Need a motivator to explore a new area by bike? A fresh, cold, well-crafted beer can provide that carrot to reward a long day riding. Few things taste as good as that hard-earned victory pint. And few places in Ohio offer as many prime, cycling-friendly swilling locations as Athens. The city in southeastern Ohio, home to Ohio University, also boasts the 22-mile Hockhocking Adena Bikeway, the first seven miles of which skirt three microbreweries plus a beer hall. So put the road bikes on the rack and head down U.S. 33 for a weekend of biking, brews and camping. You can easily add a second day of mountain biking, with more than 50 miles of singletrack in Athens County to explore.
If you’re prioritizing the beer: Try the 14-mile, out-and-back ride that starts at the Athens Community Center (Mile 0, free parking). Spend Mile 1 working up your thirst. The bike path spur at Stimson Avenue takes you to a roundabout where Jackie O’s Taproom & Brewery comes into view (the Mystic Mama IPA is a must).z
Next, ride to just shy of Mile 4 where you’ll take a spur across the Hocking River and to the family-friendly Little Fish Brewing Company, known for its farmhouse sours. Not your style? Try the popular Woodthrush ale. The on-site kitchen has an adult and a kids menu.
Return to the bike path and continue past Mile 5 and another spur trail. This one takes you to Columbus Road. Cross the road and set up shop at Devil’s Kettle Brewing. In the spring, you can try a flight of five beers paired with Girl Scout cookies. There are so many good beers here, try a flight any time. You can also get a brat at Devil Dogs & Sausages’ on-site food truck.
Pedal the path to Mile 7, where trailside you’ll find Eclipse Company Store (an actual old coal-mine company store, refurbished) complete with a beer hall. Dozens of beers are on tap, including ones from the breweries you just visited to other Ohio brews and beyond. You can get food here, too. Check the calendar to see what bands might be playing the outdoor stage.
If you’re more serious about the cycling: Ride from the Athens Community Center to the town of Nelsonville and back for a 36-mile route (hit the above breweries in the reverse order on your return ride). From the center, the paved path passes the Ohio University campus (known as Harvard on the Hocking with its Georgian architecture) and then runs you through a heavily wooded route paralleling the winding Hocking River, staying level but surrounded by ridges. Weather permitting, the bike path is nice year-round, but really pops in mid-April when the cherry trees on campus (at Mile 3) and the wildflowers (notably between miles 10 and 13) put on one of the best shows in the state.
All of these breweries have both indoor and outdoor seating. Most are closed Mondays; check the websites for hours of operation. For more details on the breweries, bikeway and other riding options near Athens, visit bikeathensohio.com.
The Hocking River’s original name was Hockhocking (hence the name of the bike path). It is a Native American name (likely Delaware/Lenape or Shawnee) meaning bottle or bottleneck. This region is the ancestral home of the Shawnee people and prior to that (prehistorically) the Adena people, known as mound builders.