioto Trail, an historic trading route established by native Americans from between present day Portsmouth on the Ohio River and Chillicothe. Today US Rte. 23 follows that trail. STSF lies east of Route 23 in a large bend of the Scioto River at the northern edge of the unglaciated plateau. Migrants moving up the Scioto River in the spring can be found in denser concentrations in this bend of the river than at other large state forests in Ohio. Its location along Rt. 23 also makes it a convenient drive from the north, less than an hour’s drive from I-270 in Columbus.

Like all of Ohio’s large state forests, STSF offers ridge habitat and bottomlands along river courses. A birding trip there should sample both. A suggested birding route would be to start at the fire tower at the entrance to the forest and slowly bird your way along the North Ridge (FR2). The North Ridge offers a good sample of many resident songbirds and can have large concentrations of migrants, especially early in the morning from late April through mid-May. When reaching the intersection of the paved FR1, head east to the parking lot for the bridle trail. A walk down the bridle trail along the Stony Creek starting on the north side of the parking area offers a good sample of a different variety of birds. The stream crossing is usually possible with ankle high boots. More bottomland habitat can be explored further west along FR1 by parking in one of the lots near Caldwell Lake and walking around the area. Allow for a full morning to cover those areas in spring. The South Ridge (FR6) is usually not as productive as the North Ridge, but nesting Pine Warblers can be found at a few spots in the western end. Hatfield Road (FR5) can be interesting, but unfortunately that road has been closed recently.

Visiting Information

Closed hours/season

Open all year during daylight hours.

Parking Areas

Parking is possible if you pull to the side of the road anywhere along the ridges. Along the paved road in the valley, parking is allowed only in the obviously designated spots.



Restroom Facilities

There is a public chemical toilet on state park land at the parking area by Stewart Lake There is also a primitive facility near the entrance to the forest by the fire tower.

Harmful Insects, Poisonous Plants, or Animals

Ticks are present in spring and summer.

Restaurants in the Area

A full range of restaurants can be found in both Chillicothe and Waverly. Closer to the forest is a general store along Rt.23 in Alma.

Other Birding Spots in the Area

For birders coming from the north, Scioto Trail State Forest can be a good place to stop in the morning before continuing further south in the spring. Shawnee State Forest is about another hour’s drive south along Rt. 23, and the Crown City Wildlife Area can be reached in about the same amount of time by continuing down Rt. 35.

Birds of Interest by Season


The full range of wintering Ohio forest birds can be found, mostly along the river courses. The gravel roads along the ridges aren’t plowed in the winter.


Spring is when STSF birding is at its peak. Nesting warblers and other passerines arrive throughout April and early May. Nesting warblers include Blue-winged, Northern Parula, Yellow-throated, Pine, Cerulean, Black-and-white, American Redstart, Worm-eating, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Kentucky, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded, and Yellow-breasted Chat. Among the long list of other nesting birds are Ruffed Grouse, Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Barred Owl (often conspicuous during the day in the early spring), Whip-poor-will, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, White-eyed, Yellow-throated, and Red-eyed Vireos, Indigo Bunting, and both Scarlet and Summer Tanagers. Migrants heading further north peak in numbers during early May. Any bird that regularly migrates through Ohio can be found, but certain arboreal warbler species congregate in vary large numbers. For example, it is possible to encounter well over 100 Tennessee Warblers during the second week of May during a morning’s drive. Nashville, Yellow-rumped, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, Blackpoll, and Bay-breasted Warblers can also be especially numerous during peak migration periods.


The resident nesting birds can all be found, but due to the dense vegetation they are less easy to see than when they arrive in the budding vegetation in spring. Many species stop singing by early July, and are difficult to locate.


Good numbers of migrants pass through STSF in the fall also, but they can be difficult to detect as they silently move through the still dense vegetation in September and early October. Late October is a wonderful time to visit the forest to look for stragglers amidst the beautiful autumn colors.

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